The word editing can mean different things to different people. Recently we’ve had several projects where the authors used terms like proofing, copyediting and “light edit” to describe that final manuscript review necessary before a book moves into the design and layout phase. These are things like spelling, word usage and punctuation, but also consistent application of terms, formatting, etc.
This article addresses what an author can do to minimize this type of editing expense, and reach their goal of an error-free manuscript before book design begins. We rarely field requests for developmental editing, or heavy copyediting so those types are not discussed here.
Before continuing, a quick disclaimer considering the topic at hand. The blog posts featured on this website are not read by an editor before posting. It just isn’t practical, or cost effective (and we know you wouldn’t pay to read them! 😊).
Tip 1: Family members usually make better beta readers, than editors.
Anyone who’s written a book knows it takes multiple iterations to get to the final product. If you are relying on a family member or close friend as a beta reader during the writing stage, they are not going to be the best copyeditor when that time comes.
The reason is that they’ve read your manuscript so many times that they are now “blind” to errors, just like you are. A fresh set of eyes will quickly spot things that the author and their friends have continued to gloss over.
Be strategic about when and how you use your friends and family to help. Hold that special friend with a keen eye for proper English until the final round of checking.
Tip 2: A member of an editing organization usually results in a better editing experience.
This tip is not to take anything away from part-time editors, or moonlighting English teachers. If you can get a referral, it’s a great way to go.
Here are a few benefits of working with someone you find via local professional organizations, or the Editorial Freelancers Association:
- They have a professional reputation at stake. This is a powerful incentive to do their best work, in a fair manner.
- They often have contracts. You are creating intellectual property, for a fee. Why not get everything in writing?
True story: one of our clients emailed us less than 30 days after her book release party asking us to remove her book from sale due to a misunderstanding with her editor. Oops.
- They have other professional contacts that might be helpful (indexers, researchers, etc.).
- You can choose the right editor for the job. Editing fiction is different than editing nonfiction, and book editing is different than editing, for example, websites and newspapers.
Tip 3: An author services firm can sometimes offer better service.
This sounds a little self-serving, and it might be. However, a good author services firm has ongoing relationships with several editors which just isn’t possible for authors who publish a single book, or publish infrequently.
As in Tip 2, reputations are at stake. You might also get better service. For example, an editor might be more willing to move your book up in their schedule as a favor to your author services firm.
Speaking for AuthorImprints, we give our clients a choice as to whether they work directly with the editor, or have us manage the process on their behalf.
Tip 4: The best way to ensure you have the right editor for your manuscript is to have them edit a sample.
We got this tip from Lynette Smith at All My Best. There is no better way to know what you are getting into—for either party—than to work on a sample of the author's manuscript.
Peel off 2000 words, and ask the editor to edit it. They’ll have an idea how long the entire manuscript will take, and you will know what sorts of things they are catching. Most will do it for free, although we will happily pay our editors if they don’t get the business.
The benefit to the author is you have an idea what sort of things they will catch. Perhaps the editor is wasting time pointing out things you don’t want them reading for.
Here’s another benefit: if the editor is noting a recurring issue, the author can easily go through the document to address the problem before the full manuscript is copyedited.
Tip 5: Editing Word documents is easier, and less expensive, than editing a PDF.
It’s frustrating to everyone involved when a nicely designed book PDF comes back from the author with lots of editing revisions. Not errors introduced during the design process, but changes that could have and should have been made by the author before layout began.
Once the book is in InDesign, or another layout program, the author will have to annotate a PDF, and the designer will need to use this to enter the changes into the layout program. It’s a multi-step process that can be easily avoided or minimized.
Just recently we had to tell a client that there will be a $500 up-charge due to all their new edits.
Putting all the tips together in a strategy
Here’s a possible approach:
- Once the book is done, find a close friend with strong English skills to read the book. This should be the first time they’ve read it. Be specific about what they should be looking for. If they are reading to offer feedback about the story, topic, or your prose, you gave the wrong instructions or the timing is off. (Maybe they should have been a beta reader.)
- Ask fellow authors to recommend editors. Cross-reference these options with tips 2 and 3.
- Have a sample edited. If time, have another editor edit a sample. Fix recurring errors before hiring them to finish editing.
Don’t start the design process until you are satisfied you’ve invested time in making your book as tight as it can be. Your readers will notice, and you can bet book reviewers will notice as well because many say so in their reviews.
Photo by Mona Eendra