Editing sucks the big one. Most writers know this. It seems never-ending. But, as annoying as it is, it just has to be done. There are so, so many people self-publishing and despite the success of a huge number of self-published books, there are still a heap of people who look down on the principle of self-publishing. Why? Because anyone can do it. Anyone upload something, slap a cover on it and charge money for it – whether it’s the best book ever written or not.
Of course, what makes a good book is subjective. There are some high profile books I’ve read because they had a huge amount of buzz around them and amazing reviews, and yet, I hated them. Nobody will always like everything. But, aside from hating the story, or the characters, or the setting, it’s far, far, far worse to have someone hate your book because it’s badly edited, if it’s edited at all.
I cannot stress how important editing is. I thought I’d had it covered, but one thing I’ve found out is, the more eyes that pass over your book before you send it out into the world, the better. Because bad reviews based on editing cut much deeper than a bad review because they didn’t like the book for what it was. I had friends (writers and non-writers) look over mine, as well as an actual editor, and there were still errors – missing words, that kind of thing. And while some people might overlook that, you’d best believe there are a heap of people who won’t. After pulling my hair out, I think I’ve finally got there.
So, you’ve slogged away, turning that spark of an idea into a story. You’ve actually managed to finish it too, but what now? First, understand what editing actually is. Because it’s more than having someone look over your book and red circle it.
I cannot help but edit, and I cannot help but do it as I’m going along. Obviously, you’re going to be the first one in the process, but by the time you’ve written THE END, you’ll probably be a) sick of looking at your manuscript and b) too familiar with it to spot the missing words, the double ‘the’s and other such irritations.
Structural editing is when someone looks over your entire story and basically sees if it makes sense or whether it’s all disjointed and confusing. They’ll appraise the characters, the chapters, the pace, and the narrative. My editor told me she hated the ending of Together Apart (I’d changed it literally days before I sent it to her), but she knew her stuff and explained why. After I took some time to cool down, I could see that actually, she was right, and so I rewrote it. You might think your story is perfect and makes perfect sense, but of course you do. You wrote the thing. Point is, you don’t want to have someone buy it and get to the end thinking ‘what was the point? what actually happened to Gina and her rabid dog?’ It needs to make sense overall. Structural editing is ordinarily done by someone else, and that someone else will charge, unless you’ve got the hook up somewhere. It could be uber cheap, or horrifically expensive, but you must find someone familiar with your genre. I think there’s little point in going for an editor who works with horror if you’ve written erotica. You can usually send off a sample and see what they come back with, but bear in mind, you won’t really see the payoff until they’ve read the whole thing.
Ok, we’re starting to get to the nitty gritty. A line editor (and you might use the same person for all steps in the process) will go through every single sentence and point out any that don’t read correctly, that are confusing, that are awkward, too flowery or don’t pack the punch you were quite aiming for.
Copy editing looks at those annoying things you might have missed. Typos, grammatical errors, inconsistencies and punctuation. Basically, an enhanced version of what you’d have done yourself up until this point.
There are a LOT of editors out there, and I’d suggest trying to go for someone you’ve had recommended because it ain’t always cheap. And, I’d also suggest you rope in some friends and family to proof-read too. The more people who read it the better. And when you do finally get your book out there, I’d heavily suggest you buy it, download it to your e-reader and give it another read through because despite the steps I went through, I still found errors at this point. The joy of ebooks is you can always upload a new version with the rectified errors, but trust me, it’s better to get them out of the way first.
Oh, and good luck!