I work with a lot of writers every day who, for one reason or another, are convinced that having a friend or family member review their book for spelling/grammatical errors is considered an edit. Here, Aussie editor and published author Ross C. Hamilton reviews the different types of edits and why each is important for the success of your book! He’s also quite witty and funny. We met on Facebook and he always makes me laugh (well, he is a stand-up comic, too).
By Ross C. Hamilton
Editing, in its complete range of functions is a bit like going to the doctor for a tetanus shot: painful at the time but can pay off for your health in the long run. If we want to maximise our chances of making sales in the competitive world of publishing, then the editing functions can be the literary equivalent of that tetanus shot, paying off in more sales.
If you are being published in a traditional sense by one of the majors, your work will be put through this editing process, pretty much whether you want to or not. But in self-publishing, the onus is on us to seek out that editing function for ourselves. Failing to do so can be all too often be painfully obvious.
So just what is this editing process? Actually it is a multi-layered thing. I shall start with copyediting and proofreading.
The tendency of people when checking their own work, particularly with larger pieces, is to miss errors. Your mind all too easily falls into the trap of ‘seeing’ what it expects to be there rather than what actually is. It is also a sad fact of our times that our collective grasp of grammar is not what it may once have been. Many of us also have our idiosyncrasies that slip into our writing and need to be picked up. For example, I apparently have a subconscious love affair with the word ‘that’ as it seems to be cropping up all over the place and far more often than it should. This is where the roles of copyediting and proof editing come in.
- Copyediting is a review of the actual manuscript, looking for errors, inconsistencies, typing errors, grammatical issues etc. Then when something is going to print, proof reading is an examination of a proof copy of the printed word, checking for errors that may have crept in during the layout and going to print.
When I submitted the manuscript for my novella, It Hides In Darkness, to a competition, having worked as a freelance proof and copy editor, I went over it and over it, again and again. Surely that was going to be OK? To my surprise – and delight – I won the competition with the novella being published, with a proof copy duly arriving for me to look at. Only now was I seeing errors that I had previously missed. I had fallen for the trap of just trusting my own eyes. The publisher agreed with me that I should go back to the manuscript and fix things before re-submitting for layout. I was quite fortunate in having a friend taking pity on me and doing a professional copy edit and proof read. And she picked up a lot more errors.
My experience was a classic example of what can happen if we do not get those independent eyes reviewing our manuscript – you can end up looking stupid as I did. Was the finished product ‘perfect?’ Nope. But it was a damned sight better than if I had insisted on still just doing that review for myself.
The review of your work is much more effective if it is done by truly independent eyes, not your mother or a friend down at your local bar. This is where the services of a professional come into their own, helping to improve your manuscript and thereby enhancing the chances of making sales.
- The other aspect of editing is a much bigger picture review of content. What is your overall layout like? Does it work? Could it be improved? Does it all flow well? How consistent is your approach? Do the points of view and tense work for the story? As authors, we can be too close to and too emotionally attached to our work to be able to do such an objective review of our work.
- So where do we find these editing services? Professionals advertise, but then so do rip-off merchants. In my opinion, if someone is advertising things like guaranteeing you publishing success from their services, don’t go near them. Compare prices of competing services – if someone is far cheaper than everyone else, then the chances are you will only be getting what you pay for – not much. How professional do they look? What testimonials do they have? Are the editors actually editing within their own first language? That last may seem to be rather obvious yet Australia’s self-christened ‘leading expert in marketing and publishing’ is a strong advocate for using editors in the Philippines despite English being a secondary language there. Yet the some of the resulting product that I have seen really did suffer from that language issue.
The use of other authors can also be a viable means of obtaining at least a degree of these editing functions. No matter where you live, the chances are there will be writing groups near you. Hit Google to see what you can find. Make contact with your local writers centre. Collectives of authors reviewing each other’s work can provide those fresh eyes you need. And you can often find experienced authors in such groups that you can learn from. But as a participant, you would need to read to be reviewing other people’s work as well, which can be a significant commitment.
Over the life of a published work, the cost of that editing function can be just like the pain of that tetanus shot – relatively short-lived but with long-lasting benefits.
So now it’s over to you – have you had any experiences with editing that you’re willing to share, good or bad?
Ross C. Hamilton is the author of the books It Hides In Darkness and Conversations With Myself as well as a freelance author of non-fiction articles and sometime freelance editor. At present he is coming towards the end of a research degree at the University of Canberra in Australia, which includes finalising a novel. He also reviews books and writes about writing at Words by Ross and the speculative fiction website, A Writer Goes On A Journey. For more information about Ross, check out his website www.rosshamilton.net.au. Find him on Twitter @RossIsAWriter.
It Hides In Darkness – http://bit.ly/-IHID
Conversations With Myself – http://bit.ly/conversationswithmyself
Words by Ross – http://wordsbyross.com/
A Writer Goes On A Journey – http://www.awritergoesonajourney.com
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