By Penny C. Sansevieri, Adjunct Instructor NYU & CEO of Author Marketing Experts, Inc.
With all of the options out there to publish, it’s pretty tempting to just point and click your way to a completed book. People ask me all the time, “How can I be successful?” Well, aside from the usual stuff, like show up and keep promoting, the one key to success is to publish a book so good, your reader can’t put it down. But to take it a step beyond that, I would say publish something that has been edited often, and by someone who knows how to edit a book and isn’t afraid to tell you the things you may not want to hear.
I asked Lauren Hidden of The Hidden Helpers (www.thehiddenhelpers.com) to weigh in with her views on editing.
Why is editing so important?
You had phenomenal ideas for your book; many of them, in fact. You know your topic or your story inside and out, but sometimes what you’re thinking doesn’t successfully translate to paper. That’s where an editor steps in—clarifying a confusing scene, tightening up a repetitive or wordy section, or fixing a problem with shifting tenses. Readers can tell if your book isn’t edited. The idea is for readers to love your book and tell all their friends about it. Don’t give them a reason to put your book down after the first five pages.
Who should get their book edited?
Everyone. Wise authors know that they have to put their best foot forward. Period. This applies equally if you are seeking a traditional publishing contract or if you are planning to self-publish your book. Competition is fierce. A poorly edited book will score bad reviews from readers or end up in the circular file in an acquisitions editor’s office. Too many authors say they can’t “afford” to get their book edited, but you shouldn’t start writing a book without incorporating editing into your budget.
What mistakes do people make when choosing an editor?
The biggest mistake people make is not finding the best fit for them and their specific book. Ask for editor recommendations from other authors and industry professionals. Also, make sure you and the editor agree on the amount and type of the editing to be performed. Some editors may perform more of a proofread looking for blatant errors and some may try to rewrite your book. You likely don’t want either of these extremes.
What’s the difference between copyediting and content editing and do people often need both?
Simplified, copy editing is polishing the words on the page. This can be correcting subject/verb agreement, eliminating repetition, fixing spelling errors, cleaning up awkward phrasing, correcting homonyms, and the like. Content editing is addressing the “bigger picture” of the book. In fiction, this most often means addressing inconsistencies with character and plot points, recommending the author eliminates or expands scenes, and ensuring the book flows well. In nonfiction, content editing most often addresses the clarity, completeness, consistency, and organization of the information being presented. And yes, every author should have content and copy editing performed.
How many times should a book be edited? Is there such a thing as over-editing?
A book should certainly be self-edited by the author before a professional editor ever lays eyes on it. When it reaches an editor’s hands, the editor and the author will discuss the number of rounds the editor typically performs. If you feel that you took all the necessary steps to produce a great book, had it professionally edited, and are happy with how it turned out, then it’s time to release it to the world.
Finally, here are a few more things you should know about editing:
If you’re just submitting a book proposal to agents and publishers or you are submitting the entire manuscript, you should have the book fully edited. Why? Publishers and agents often don’t have the time to ferret through unedited or rough manuscripts. You’ll increase your chances of getting noticed if your book and package are polished.
If your editor loves everything you write, there’s something wrong. The truth is that while you should like your editor, they should push you.
Don’t skimp on editing. Ever. Consider this: the world won’t love your book simply because you wrote it, it must be the best work you could have produced and if you’re not ready to meet this criterion, then you may want to wait until you are.
It’s hard enough to compete in publishing. Put in the effort and put forth your best book. Does your book deserve anything less?
Penny C. Sansevieri, CEO and founder of Author Marketing Experts, Inc., is a best-selling author and internationally recognized book marketing and media relations expert. Her company is one of the leaders in the publishing industry and has developed some of the most cutting-edge book marketing campaigns. Follow on Twitter @Bookgal.
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