In my last self-publishing piece, why self-publishing is a no brainer, I mentioned the importance of a professional approach to your writing. Today, I will focus on the editing process.
So what do I mean by ‘professional self-publishing’?
The answer is a simple one. As self-publishers, we should try and act as if we were signed with a major publishing house. We need to engage skilled editors like David Gatewood and others to edit our work professionally. And, most importantly, we must respect the editing process—there is no point in paying for editorial services if you then ignore their revisions and suggestions. We also need to produce well-designed covers and market our novels effectively.
Editing, editing, editing!
One of the biggest criticisms of self-publishing is one of quality. Modern publishing allows anyone to write in the morning and publish the same afternoon. This is an empowering notion, but it does mean that the lure of self-publishing can lead to unfinished, un-edited work finding its way on to the electronic shelves.
I’m not knocking writers—far from it (if self-publishing was around twenty years ago, I would have been publishing unedited novels—I wouldn’t have known any better), instead, I want to urge authors to resist the pull of the publish button until they have done everything to ensure their writing is the best and most professional it can be. This is a competitive market, we need every chance we can get!
And regardless of how many great indie writers there are out there, this criticism of quality is still one of the biggest sticks that those who support the traditional publishers use against independent publishing. And that’s why a professional approach is paramount.
Satisfying your reader’s needs
As I mentioned in my previous article, one of the great things about self-publishing is that readers do not care if you are self-published—if your novel has a flowing, engaging story, is well written and professionally edited, you are satisfying their needs as readers.
A common mistake a lot of new writers make is to only show their work to friends and family. Of course they are going to be impressed, but crucially, they do not have the experience to give them the informed feedback they require and are more likely to be supportive rather than objective—which leads me onto the most important tool of any writer:
I often say: ‘You cannot pay enough for objectivity’. And you just can’t. It is gold dust to the writer. Not sure what I mean? Objectivity is the opposite of ‘subjectivity’. When writing, we are working in an entirely subjective environment. We see all, we know all and we have to try and convey what we know to the reader. Ack!
A common way of achieving this valuable objectivity or distance from your story/novel, is to ‘put the manuscript in the bottom drawer’. This means leaving your novel alone for a month or two so that when you read it again, you see it with fresher, more objective eyes.
An editor is better!
The bottom drawer method is a good technique, but an editor will give you professional objectivity and a written critique. For new writers, this can be daunting. You send off your cherished masterpiece to your chosen editor who more often than not comes back and tells you it’s full of holes. It can be embarrassing, you may feel insulted or even depressed, but the longer you expose yourself to this process, the better a writer you will become and the more you will realise just how valuable their objectivity is to your writing process.
Instead of waiting six weeks with your novel languishing in the ‘bottom drawer’, you can send it off to a professional who can give you better objectivity. Editors not only point out spelling errors, and bad sentences, they also spot character inconsistencies, plot flaws, and all your bad habits.
It’s the same process that a signed author would go through, except instead of waiting months for your revisions, you can get them back in a week or two. And, depending on the agreement with your editor, you can send your work back to them again and again until it’s in tip top condition.
If you are very lucky, like I am, you might find a group of willing editors to edit your writing for the pleasure of working with you. I have four such editors, each with a different emphasis, who collectively give a very full and rounded editing experience. But there are a host of editors out there who you can professionally engage to help give your masterpiece that final polish, or as is usual in my case, a very deep clean!
Sending your work away to professionals is also a good whipping stick—it can really focus you on those final set of revisions, particularly if you want to get value for money.
Copy-editing to reduce your editor costs
The most useful task I do before sending any manuscript away, is to go through my invaluable list of copy-edits. You can find them all here, in my guide The Complete INDIE Editor – 55 Essential Copy-edits for the Professional Independent Author.
• Redundant adjectives & overuse of adverbs
• Over thirty overused words & phrases such as that, it, up/down, was/were, had, even, got, etc.
• Overuse of exclamations and the ellipsis
• Proper use of italics, quotations & capitalisation
• Word pairs & homophones
• How to handle numbers & time
• And descriptions of flow, show not tell, writing tenses, dialogue handling and loads more.
The upshot of sending a well-polished manuscript to your editor is that they will focus on the more important aspects of your novel, not just the everyday mistakes we writers make um… every day.
And there we have it, and I even managed a little plug at the end. Nice. Next, I’ll be looking at cover design and some of the pitfalls to avoid when selling your novels through social channels.
Want to discuss this with me further? Then leave a comment or use my forum.