Thursday, August 1, 2013

A Self-Publishing Journey: What Do I Do About Editing?

I always swore up and down that if I ever self-published, I’d pay for a respected, experienced editor to work through the process with me, just as I would with a traditional publisher. I still believe that is, without doubt, the best way to ensure success and a product an author can be proud of.

To that end, over the past couple years as I’ve considered self-publishing (and decided against it until this point) I’ve spoken with several agents and successful authors about who they have / would use if they were paying for their own editing, and a couple names have come up. I’ll put in a disclaimer here: I haven’t personally used any of these editors. But I was given recommendations by trusted sources, looked into self-published books which I felt were very professional and found out who the editor was, and researched and got samples of editing styles. If I had the resources, I’d use one of these:
Karen Grove
Consulting Editor
www.karengrove.com32127 Camino Rabago
Temecula, CA 92592
(951) 302-2763

The Bibliophile (Stephanie)

Emma Dryden
(Works with authors and illustrators)
336 Central Park West 3F
New York, New York, 10025
(718) 213 2127

With all that said, I just don’t have the cash. My family has moved across the globe in the past few months, relocating from New Zealand, back to my hometown, America. Neither my husband, nor I, are working, and likely won’t be until next year. Right now I just don’t have hundreds (let alone maybe thousands) it would take to hire top-notch editors like these.
So when I committed to self-publishing, it was with a sense of trepidation. What was I going to do to effectively replace that kind of professional advice?

Well…I’m lucky enough to be friends with some incredibly talented (and professionally skilled) authors. After putting my pride aside, I’ve called in a few favors and have a literal team of writers lined up to help me work through the editing process. They’ll provide substantive and line-edit notes. They’ll read like readers, and comment like writers. They are an invaluable resource, and my answer to the “what do I do about an editor?” question.
I want to be clear though, that I’m not talking about just any writers, any beta-readers. The men and women who’ve agreed to assist me this year are all either traditionally published, or have professional (read: people pay them) editorial and critiquing skills. They know what they’re about. They pull no punches, won’t hesitate to identify a flaw, and their own writing demonstrates strengths where mine is lacking.

They balance me and will be wonderful aids to my story.
In an attempt to recreate the editing process, I’ve developed the following plan:

I have two teams of four. I’ll provide my first round team with a revised manuscript next week. They have all agreed to get back to me within 3-4 weeks with their notes. I’ll then make the new changes and edits. That (hopefully polished) manuscript will then be submitted to four more authors – one of whom read the first version and can make comparisons / catch any mistreatments of the changes, and three who will read it fresh. Of those three, only one has read a previous version of the book (and that, well over a year ago, when the book looked quite different).
The idea behind this is to get balanced feedback: People who know what the book is supposed to achieve and can gauge it against previous versions; and people who are coming in fresh, with no idea how the story unfolds, and can tell me what their impressions are without any preconceived notions.

I’ve also ensured that the first team of authors are strongest in the substantive edits side. They’ll catch plot problems, continuity, characterization, structure, pacing, etc, etc, etc. The second team will focus more on the detail – grammar, punctuation, clunky passages, small tweaks needed to make the prose flow, or aid the reader in understanding the character.
As you can see, what I’m trying to achieve is a brain-trust that will, hopefully, when taken together, give me the same overall assistance as a professional editor.

In fact, who knows? Maybe they’ll be better!
I’m not going to broadcast the names of the very, very generous authors who’ve agreed to help me because I don’t want them inundated with similar requests. But if you’re reading this (and you know who you are), let me tell you that your help is my greatest blessing in this journey. Without you I know there’s no way I could end up with a final product I can be proud of.

So…once again I get to tell you what I think (and turn around and do something completely different). But in your own journey, I hope you’ll see that my conviction is, this editorial process is the single most critical portion of turning your book into a commodity. Without it, you risk alienating or disappointing readers. And that, my friends, is the death knell for any author.
Your Turn: Have you worked with a good, solid editor? Let us know who you used and what you’d recommend them for!

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