While spring is a common time to clean up the house or office, I’m also going to use it to approach a topic that can be challenging within the realm of self-publishing… copyediting. I suggest that authors considering self-publishing approach their spring cleaning as an opportunity to perform a different kind of cleaning: one that involves the proofreading and editing of their manuscripts.
One of the greatest assets of self-publishing is that authors can express themselves freely. The greatest weakness of self-publishing (and its most common criticism) is that the content is all too often sub-standard when it comes to editorial quality. This perception – rightly or wrongly applied in each individual author’s case – is what creates so many market challenges for independently published or self-published books.
Without proper proofreading for grammatical errors, the readability of the work suffers; authors might not express themselves as clearly as they would hope. Beyond grammar, authors can involuntarily produce inconsistencies in theme, plot, and voice. These types of discrepancies can diminish or misconstrue the entire meaning of a book.
Editing gives your self-published content a “professional feel.” Sure, your book will look and feel the same as a traditionally published book when you self-publish it, but will it read like one, too? It’s harder to sell and market a book that is rampant with grammatical errors or is structurally confusing. Don’t be afraid of the editor’s red pen – they aren’t in business to make you feel bad; they exist to make your work better. I had one of our editorial managers write an article on how to ‘emotionally’ approach the prospect of copyediting – you might find it useful (it’s on the Dog Ear Publishing site.)
Luckily for self-publishing authors, there are many editing resources available. Some self-publishing companies provide editing services as part of their publishing packages, which may be worth looking into. Authors can also find a multitude of freelance editing companies online simply by typing in “editing services” into a search engine.
The following are some popular standard editing services:
Literary Critique. Have an editor look over your work and provide constructive criticism on areas that might need improvement. The editor should be able to recommend any further editing your manuscript needs, such as proofreading or copyediting. A Literary Critique should leave you with a sense of what you do well as a writer, as well as what could be improved to make you an even better writer.
Proofread. If all you need is a simple check of your grammar, then hiring a proofreader might be your best option. The proofreader should correct basic errors in spelling, grammar, punctuation, and syntax throughout your manuscript.
Copy Edit. Along with providing the services of a proofreader, a Copy Editor examines issues like structure, flow, and consistency. The editor should read through your manuscript 2 or 3 times in order to correct any author inconsistencies in sentence structure, outline, word choice, flow, and tense. This popular editing service improves readability.
Literary Edit. This service includes everything provided in a copy editing service, but also performs a very in-depth analysis of storyline, character development, focus, and overall structure. This attention to overall meaning and depth is why traditional publishers consider this service the most critical to produce an anticipated “bestseller.”
(For descriptions of editing services beyond the standard ones included here, visit here.)
Even if you don’t take advantage of professional editing services, have a close friend read over your work—you’d be surprised what comes out of the woodwork when a fresh pair of eyes looks at your writing!
And remember: every writer needs editing . . . even the pros! Don’t feel embarrassed or too shy to put your work out there for some constructive criticism. There’s no doubt you’ll get some great feedback, and if you aren’t too sure about a few suggestions, that’s fine—YOU are in control of the final product. YOU get the final say in whatever advice you choose to take.
Are you ready to clean up your manuscript and dig into the editing process? Dustin Wax’s “Improve Your Writing with the Editing Tips” is a pretty good place to start.
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