I recently attended a talk by Journalist Susie Steiner (at Faber) who told us that she had used the services of a professional editor to go through her novel before she started to send it out to agents. She urged us to do the same saying that she was confident that it was one of the reasons her novel had ended up in a bidding war between a handful of the top London Agents. She believes that it is a small price to pay to appear professional and serious about publishing your novel. I tend to agree. Why not try to make your novel the best it can be before submitting it to agents and publishers?
So today’s blog guest to continue our editing theme is The Proof Fairy AKA Alison Neale.
I’ve known Alison for a few years now (going back to our BookCrossing days!) and have watched her start her own business and build up her clients. Alison has written me a short article which, I think, is very interesting, especially to those of you who are considering going down the Indie route :)
A Quick Guide To Editing For Self-Publishing Authors
It seems strange, but only a few years ago it was difficult to become a published author. There were two routes – you were lucky enough to be picked up by a publisher, or you paid a dodgy company to “vanity publish” your book.
Now, of course, it’s different. The introduction of e-readers – especially Amazon’s Kindle – makes it easy for anyone to be an author. All you have to do is write a book, upload it and wait for the sales to roll in, right?
Many self-publishing authors cut corners by missing out the editing and proofreading stage. The result? Thousands of books out there with fantastic plots and characters that make very few sales because they are badly written. If only those authors had employed an editor, it could have been a different story!
Part of the problem is not everyone understands what editing involves. It’s not just about checking the spelling – it goes a lot further than that. In fact, there are three distinct stages of editing:
A content editor will “sanity check” your book by looking for plot holes, inconsistencies and inaccuracies. Many self-publishing authors use “beta readers” for this stage of the editing and that’s probably the best way to go about it. Call on a dozen trusted friends to tell you – honestly – what they think of your book. Take on board their feedback and make the appropriate changes. Your book will be all the better for it!
A copyeditor reads your book line by line looking for spelling and grammatical errors, clunky text and more. A good copyeditor will create a style list that includes particular phrases, character names and locations – for example, whether you use OK or okay – to ensure styles are used consistently throughout. They’ll also raise any queries with you.
In mainstream publishing you’ll normally receive your manuscript back from the copyeditor, make changes and then send it for proofreading – but many copyeditors also proofread as they go along.
A proofreader inspects the final page proofs to check there are no missed typos, the formatting is consistent, page numbers are in sequence etc. However, proofreading can actually happen alongside copyediting, making the process quicker and less expensive. Bear in mind that you need to have your book (or parts of it) proofread every time you make changes, as it’s easy for mistakes to creep in.
Don’t be fooled into thinking editing is something you can do yourself. By the time you’ve planned, written, rewritten and edited your book, you will be so familiar with the plot and the characters you’ll overlook even the most obvious mistakes. For example, I once proofread a novel where a character’s name switched from Tracey to Tracy and back again from chapter to chapter. The author knew what the character was called but just didn’t spot the change in spelling – because he was too close to the book.
There are thousands of self-published books out there and you want to stand out from the crowd. Editing may be an expense you don’t feel you can justify – but when it makes the difference between a handful of sales and a best seller, it’s an expense you shouldn’t avoid.
Alison Neale, AKA The Proof Fairy offers professional proofreading and editing to authors and business owners. Based in Oxfordshire, she reads anything she can get her hands on! She is currently partway through writing her own book, about parenting a child with ADHD. Away from the office she loves football, food and family – not necessarily in that order!
Take a look at some of the books Alison has worked on.
Have you ever used or considered using a professional editor?
- Five Dos and Don’ts for Picking an Editor (omnivoracious.com)