3 S.R. Johannes: Editing - is it necessary?

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Editing - is it necessary?

Housekeeping Stuff

I am collecting names for my newsletter. If you are not sure if you signed up - you can always sign up again. You won't get double I promise.

If you sign up between today and my launch, you will get a free ebook on everything I have learned about self publishing and online marketing - this will be for anyone who is self publishing or who markets online. I'm pulling together and formatting all my notes on this whole process as well as some online marketing tips and tricks (some I haven't even talked about yet) and putting them all into one place. I plan to be complete by Jan once I get through the entire process. That way you would not have to go back through a bunch of old posts to find information. Who knows maybe I'll even turn it into a self pubbed book one day :)

My newsletter will have author news, but it will also have arc giveaways, marketing contests, as well as online marketing and self pubbing advice. The first one will go out before my launch. If you don't like it after that - you can opt out and still get the ebook.

Also I added my online virtual launch party to Facebook so you can sign up there if you didn't get it. :) I will be doing an online chat on online marketing, self publishing journey, and my book as well as giving away prizes and special secrets.

If you are on Goodreads, friend me :) You can also mark Untraceable "to read". Somehow, it's already gotten on some good lists: Self publishing books to watch for in 2011 and Best Cover.  Nice :)

Enough boring stuff....


Editing - is it worth it? And why?

I just got my copyedits back.

First, let me say if you need a good copyeditor, email me. Because mine was AWESOME!

Untraceable has been through the ringer more than once. In addition to the scrutiny of my former agent and slew of beta readers, Untraceable was also recently edited by Lexa Hillyer at Paper Lantern and Emily Lawrence (previously at Aladdin). 

These two editors were great for my book and I HIGHLY recommend them. If you need their information, you can email me offline.

Now, I did not include this original editing cost in my current eXperiment budget b/c I'm not sure I would have used both or spent as much if I had known I was going to self publish. Not that it wasn't worth it - but now I'm on a different budget. I would say look to spend anywhere from $25-$50 an hour to get a reputable editor to work with you. At the time, I needed a fresh perspective. Editing and covers are definitely going to be the biggest expenses for any self publisher.

What I found out this week is that overall editing and copy edits are very different. I never knew this before. I assumed editing was editing. Just like I assumed revising was just copyediting.

Here's the difference:

Book Editing:
This editor looks at the whole story - the big picture. They make sure you have a roadmap and are thinking about the key story elements of Flush out the plot and subplots. What is waste? Do your characters have an arc and how do they grow over the book? 

Copy Editing:
This editor checks for spelling errors, grammatical errors and structural errors and sticks to a style/manual - Chicago manual etc. This editor's job is to make sure words are spelled correctly, the correct word is used (example. since vs sense), the correct punctuation is used, there are no run on sentences, there are no redundancies, and the topic stays the same in each paragraph and the paragraph before and the paragraph after cohere. They also look for inconsistencies in wording or style or tone.

An editor is usually more big picture and a copy editor is down in the deets. These jobs sometimes overlap some as editors definitely catch typos and smaller stuff while the copy editor also finds overarching inconsistencies and plot problems. But, these jobs are usually - and almost always - done by two different people. I always assumed if you had your book edited - it would include both. WRONG!  

My decision

At first, I thought since I had the book professionally edited, I would not need a copy editor.  I went back and forth about doing copy edits, but my traditional author friends encouraged - no insisted - that I needed them. Now that I see my edits, wow, I am so glad I did it!!!

Two main reason why copy editing is critical:

1) Copy editing caught all those things NO ONE else did. Punctuations, inconsistencies (green eyes or brown eyes), did I type "form" and mean "from". etc I had no idea how much was in there! I would have been mortified had I put that out. 

2) I wanted to put out the best product I can and be proud. No regrets. I don't want to just see a book out there, I want to see my book at it's very best. 

3) Increase the chances of success and your credibility.  Trust me, there are already a lot of naysayers out there that probably do not support self publishing or even me doing it for that matter. And, I personally don't want to give anyone a reason to say "oh! no wonder she is self publishing". 

