Slicing and Dicing (or what writers grudgingly call “Book Editing”)

Devour a Book

While contemplating and writing about my 7 New Year Revelations,  I’ve been trying not to think about the redlining, scratchy margin comments, strikethroughs and all the nasty little markings that a few no-nonsense editors are doing to my manuscript. 

As any writer will attest, it’s important to give your completed manuscript a thorough and objective (that’s the hard part) edit yourself first, but then you must hand it over to an editor who will have no qualms about ripping it to shreds,  if need be.   As a person who uses the numbers 3 and 7 all the time (it’s a spiritual thing, perhaps even a bit O.C.D.),  I always like to choose 3 editors (a professional editor, a person who has personal  experience with the subject, and a scholar/professional who is a specialist on the subject).  This gives me a nice cross-section of expertise from people whose commentary I respect and will take to heart, when producing the final copy for publication.  

I give them a timeframe and my own set of  guidelines (for them to keep in mind, while editing)  …  with the expectation that, on the end date, I will receive all their edits and comments. Some prefer to edit on a hard copy manuscript, others edit on my PDF  text. I usually give them three weeks , although it may extend further – depending upon the length of the manuscript.

My manuscript-specific  “guidelines”  vary from book to book. These include a list of questions or points that relate to specific characters or story lines that I want to receive objective feedback on.

However,  the general guidelines simply follow the standard editing process which, in turn, involves multiple read-throughs or “passes.”

1. First Pass:       A READ-THROUGH  (no editing)

It’s important for the editor to get a feel for the book first, before grabbing that red pencil!

2. Second Pass —  SUBSTANTIVE  EDITING

This is the heavy, line editing phase. Sentence structure, grammar, spelling and punctuation are all addressed here.  At this stage, the editor will also look at whether the book  reads  well and whether  or not a story, character, or setting may need readjustment.

3. Third Pass —  CONTENT  EDITING

This may include substantive editing (above) but focuses on the quality of the writing, the use of words, and the strength/continuity of the author’s voice.  The content editing process points its high beam on clarity and conciseness.  This is where a lot of the dreaded snippity-snip-snip comes into play. Conciseness …  the bane of my existence.

4. Fourth Pass —  COPY  EDITING

Once more, punctuation and grammar are reviewed, as well as whether or not the use of words and tense is consistent throughout the manuscript. The copy editing process serves to catch any minor or major mistakes and whether or not the perceived errors were intentional (i.e. stylistic) or not.

5. Fifth Pass —  PROOFREADING*

A final review of  grammar, punctuation and spelling. This is the polishing stage.

*CAVEAT:  Once the writer incorporates all the edits into the final manuscript, the writer must (himself/herself) do another round of proofreading — it is very important to do this carefully. Hasty proofreading will result in unwanted errors.  In the world of home renovation, the do-it-yourself folks are told, time and time again, “measure twice, cut once.”  Well, the same applies in the writing world.  Proofread, proofread, and proofread again!

Furthermore, if the writer is self-publishing, it is important to do yet another round of proofreading upon receiving the printer’s proofs (always request  to have a sign-off on the printer’s proof, prior to printing).  This is not only important for catching any errors within the text, but also to ensure that the formatting and graphics are perfect. Similarly, if using a company like CreateSpace or lulu.com to publish the book, follow the same proofing/sign-off procedure as with the printer. 

By the 21st, I should be receiving all of my edits back, for my manuscript (Casualties of the Recession Depression) — redlines, scratchy margin comments, strikethroughs and nasty little markings.

I can hardly wait.

 

Image from howtoshuckanoyster.com.

A Writer’s Dilemma: traditional publishing or self-publishing?

Until recent years, I always believed the traditional publishing route was the only way to go.  I knew that it would entail sending out query letter after query letter and, inevitably, would be followed by rejection letter after rejection letter.  I knew that it would most likely take some time – perhaps years – before a positive response would be forthcoming. I would need to hire a literary agent, if I ever had a hope in hell of having my manuscript read by a publisher. Nevertheless, I envisaged a day when one of New York’s finest publishing houses would give me the thumbs-up.  I imagined the process, the kind of advance I would get, and what the contract would entail.  Would they want a one-book deal or a three- or five-book deal?  Most importantly, I would be published!

Times have changed.  Writers are increasingly favoring the self-publishing route. There used to be a stigma attached to what was once referred to as “vanity press.”  Not so much, anymore (although there are a few publishing purists who still curl their lips in disdain at the mere thought of  a self-published book or – gasp! – an Ebook!). But, with the advent of social media and publishing vehicles like Kindle Amazon and lulu.com – many writers are opting to eliminate the “middle man” and take control of their own publishing destiny.  Not convinced?  Frankly, I’m still in a quandary, myself.

Here are a few of the pros and cons in the traditional publishing versus self-publishing debate:

SELF-PUBLISHING

The author becomes the publisher (no middle man) and, as such,  she/he has to do all the work (proofread and edit the final text, provide camera-ready artwork, marketing and distribute the book – and provide all the funds to publish the book).  Yes, companies like lulu.com (for example) can market and distribute but you will inevitably have to pay the tab.  A hefty tab, at that.

Pros:

  • Control. You control the process and have full rights to your manuscript.
  • Time. You could easily have a book released in the space of six months.

Cons:

  • Money. You have to pay for everything and will only recoup your costs if the book sells – well.
  • Contacts. You don’t have the benefit of a publishing house’s experience, contacts and networking capabilities.
  • Time. Ahhh, there’s that Time issue again!  You will be spending a lot of your time marketing, distributing, filling orders, and so on.
  • Market  Saturation.  The market is saturated with low-quality books because so many people (who are not really writers) are publishing their own books or Ebooks. The end result:  self-publishing still gets a bad rap – like it or not.

TRADITIONAL PUBLISHING

Most larger publishing houses will not even look at a manuscript unless it is represented by a literary agent. Smaller or independent houses may possibly accept unrepresented work, but don’t hold your breath.  Expect to get rejection letters.  Don’t let rejection letters fill you with self-doubt. Keep trying.

Pros:

  • Money.  You will get an advance (ranging from a meager amount to as much as seven figures).  You will get a percentage of sales.
  • Effort. The publishing house will handle the whole process.  They have the resources to promote your book – well.
  • Credibility. To be published by a major publishing house is a good thing – really. Whether you like it or not, perception is important.

Cons:

  • Money.  You will have to pay the literary agent a percentage (usually 15%) of  your advance, as well as a percentage of the sales.
  • Control.  You are at the mercy of the publishing house.  You lose some or all control over your manuscript, including title, cover, content  – depending on the fine print in your contract.
  • Time.  It will likely take a publishing house anywhere from 12 – 18 months to publish your book.

Clearly, it is extremely important to research your publishing options further and think very carefully about which route you want to take.

As a writer, this is one of the most important decisions that you will make.

Personally, I am still torn between the two but am leaning towards the self-publishing option.  My main issue is Time.  The time is NOW!

Here’s wishing all of you the best of luck!

Cheers,

h.f.t.g.

Image via   Llamatastic.com.