10 Reasons You Need an Editor for Indie Publishing

There are many reasons why you should invest in professional editing when you are self-publishing; here are ten of them:copyedit photo

When Michael Jordan was asked how he became the best basketball player in the world, his answer was “I had great coaches.” And in the same way, great writers have good editors behind them. A good editor can help make the difference between a book that should be used as fireplace kindling and one that rivals any traditionally published bestseller.

Editing is a specialized skill set; just because someone can find typos doesn’t mean he or she is a good editor. When you are considering independent publishing, it’s important to gather a professional team that helps you raise the bar on your work and create a final product that is something you can be proud of.

Great writers have good editors behind them. #editingtip #writers #selfpub Click To Tweet

Here are 10 reasons why you need an editor if you plan to self-publish:

1. You are new to the publishing business.
The publishing world is in a transition, and whether you hope to self-publish and catch the eye of a literary agent or publisher or you just want to maintain more control over your product and your income, you should partner with professionals who know the publishing world and can guide you through unfamiliar details, such as the legalities of using song lyrics or how many words are “standard” in your genre.

2. You have a great idea but don’t know how to organize it into a book.
Experts in psychology or medicine, food, local history, and other unique fields often use a professional editor to help them shape their ideas into a salable manuscript that will appeal to lay readers. Memoirists often struggle to move their work past the point of sounding like diary entries; a professional editor can help focus your writing to create a compelling memoir that readers will devour like a novel. Fiction writers can partner with an editor to flesh out details and elements such as plot, characterization, dialogue, and setting.

3. You’ve self-edited your work and are ready to move forward.
Your friends, your relatives, and your former English teacher will all give you wonderful support and advice, but they’re not going to approach your manuscript with the eye for detail that an editor brings to your work. A professional editor’s primary connection to the book is through the manuscript itself, not through you personally. A good editor represents the eye and ear of the reader and brings a viewpoint that is often more nuanced than that of your supportive friends and family. Each time you return to your manuscript, you see it a little differently. Self-editing multiple drafts is something every writer should do, but returning to a work with notes from a professional is a way to maximize your efforts.

4. You have poured your heart and soul into your work, and it is difficult to be objective about it.
Even after you’ve self-edited, there may be issues you haven’t addressed because you aren’t aware of them. Are there holes in your arguments? Are your introduction and conclusion as strong as they can be? Are your characters three dimensional or flat? Is your story slow to start, or does it move too quickly? You want your book to be strong, clean, professional, appealing, and affect your readers, and an editor can point out the strengths and weaknesses in your manuscript.

5. Your mind sees what it wants to see.
Your brain has a hard time realizing that “weak” is wrong when you meant “week,” or that you’ve received a “compliment,” not a “complement.” An editor will catch these details and find errors that go beyond spelling and word choices. Every writer has a personal pattern of error, such as using the same word too frequently or misusing semicolons, and those are errors you won’t even notice—but an editor will.

6. Grammar isn’t everyone’s strong suit . . . and even if you’re good at it, grammar isn’t the only thing that can trip you up.
If you unknowingly overuse pet words, or if your writing is wordy or repetitive, an editor will point out those errors. Spell-check and grammar-check software can actually make things worse instead of better. While these features are a good place to start, they are not nearly as accurate or as skillful as a good editor. And editing goes beyond grammar, spelling, and punctuation mistakes. You want to be sure that no questions go unanswered, all necessary information is included, and, of course, that no libelous or inaccurate material is published.

7. You want to create a final product that is something you can really be proud of.
An editor can help you raise the bar on your work by giving you critical feedback that often will improve your work beyond what you might have been able to do on your own. This can lead to more positive reviews and help you gain credibility as a professional writer and expert in your field.

8. You’ll become a better writer through the learning opportunity of working with a professional editor.
Self-editing is an essential part of a writer’s craft. Working with an editor is a chance to hone and improve your own self-editing skills. Even when your friends point out mistakes, it’s not unusual to add additional errors when making corrections. An editor will point out inconsistencies, fallacies, prose that is too flowery, or areas of text that could be rewritten to improve flow, all of which help you become a better writer.

9. A professional editor will respect your style and voice while guiding you toward a final manuscript that’s even more “you.”
Authors are often worried that editing will destroy their unique voice; a professional editor not only respects your voice while improving the flow, syntax, and narrative of your work, but suggests ways to make small changes that will help you create an even more polished version of your work.

10. Your book and your professional reputation ride on the professionalism of your editing team.
An author who relies only on self-editing is like a physician who tries to operate on himself. And you wouldn’t dream of interviewing for a job without taking a shower, brushing your teeth, and making sure your socks match; how could you contemplate creating your legacy as a writing professional without hiring someone to edit your manuscript for errors, omissions, and weak writing? A professional editor has an objective viewpoint and will be honest with you about the many ways you can improve your manuscript—yes, even when you think it’s perfect, you’ll be surprised at the things an editor will find.