4) Go for quality. Whether any of us wants to admit it - at some point that doubt about self publishing is what goes through our traditional-publishing loving minds when we first see someone is self publishing. It is what holds us back from self publishing. It is what has held me back. It is why I am experimenting with the process.

I'll admit it. I felt that way at one time. I guess it was because the self publishing I had seen at the time wasn't good and never seemed to be high quality work. I'm especially picky on covers and jacket copy. I can tell a touched up photo a mile away. Whether it's on a traditional book or self published book - I can see it immediately.

But I'm here to say, NOT ALL self published authors fall into the "cheap or homemade category". It's time we change our mindsets on this. Because it's not always true. There are some great authors self publishing. Look at Mandy Hubbard - she and Cyn Balog just came out with a book that is self pubbed. And I KNOW they are good.

Sure there are a lot of books that people publish that have been written in a week with no beta readers and have been slapped up on Amazon with clipart and typos. But there are also some GREAT authors out there that have WONDERFUL products, covers and writing, and do it right. Unfortunately, we all get lumped in a stack together, no matter what our product looks like. 

How do you find a good one?

There are a bunch of bad copy editors. So don't be fooled. 

1) Find someone that someone has used. That is how I found mine. A recommendation.

2) Ask them for a sample of a few pages (one page is not enough) so you can see their work. This is standard. If they won't do it, don't hire them. The three I looked at all did samples.

3) Check their rates and timeline. You need a guaranteed rate - I would go for project rate not hourly - and give a deadline.

4) Don't pay until the work is done. A deposit is okay but most won't ask for it upfront.

5) Find out if they are tracking changes or writing changes on the manuscript. Some people think writing it catches more than reading it. I prefer tracked changes.

So if you self publish, not only do you need beta readers, but I feel you also need an editor (like Lexa or Emily) who will make sure your story is the best it can be. At the end of the line, it can only help if you also hire a copy editor.

My thought: do not do this if you aren't committed to doing it right. Self pubbing is not the easy way out and it shouldn't be the cheap way out. It's a feasible option that works for some and not for them.

But can guarantee you this -  your book will NEVER have its best chance if it isn't the best it can be.  If it looks cheap and isn't well done... if it is full of typos...if you cut corners, the reader will know. They will think you didn't care enough about them to get it right and will be upset they paid money.

Editing can catch all the little things that could be the little difference between a book being good and a book being great.

Here are some articles on editing:
What it looks like
Cost of editing vs not editing
Don't skip the copyedits


Tricia J. O'Brien said...

I understood about editing, because I'd been a newspaper features writer for years. A content editor looks at big picture and copyeditor at details, as you said. And both are necessary. If writers are lucky, they find great crit partners with some talent in these areas, which would help keep costs down if self-publishing or make for a more polished manuscript for submissions. Either way, a good editor is gold.

Shannon O'Donnell said...

Holy cow, this post is awesome, Shelli. So full of good info! I'm bookmarking. :-)

E. Arroyo said...

Awesome info. Thanks!

Melissa Sarno said...

Shelli, every time I come to your blog, I learn so much. Thanks! Signing up for your newsletter now.

Anita Saxena said...

Wow. Very informative post. Thank you for sharing.

Natalie Aguirre said...

I'd already signed up for your newsletter and your book is on my list to read.

Awesome tips on why to have a copy editor. You're right about it being important that a book look professional no matter how it's published.

Jemi Fraser said...

I didn't realize the jobs were so diverse. Very interesting stuff. thank you!

Anna Staniszewski said...

I'm so glad you're going the extra mile with this book! One of the main things that turns me off is poor copy editing.(And, like you, I was stunned by all the tiny things my copy editor found in my manuscript.) Even if a story is amazing, those little errors can totally pull me out of it when I'm reading. Thanks so much for blogging about this process!

Vicky Alvear Shecter said...

Excellent post, Shelli--I too have been awed by the talents of copy editors/line editors. Amazing what they catch!

Unknown said...

Awesome post, Shelli. I'm going to link it on Friday since I know so many writers considering going the self-pubbed route.

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