Your First Draft is Complete! Now What: Editing
We’ve all heard the saying, “You can’t edit a page that hasn’t been written.” But you may be wondering what happens when all the pages have been written?
Should you send your manuscript straight to your editor(s)? Let your family grammatician have a go at it? When should you have your favorite beta readers jump into the fray? The answer will vary for each author and can depend on several key metrics.
Although producing the highest quality story should always be your goal, your road to getting it there may differ greatly whether you are self-publishing or going through traditional publishing. I know indie authors who release books knowing they aren’t as polished as they could be. After all, it only takes 1-2 days usually for your edited manuscript to go live through Amazon’s KDP. At the time of this blog post, KDP does not charge you for any uploads of your story, whether it’s the first time or the twentieth*! Since printing is on demand, you are only ‘out’ by whatever author copies you’ve had printed. Try telling a traditional publisher you want to reprint the first 5-10 thousand copies because you spelled ‘peeked’ as ‘peaked’ a few times (shout out to my newsletter subscribers who saw this beauty in my sneak peek of The Raven’s Fall. Sigh...I did say it was the unedited version.)
*Please note that other self-publishing platforms do charge per upload, so always do your due diligence before hitting that publish button!
But, Rose...everyone knows first impressions matter. Why on earth would an author release a book before it’s ready? Glad you asked, since it leads me to the next thing to consider...
As soon as you hear the term traditional publishing, you think of deadlines, right? I mean after you’ve played out the posh readings, six-figure book deals, and book-to-movie adaptations in your head. Still with me? Hello? Yes, you looked lovely in your cameo.
If you’re a self-published author, you may be surprised to find that you, too, are beholden to the hands of time. That freedom of publishing your first novel a few months after you started your social media journey (I wouldn’t recommend this, by the way), disappears the moment you realize you now have readers that want to—wait for it—read your next book!
And guess what? Those readers do not want to wait for it—for long. At the very least, they will want to know what season and year you plan to release in. And just like that, you are working on a deadline.
If you are writing a series, this can quickly become a double-edged sword. Your gratitude for having ravenous readers will war with your ability to produce the content they are hungry for. It will also bring changes to other aspects of publishing, such as affordability.
This is the area where self-publishing takes a wide berth around traditional publishing. If you are traditionally published, the cost of editing isn’t something you will (usually) need to contend with. If you are querying to agents or already know you are going the indie route, prepare for a large hit to your wallet.
Why? Editing is often expensive. It is also often one of the top three things you should never shortchange (book cover and blurb copy are the other two.)
Editors should be pursued only after your second draft and self-edits have been completed, and you have incorporated all your beta readers suggestions (that you intend to.)
Did you know? There are different types of editors who each perform vital roles along your story’s publishing journey.
1) Developmental editor - Coaching and story structure (or restructuring.)
2) Line editor - Content and flow. Tense, sentence structure, reader engagement and experience.
3) Copy editor - Spelling and grammar, typos, inconsistencies, and confusing language.
4) Proofreaders - Should work with your final hard copy. They’ll be looking for the same as your copy editor with the addition of formatting issues (errors in chapter headings, page numbers, etc.)
With all these eyes on a manuscript, it’s incredible to imagine that things get missed, but they do, and regularly! If you’re a writer, give yourself a break. By this point in your publishing journey, you’ve earned it!