One of the best investments you can make in your career as a writer is to pay for at least one level of professional editing. Whether you choose to work with a developmental editor, a copy editor, a proofreader, or any combination of the three, don’t make the mistake of thinking you can do this on your own. Skipping the step of working with a professional editor will compromise the quality of your work.

Originally published on Share Your Articles.

 

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Candace Johnson is a professional freelance editor, proofreader, writer, ghostwriter, and writing coach who has worked with traditional publishers, self-published authors, and independent book packagers on nonfiction subjects ranging from memoirs to alternative medical treatments to self-help, and on fiction ranging from romance to paranormal. As an editorial specialist, Candace is passionate about offering her clients the opportunity to take their work to the next level. She believes in maintaining an author’s unique voice while helping him or her create and polish every sentence to make it the best it can be.

Critique Groups for Self Editing

Critique Groups for Self Editing
A critique group of writers is a smart way to begin the editing process!

You’ve written a chapter of your memoir, or the first page of your novel, or a writing contest entry. You’ve meticulously self-edited, and now you want to know if what you’ve written “works” for readers . . . so  what’s the next step?

Consider a writers’ group, aka a critique group. Writers’ groups come in all shapes and sizes—some specialize in genres, others are based on common geography, and still others operate online. Whichever type you choose, you’ll find an abundance of free help from others who love to write. Even experienced writers understand the benefit of the unique perspectives each group member provides.

A critique group of writers is a smart way to begin the editing process! #writers #amwriting… Click To Tweet

Critique group members can help you identify global issues in your writing, such as unclear meaning, stilted dialogue, overuse or incorrect use of particular words, and patterns of error in punctuation. They can also help you with grammar issues, plot inconsistencies, a story line that doesn’t work, and character development. They are also invaluable for brainstorming on everything from titles to plot lines to ideas on where and how to tighten your writing.

You may have to try a few groups before you find one that works for you, but you’ll find it is well worth the time and effort. In addition to critiquing your work, group members can be a source for great ideas on workshops, books about writing, and other related information.

Once you’ve received feedback from group members, you’ll be armed with many different ideas. You’ll find some of those ideas aren’t workable for you, but others will give you an “a-ha” moment, a moment when you ask yourself, “Of course, why didn’t I see that?” You’ll be reinvigorated about your writing and refocused on getting your paper, article, blog, or book ready for publication.

If you use a critique group for beta reading or any other part of your editing process, I hope you’ll share your experiences. And if you know of a great on-line critique group for authors to check out, please include the link in the comments.

Happy Writing!

—Candace

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici/FreeDigitalImages.net

originally published as “Writing Groups for Self-Editing”

A Little Editing Makes a BIG Difference

editingI held two drawings last November for free editing: one winner was randomly selected from my blog followers and one from fans of my Facebook page.

The Facebook winner was author Maureen Francisco, whose first book, It Takes Moxie, was approaching the publication date. Because Maureen is a savvy author and a skilled marketer, she knows how important it is to get the word out about her book; she used her free editing to have me work with her on several articles she hoped would be picked up by major media outlets.

Sure enough, one of Maureen’s articles, “6 Ways to Improve Your Work Ethic, Get Ahead, and Learn the Secrets of Successful Immigrantswas picked up by Huffington Post, and Forbes.com published an article about her and her tips on “Seizing Opportunities.”

I’d like to share a short excerpt from “6 Ways to Improve Your Work Ethic” so you can see how a little tweaking here and there can make a BIG difference without changing the author’s voice. I’ve lined up the original followed by the edited version so you can see the differences:

Continue reading “A Little Editing Makes a BIG Difference”

Beware of Snake-Oil Salesmen in the Editing Biz

In the past week I came across two websites that offer unusual editing services. Unusual isn’t bad, but in these particular cases, unusual is definitely NOT good for authors.editing

One of these companies is a membership site that proposes to save authors money on professional editing by trading editing with other members; in other words, you and another writer edit each other’s books, thereby eliminating the cost of having your manuscript professionally edited.

What’s wrong with that? Nothing, as long as you understand that the chances of having a professional edit your work are slim to none. In reality, this service is a beta-reader service, which is very useful in its own right—but let’s call it what it is. And it is no substitute for professional editing or proofreading.

How to NOT save money on professional editing costs. #writers #editing #amediting Click To Tweet

“Oh, come ON, Candace,” I can hear you say, “I’ll still get editing, plus I can save hundreds of dollars on editing costs.” Continue reading “Beware of Snake-Oil Salesmen in the Editing Biz”

When Your Character Is “Reaping Havoc,” You NEED an Editor!

