So far in our Self-Publishing series we’ve talked about the Benefits of Self-Publishing, Book Covers (the first and oftentimes only chance for a book to make an impression on a potential reader) and Taglines, Loglines and Concepts (those tantalizing bits that hint at what your story is all about).
Spending all that effort with an eye toward attracting readers will be for naught, however, if those readers give up on your book a few pages in due to grammatical errors, inconsistencies, uneven voice and the like.
Which brings us to today’s topic: Editing.
In a perfect world, you’d finish revising your story, do a read-through to correct any errors, and be all ready to move on to the next story. Reality, however, doesn’t work quite that way. It can be incredibly difficult to clearly see errors in your own writing. Your brain will fill in missing words, fail to notice incorrect punctuation, and even overlook story inconsistencies. I can (and have) made dozens of editing passes through things I have written and repeatedly found things that needed to be fixed that I’d overlooked previously.
Fortunately, there are professional editors out there who are experts at seeing those things we tend to miss. So let’s talk about the different types of editors your manuscript may encounter before it’s ready to take its place out in the world.
Copy-editors are vocabulary and usage experts. Reference books like the Chicago Manual of Style or Elements of Style are likely to be on their bookshelf. They will read through your manuscript line by line, word by word, and look at a number of things including:
- word usage
- changes that may be needed for clarity
- fact checking
- copyright issues (e.g., if you are quoting things)
Copy-editing is typically done when your manuscript is in a word processing format and copy-editors often use automated tools as part of their process. Finding things that need to be changed in your manuscript at this stage in the process is preferable (and less expensive) than finding them once your book has already been formatted for publication/distribution.
If you are interested in learning about automated editing tools, this post at The Writer’s Life provides some good information. If you want some hints about how to find an editor, check out Jane Friedman’s post here.
In addition to language and usage aspects, a copy-editor may look at the content of your writing (e.g., characterization, pacing, or plot), or you may chose to separate those functions.
While not editors, beta-readers can be invaluable when it comes to getting “fresh eyes” on your story. Their reader’s perspective of your manuscript (hopefully they haven’t read it multiple times already) can uncover content inconsistencies, pacing issues, sagging middles, and even an unsatisfying HEA. Beta-readers should be considered an addition to your editing toolbox, rather than as an alternative to a copy-editor. If you plan to enlist beta-readers, it may be more effective (and less expensive in terms of time and money) to do that before engaging a copy-editor.
While a copy-editor will look at your manuscript from a style and usage perspective, the proof-reader will focus more on the presentation and formatting aspects. Proofreading happens when your manuscript is in its final form, just about ready for publication. You will have already formatted (or hired someone to format) it for publication (print or digital) and made changes based on the copy-editing and beta-read phases. The proof-reader will look for the following types of things:
- Typographical errors
- Language errors that may have been missed previously
- Formatting issues
- Line, word, and page spacing
- Word breaks and widow/orphan sentences
- Font inconsistencies
Proofreading is commonly done when your manuscript is in a publication file format (e.g., PDF or epub)
Once you get to the proofreading stage, your rewriting and revising should be complete since anytime you touch your manuscript there is the potential to introduce errors, which would require another round of proofreading. Definitely something you don’t want to do (or pay to do) multiple times.
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Over the next several Wednesdays we’ll be talking with a professional freelance editor (fingers-crossed) and getting some first-hand information, so stay tuned for that. We also have some interviews with a few self-published authors in the queue, so we can learn from those who’ve already gone through the process.
In the meantime, have you ever had an editor (or proof-reader) go over your work? If so, what was that process like?