The Publishing Process: Editing
Two weeks ago, I began this series on my publishing experience in the hopes it might educate hopeful authors on the process. Since the last post focused on the different publishing options available to an author, this week will go on the next step in the process- editing the book.
Editing: Personal and Professional
A trait of any good writer is the knowledge that their work will not be perfect the first time they write it. After completing their work, the best thing to do is take a period of time away from the book (or other work), and approach it later with a fresh eye, or allow someone else to read it and give their thoughts. Most writers will look at their work in terms of story- how well everything progress, if actions or characters or events need to be revised, and any other changes. But as one may imagine, the story is only a part of the editing process. Books not only require story editing, but technical editing. This includes grammar, spelling, and usually a format style (in my case, Chicago Manual). While some may be skilled enough to do this editing for themselves, most authors need this done for them, which is where professional editors come in.
Editors are paid to make the technical and format edits that writers aren’t usually trained to make. Depending on how you get published, this service should be free, or come at some cost to you. Regardless of how you receive it, getting professional editing is a vital step in having a successful book. When your book hits the market, it needs to look as professional as possible, and having a novel full of typos, mistakes, and a lack of formatting style will make it look amateurish. I have seen this firsthand, as my editor told me of a Baptist minister who decided to write a book about a Holocauset survivor, without doing any research or accepting any editing. This led to her book being publishing with Fuhrer being spelled in the English version, and costing her book a great deal of creditability. Therefore, you need to take advantage of whatever services you can. As I mentioned before, traditional publishing will perform this service for you. Many self-publishers do offer editing as part of their packages, or as a separate service. But internet publishing generally does not, since it is usually a simple upload. Therefore, if you choose to go this route, make sure you can get editing done by someone with experience and know-how.
Even with all these advantages, edits should not be blindly accepted by authors. While spelling and grammar corrections are undeniable, some editors will also make suggestions concerning more creative elements, like dialogue. While these suggestions come in the hopes of making the book more marketable, as an author, you need to present your own voice. When a suggestion is made, make sure you ask yourself these three questions.
1. What is the reason behind it?
2. How would it affect the book?
3. Can I accept this change?
How you answer these questions is the first step in determining what to do with the edit. Finally, the last mention on editing is for self-publishers. While I was pleased with the final product from iUniverse, it was not always a smooth process. I was charged for the editing, and more than once, I was told more needed to be done, especially for the high placement they wanted to give the book. While this ultimately worked out, I had to weigh each option and truly ask myself if the changes were necessary. And while iUniverse did leave the final decision to me, and would have published regardless of the changes, there are many presses that would likely not give authors that chance. So just as you shouldn’t accept every edit, make sure you aren’t placed in a position where your publisher can hold your publication over your head to force more expensive edits.
In closing, I reiterate that editing is an important and unavoidable part of the publishing process. My experience gave me insight into how much it can improve your book, and how much your book can suffer without it. But make sure that while the technical material is improved, that each creative suggestion is taken openly, but carefully. At the end of the day, your edited book should not only look great, but should be something you are still proud of.