I have a client who self-published her book last fall. Three months later, she pulled it from sale. Why in the world would someone do that? Well, frankly, because she made a huge mistake: she published without editing.copyedit photo

This writer spent four years crafting her memoir. She’s an educated, articulate woman. Here’s what happened when she thought she was ready to publish:

A year ago, I subscribed to an editorial service and found myself having to work twice as hard un-doing what they had done—mostly because the foreign words were consistently converted by spell-check. I decided to abandon the project, and then spent hundreds of hours editing and re-editing this manuscript before publishing it.  While I received copious compliments about my writing, I was reminded that no one should ever publish a book without an editor. There were some punctuation errors and spelling mistakes; e.g., “weak” when I meant “week,” etc. That was when I decided to have someone proofread the manuscript.”

That’s when she found a professional freelance editor—me. Over the course of several e-mails, several phone calls, and several days, we discussed what she thought she needed, what I thought she needed, and how we each imagined the process might proceed. I offered to do a sample edit of several pages to show her what I believed would improve her book.

Here are just a few of the things I found in those sample pages: one of her characters was “reaping havoc,” her lover “raptured me in ecstasy,” and something important happened “eventually, in less than a few days.” Virtually every voice tag was “said,” she used semicolons like commas, and there are very few paragraphs that don’t include multiple (and incorrect) ellipses.

If she had hired a professional copyeditor, or even a professional proofreader before she published, this author would have saved herself a great deal of time, anxiety, and money.

A few days ago, I read a very informative Huffington Post guest blog by Mark Coker, the founder of e-book distributor Smashwords. Titled “21 Book Publishing Predictions for 2013: Indy Ebook Authors Take Charge,” it is a thoughtful examination of how Coker views the near future of the publishing—traditional, independent, self, print, and e-book. There is a lot of material covered in his blog, which you can read here in its entirety.

Prediction #14 is the one that really caught my eye:

 In the self-publishing gold rush, more money will be made in author services than in book sales.

This means writers must invest time and talent in their books, and if outside talent is required, it usually costs money. With this burgeoning demand for professional publishing services, thousands of service providers will open up virtual author services shops in 2013. The challenge for writers is to procure the highest quality services at the lowest cost. Plenty of scamsters and over-priced service providers will be standing by to help.”

So how do authors protect themselves from “service providers” who charge exorbitant fees for “editing services”? Coker’s suggestion:

Work directly with the individual providing your service. When you hire professionals (cover artist, editor, proofreader, marketing pro), hire the professional directly, so your money goes straight to them, and not to some author services firm who will farm the job out to someone then mark up the fee several-fold.”

Don’t be like my client and pay for editing that isn’t editing at all. There are many talented professional freelancers out there—do yourself a favor before you push “send” and:

  • Ask other authors for references. Word-of-mouth is often the best way to find a service provider, and finding an editor is no exception. Don’t trust just any service you find on the web. Check out websites, do a phone interview with prospective editors, and ask for both references and a sample edit. The relationship between an author and an editor is like a marriage: it can only be successful if there is good communication. You put your soul into your writing, and you deserve an editor who respects that.
  • Discuss the mechanics of the editing or proofreading process. Every editor works a little differently and, as the author, you have to be comfortable with the process, so don’t be afraid to ask questions, and speak up if something doesn’t sit right with you. If an editor is too busy for your questions, you probably won’t find the level of support you need and deserve with that person.
  • Remember that as the author, you are the boss. I find many writers fear a heavy-handed editor will change everything so they err on the side of doing nothing. Your mom or your best friends are not going to be totally honest with you, but a professional editor is. Consider every suggestion carefully, and again, don’t be afraid to ask for an explanation.

If Mark Coker is correct in his predictions, your work-in-progress will be ready for publication during a time that is publishing-friendly. Whether your goal is to get a publishing contract or to self-publish, make it your mission to find the perfect partner—a freelance editor—who is familiar with your genre, has impeccable references, and with whom you connect on a personal level. Chat on the phone, get a sample edit, correspond with his or her references, and then make a decision that will propel your writing to the next level.

Happy Writing!

—Candace

Related articles:

I Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Editor! Or Do I?

Your novel/memoir/nonfiction book is complete—congratulations! Now you’re ready to send it off to a literary agent or publisher, right?photo

Whoa, slow down a minute!

Your very first step is to self-edit your work. There are websites and blogs that can help you with a step-by-step plan to go through your work and clean it up, but how you go about this isn’t as important as actually doing it. Read your work out loud, print it out and read it again, be ruthless in deleting unnecessary words, and have a detective’s sensibilities about looking at every word, sentence, and paragraph from every imaginable angle. Check out my blogs about common grammar mistakes for additional help (links are on the right). If you work best with a formal plan, I’ve listed a few links below that have some helpful info. Continue reading “I Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Editor! Or Do I?”

