Monthly Archives: July 2007

When You Are Ready for Professional Help for Your Manuscript to Make it Best Seller Perfect

Whether you’ve created a book, eBook, or other informational product, and no matter how good a writer you are, you need an editor. It simply isn’t possible to read your own work and see the problems. We all read what we think we wrote, not what is actually on the page.

Some authors find it difficult to let their “perfect” manuscripts go through the editing process—it can be ego-bruising if you let it. Try looking at it through a new lens: The editing staff can take you from a good writer to a great writer by uncovering inconsistencies, grammatical errors, and poorly constructed sentences that don’t communicate your meaning well. Learn to love your editors—they deserve your appreciation for a job that is noticed only when it isn’t done well.

An editor will help you take out needless words, avoid redundancies (saying the same thing more than once with different words), avoid unclear communication, help you use active instead of passive voice, and be sure you have all the power you can. Language serves to communicate your message with all the power you would in person.

An editor should be able to work electronically with your manuscript and suggest changes using the Track Changes feature for documents or, if you work with PDFs, the Adobe® Acrobat® 7.0 Standard program so that you always have the final decision about accepting their edits or not.

Different levels of editing are needed to take a manuscript from ragged to polished, and you may need one or both of these.

A substantive edit is a thorough read of the manuscript that looks for problems with the overall structure, consistency of the tone and style, ambiguity in the meaning of sentences, and the sentence structures. An editor also looks for grammatical errors, sentences that are just too long and inconsistencies (such as saying you are going to discuss three items and then just discussing two). The editor walks a fine line, and the intent is to improve the manuscript without changing the style of the author. An editor generally reads the entire manuscript first and then reads it again, beginning to write in changes in red pen (or type in changes using one of the software programs mentioned above). One of the editor’s main jobs is to “query” or ask questions of the author to clarify terminology, meaning, or other parts of the manuscript.

A technical edit is done by another subject matter expert for a nonfiction book. In this type of read, the editor looks for factual errors in the manuscript. The technical editor will read it as an expert and may also do some research to double-check the facts in the manuscript.

The editing process is a very important to an author. Twenty years ago, the author could count on the publishers to make sure there was a thorough edit. Today, the author may have to provide that. Don’t forget to schedule a thorough edit before you send any sample chapters to an agent or publisher with a book proposal.

Editors work either by the hour or on a project basis. How many pages they can edit an hour varies by the level of edit, the expertise of the editor, and the condition of the manuscript. You might expect to pay from $50 to $100 an hour or more for a qualified editor, especially if he or she has expertise in your subject matter. A fully edited book can cost from $1,000 to $3,000. Since this is a fairly large expense, it is important to be clear on what is being provided by the editor and what is being charged. The editor should give you his or her agreement with you in writing.

Although you want to be sure you get good value for your money, don’t scrimp on editing. It is one of the essentials of creating a great book.

Writers, facing tight budgets want to cut part or all of the editing process. If you do, you will pay for it later. Readers who see inconsistencies and typos and poorly written text lose trust in the expertise of the author.

Every best selling author had a great editor. Check the acknowledgments section of any best-selling book and see if the author didn’t heap lavish praise on his or her editor (now his or her best friend).

Getting Some Perspective on Your Soon-to-be-Bestseller While it is Still a Manuscript

You will have your manuscript professionally edited ultimately, but you can do a lot yourself with time and distance to self-edit and then rewrite as needed. This is the point at which your notebook will come in handy. You can work on a chapter, print it out, and read it in the context of the other work you’ve already done. You can then move to another section and keep working back and forth until you feel as though you’ve done all you can.

You will probably continue to add to and subtract from your manuscript for weeks. You’ll think of new things to say or things you’ve previously forgotten as you read and reread. You will decide you haven’t said enough about one topic but have gone into too much detail on another. So save that extra material for speaking engagements or another book or article.

If you have the time, put the manuscript away and work on other things for a month or more; then come back to it with new experiences and a fresh eye. With distance, check to see whether you’ve told a story, the manuscript is balanced in terms of the numbers of stories and the way you’ve told them, the subject matter is compelling and interesting, and the writing pulls you forward so you want to keep reading.

Ultimately your book will have many or most of these elements and generally in this order:

Front Matter
Title page
Copyright page
Dedication
Acknowledgments
Foreword
Preface
Table of Contents
Introduction
Text (all the chapters)
Back Matter
Afterword
Appendices
Bibliography/resources
Glossary
Index
About the author
Order form

While writing, you generally come up with preliminary titles or just refer to the chapter by its subject or even by a number. When you go back to finalize your chapter titles and headings, consider using short, clear, engrossing phrases and perhaps verbs to get your message across. This is an opportune time to look at other books to see which chapter titles, headings, and subheadings really appeal to you. Whatever style you choose, it is important to be consistent throughout. For instance, if your first three chapter titles (or headings within a chapter) were complete sentences like Define Your Topic, Write to Motivate, and Generate Sales, it would be completely inconsistent if your fourth heading or title were The Market.

When you are considering chapter titles, it is also a productive exercise to outline the entire book using all your titles and subtitles. Doing this will allow you to get a bird’s eye view of your content – whether there are items missing (you call it the three strategies, but your outline shows you only have two subheads), or whether things are out of a logical order.

We begin to lose the forest for the trees, as we get deeper and deeper into the writing of a book. Creating an outline after the fact helps us get the whole manuscript into perspective.

Just the next step to getting your best seller on the bookshelves of your readers.