Most writers understand the importance of professional editing. Whether you plan to query agents and editors or self-publish your work, you never get a second chance to make a first impression.
You’ve finished revising and self-editing your manuscript, and you’re ready to send it to the copyeditor of your choice. You just attach the file to an email and press send, right?
Oh please, no, don’t do that! You’ll make so much extra work for your editor if you do that—and you’ll spend more money in the process. Allow me to explain.
Your editor estimates the amount of time it will take to edit your manuscript based on the sample you submitted; time equals money, so the more time the editor has to spend making changes, the more money you will spend.
Do you want to spend your editing dollars on clerical tasks you can do yourself?
Of course you don’t! Why spend editing dollars to have someone fix the spacing between paragraphs or remove hyperlinks? Save your hard-earned money for actual editing!
Whether your editor quotes hourly rates or charges by the project, every quote is based on the number of hours the edit will take. If your novel isn’t broken into chapters, your editor will have to invest several hours formatting it that way. If your nonfiction book doesn’t include in-text citations, your editor will have to spend hours identifying material that should have source information included. In both cases, those extra hours are added to your bill and won’t be available for you to use later for proofreading or help with crafting a great query letter.
Here is a basic formatting checklist you can use to prepare your manuscript for copyediting:
- Submit your manuscript as a .docx or .doc file. Microsoft Word is standard in the publishing industry; most editors use a combination of the track changes and comments features to communicate with the author. If you don’t use Microsoft Word, be sure to mention that to your editor before getting a quote; while another option might be available, there could also be an added cost if your editor has to convert your manuscript.
- Format each page. This isn’t as daunting a task as it might sound. Begin by selecting “Format” on the Word toolbar and then select “Paragraph.” The drop-down menu offers numerous custom choices, but for the most part, stay with the default selections. (If you plan to self-publish an ebook only, you’ll have a few different rules to follow, and your editor can advise you about those before you submit your manuscript for editing.)
- Double space everything. This includes footnotes, end notes, figure captions, references, bulleted lists, sources for further information—everything.
- Indent each paragraph using the “Tab” function, which is preset in Microsoft Word. If you need to reset this, publishing industry standard is five space (1/2 inch).
- Set all material in 12-point type. This includes chapter titles, chapter opening quotes, references, captions, and author bio.
- Set all text in the same font. Times New Roman is often preferred, but check with your editor; other fonts are usually acceptable. Don’t use special fonts for anything, including chapter titles or subheads. Special formatting is an important part of the interior design stage, but it can slow down the initial editing process. If your manuscript contains special characters, be sure to discuss this with your editor and mention in your style sheet (see below).
- Add a simple header with your last name, a word or two of your title, and a page number. (Smith/Darkness/1). Page numbers are especially helpful when you and your editor discuss specifics—much easier than trying to locate “the third paragraph on the sixth page of chapter nineteen.” Note: these are not the same page numbers you’ll use later in your book. This header will be stripped after editing is complete.
- Margins and justification. Set margins at one inch and use a left justification (ragged right) for text.
- Remove all hyperlinks, hidden text, and animation.
- Begin each new chapter on a new page.
- Check spacing.
- Paragraphs: Don’t include extra spacing between paragraphs. To indicate that an additional line space between sentences or paragraphs should appear in your final version, use three asterisks or pound signs (*** or ###) set on a line by themselves.
- Words: Use only one character space between sentences.
- Ellipses: Insert a space before, after, and between the three “dots” that show a pause . . . like that.
- Provide all the elements you’ll include in your book. You’re paying good money for editing, so why not include everything that needs editing? It only takes a few minutes to insert your title page, copyright page, dedication, table of contents, acknowledgments, and for nonfiction, notes, glossary, and bibliography. And if you’re placing your author bio inside the book, be sure to include that as well.
- Cross reference chapter titles with titles in the table of contents. As you revise and edit your work, it’s quite common to change chapter titles but also to forget to reconcile them with the table of contents. (This is one of those annoying little details that can add to your editing bill!)
- Format references using correct style. In nonfiction, there are numerous ways to format your references: APA, Chicago, and MLA are the most common styles. If you are unsure about how to format or how to use in-text citations, check with your editor.
- Run a spell-checker and grammar checker—but use your own judgment! Do not rely on these, because they don’t understand context. They’re good for identifying possible issues, though. For example, the grammar checker in MS Word can identify passive sentences, but the application doesn’t know whether or not you’ve intentionally written them that way for stylistic reasons. If your application indicates an error, you make the final decision to “accept” or “ignore” the suggestions.
- Provide a style sheet. This is especially helpful for your editor when you’re creating worlds. When you provide a list of names, places, and words you’ve created for your novel, your editor doesn’t have to try to guess which of three different spellings you prefer. If you’ve used a particular dictionary or style guide, share that information, too.
Now that your manuscript is ready for the copyeditor, you can sit back and relax, knowing your hard-earned editing dollars will go toward making your writing sing! For more tips on saving money on professional editing, be sure to read 4 Easy Ways Self-Publishing Author Can Save Money on Editing and 3 Things You Shouldn’t Hire an Editor to Do.
If you still think you don’t need an editor, please read this and this . . . and please take me up on my no-obligation offer of a free sample edit to show you how your manuscript will benefit from professional editing. Just send me a quick email at email@example.com and let me know how I can help you!
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4 Basics to Prepare Your Manuscript for an Editor (Where Writers Win.com)
Format Your Novel for Submission (TheEditorsBlog.net)
What to Look for When Editing Your Manuscript (writersdigest.com)