And the Winner Is . . .

Drum roll please!

Image courtesy of suwatpo at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of suwatpo at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

As a way to show my gratitude for everyone who has viewed, liked, and commented on my blog posts, I decided to have a drawing for one lucky writer to win free copyediting for up to 1,500 words of his or her project for free*. Everyone who commented on one of my blog posts or website pages or referred to one of them in his or her own blog post received one entry for a random drawing. Anyone who signed up to follow me received two additional entries. And everyone who was already following me automatically received two entries.

I was thrilled to receive numerous comments and new followers, and I appreciate each and every one! I wish I could give you ALL free editing, just to thank you (and because I really love what I do!), but since this is how I make my living, I have to limit the freebies for now.

However, I’ve decided to have a bonus drawing: Anyone who goes to my Facebook page at Change It Up Editing and Writing Services by 11:59 pm on Monday, December 3, 2012 and likes the page will be eligible for the same prize*, so click that link right now and enter for one more chance to win. You’ll be glad you did–I post lots of great stuff related to books and publishing that I think you’ll find interesting.

And now, without further ado, the winner of free copyediting for up to 1,500 words of his or her choice is:

Dylan Hearn, whose blog Virginal Words can be found here: http://dylanhearn.wordpress.com/

Congratulations to Dylan, and thanks again to everyone else who entered this drawing. Don’t forget, anyone who goes to my Facebook page at Change It Up Editing and Writing Services by 11:59 pm on Monday, December 3, 2012 and likes the page will be eligible for the same prize*, and I’ll announce that winner on Tuesday, December 4.

Happy Writing!

—Candace

* Winner may send an electronic Word document of any length for free editing, and I will do a substantive line edit of the first 1,500 words using track changes.

Writing Groups for Self-Editing

Writers’ groups are a smart way to begin the editing process!

You’ve written a chapter of your memoir, or the first page of your novel, or a writing contest entry. You’ve meticulously self-edited, and now you want to know if what you’ve written “works” for readers . . . so  what’s the next step?

Now it’s time for a writers’ group, aka a critique group. Writers’ groups come in all shapes and sizes—some specialize in genres, others are based on common geography, and still others operate online. Whichever type you choose, you’ll find an abundance of free help from others who love to write. Even experienced writers understand the benefit of the unique perspectives each group member provides.

Critique group members can help you identify global issues in your writing, such as unclear meaning, stilted dialogue, overuse or incorrect use of particular words, and patterns of error in punctuation. They can also help you with grammar issues, plot inconsistencies, a story line that doesn’t work, and character development. They are also invaluable for brainstorming on everything from titles to plot lines to ideas on where and how to tighten your writing.

You may have to try a few groups before you find one that works for you, but you’ll find it is well worth the time and effort. In addition to critiquing your work, group members can be a source for great ideas on workshops, books about writing, and other related information.

Once you’ve received feedback from group members, you’ll be armed with many different ideas. You’ll find some of those ideas aren’t workable for you, but others will give you an “a-ha” moment, a moment when you ask yourself, “Of course, why didn’t I see that?” You’ll be reinvigorated about your writing and refocused on getting your paper, article, blog, or book ready for publication.

If you use a critique group for beta reading or any other part of your editing process, I hope you’ll share your experiences. And if you know of a great on-line critique group for authors to check out, please include the link in the comments.

Happy Writing!

—Candace

 

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici/FreeDigitalImages.net

Students Can't Write, Lack Effective Communication Skills

This is a Computer Fundamentals class taking a...
This is a Computer Fundamentals class taking an exam. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Scores from the National Assessment of Educational Progress: 2011 Writing exam show that few students can write successfully in both academic and workplace settings, educators said.

If you struggle to use just the right words to get your point across, you may appreciate the article that appeared in the Orange County Register (CA). Even in this day of technologically savvy students, “Nearly three quarters of American students who took the first-ever computer-based national writing exam did not communicate effectively, even when allowed to use spell check, a thesaurus and other word-processing tools, according to a federal report released Friday.” The test, which measured students’ ability to “persuade or change the reader’s point of view; explain or expand the reader’s understanding; and convey experience or communicate individual experiences to others,” was given to a sampling of students that officials felt were representative of the overall population.

These results are so disappointing. Basic writing and communications skills are still that—basic skills—and even with all the money spent on technology in the classroom, students continue to struggle with something that will define them and their futures. Read the full article at http://www.ocregister.com/news/students-371409-writing-graders.html.

I’ll bet at least one of those students has an idea for a terrific book; I just hope he or she realizes there are professional editors who can help when the time comes.

—Candace