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.
Thus far, I’ve spent several weeks talking about my inspirations for The Lightrider Journals. While I hope that readers have taken some cues from these sources, last week’s piece on how film and comics companies look at stories and characters made me think about the process I undertook in getting my book out into the world. While writing the story is a major part of that process, in some ways, it is the easiest part of the process. Many writers, including myself, enter the world of publishing without a clear guide, and often find themselves unsure of what to do and how to even get started. Therefore, I plan to start a biweekly series, chronicling my journey through publishing, from choosing a publisher to making the final edits and marketing. As such, I begin with the most important part of the journey- finding a publisher.
Your Publishing Options
However long you take writing your book, and then editing it, you then face the journey of getting it into print. Years ago, this would have meant the traditional publishing method- sending the book to various publishers and wait for one of them to accept it. While I don’t promote ignoring this option, it is not the fastest method. Many authors can wait years, going through several rejections at different publishers (one author told me he went through forty different publishers before finding success). And unfortunately, the process has become more difficult in the wake of e-books, which have left traditional publishers struggling to adapt and more choosey about the books they print, which diminishes your chances even further.
However, there is a new option that many authors are currently- independent publishing. This option has two folds- publishing through a self-publication house like iUniverse or Lulu, or using online publishers like Amazon.com. There are pros and cons to both options- self-publishing costs more, but gives you physical and electronic copies, while online costs less and can have more royalties, but only gives you one medium to sell your work through. Regardless, both are viable options to get your book out quickly, and generally give you more control over your work. Even so, there are several things to be aware of in all three fields of publishing.
Pros and Cons
To decide where to publish you need to do research on all three methods and what they offer. Traditional publishing will usually mean higher royalties, a contract, entry into a variety of booksellers, and a marketing department to plan out and fulfill your book’s publicity campaign. However, you also have to sign your book over to your publishers, which often means they will have a great deal of control over it (see Alan Moore and his book to film adaptions). And of course, all this is subject to whether or not they will even take your book. Self-publishing houses will take your book regardless, and usually allow you to have full control over it. However, this control comes with a fee, and requires a great deal of research on your part to avoid the danger of vanity presses.
A vanity press, is basically a publishing house that sells you on the idea of holding your book in your hand and often promise higher royalties. However, when that is over, you are on your own- they will not offer you assistance in marketing the book (and sometimes, not even edit it), a step almost every first time author struggles with. Without proper marketing, a book will not sell, and whatever the royalty rate is, it will be a percent of nothing. So if you choose to use a self-publishing house, do your research. Make sure that you see how they are rated by others, check their history and publishing packages, and above all, talk to someone in the company about it. What made me choose iUniverse was that they are highly rated in the industry, are staffed by professionals with experience in publishing, offer several packages at different costs, work at your speed, have connections with major booksellers, and will offer you marketing aid. Even if iUniverse isn’t right for you, these are qualities you should look for in a self-publisher, because there are downsides to this method. There is a lot of money involved in self-publishing, and it can be a long process. Professional editors will make your book look professional and marketing people will help you, but it all comes at a cost, so be prepared and know what you’re getting into (especially with matters like royalties). And even then, you are ultimately responsible for getting your book sold- I’ve organized my own signings, and a friend helped set up my recent blog tour.
As for online publishing, I’ve had little experience with the direct application, but the same issues apply. With so many people publishing this way, it’s by no means a fool-proof road to fame and fortune. While it is inexpensive and has higher royalties, it will still require a tremendous amount of work on your part to market and sell. There is no professional editing process, and you will not have a physical product to push. And above all, remember that 75% of nothing is still nothing- the royalties are only good if you make the book sell.
There are many different avenues for publishing and while my road worked for me, you shouldn’t feel obliged to take it. The best advice I can give to writers looking for publishing is to take the time to look at every option fully, and decide what’s best. If you truly want the traditional route, then be prepared to be patient and make room for rejections. If you want self-publishing, make sure you have the funds and that you sign up with the right people. If you want the internet, then learn how to make the best product and learn how to market it. In short, learn about these options and any new ones that crop up, because the first step requires a lot of thought and deliberation to make it work. And the next few steps require just as much thought.