Thursday, August 16, 2007

To Edit or Not To Edit?

Okay; so it costs money. As my father said; you have to spend money to make money. And if you want your book to sell, or be noticed, or to have some credibility, it needs to be a clean manuscript. Period. That’s a hard truth, and it’s probably why many, many authors get their manuscripts and query packages hucked into the slush pile.

But editors are expensive you say. Yes they are. And they are not foolproof. I personally had my book edited, and I still found little things here and there after publication. It happens—even with the best books. You also need to keep in mind that when you work on Word, with auto-formatting, that when iUniverse, or whatever other self-publishing company takes your work, and drops it into their page setting software, that those little auto formatting doodads will vanish, and leave some sentences with no period at the end, and various other little quirks. Those are excusable and easily preventable.

BUT, I digress; editing is really a necessary evil. Some publishers are willing to take on that cost, but us wee little self-published folks cannot always afford the expense. However, it can never hurt to find out how much it could cost you. Maybe it is affordable; you just haven’t found the right editor. Allow me to recommend this site:

This lovely site has a network of editors. You submit to the general site for a quote; a simple process where you sent an excerpt of your work, and the site will broadcast it to their network of editors. It’s like lending-tree for authors! You get all these bids. The editors will do a sample edit of your work and quote you a cost per word. I didn’t choose the cheapest one, I chose the one whose editing resonated best with me, but at least it gives you something to shoot for. It may not get you in with a traditional publishing house, but at least when and if you self-publish, it will be a nice, clean book that looks and sounds professional. So simply; getting your book professionally edited can never hurt.

So, they cost is still too much! What to do?

Well, there are alternatives; which will not be as good as a thorough editing, but maybe at least enough to make your book as professional as it can be.
  • Do you still have access to your old English teacher/professor? Perhaps they can be prevailed upon to assist you in this regard.
  • Line up six friends or relatives, and have them pass the manuscript on, each marking up what they find and initialing the work of the prior ‘editor’ if they agree with the edit. Leave the back side of each page blank so that your ‘editors’ can write questions about the plot, continuity, consistency… notes that there are probably research of factual errors, character flaws that are gaping wide.
  • The little red and green lines under your text on MSWord. Yeah. Those are trying to tell you something. No MSWord? Find somewhere where you can use it, but Word may not be the dream editor, but it will help you tremendously.
  • Get a homonym dictionary. Figure out the difference between their/they’re/there, you’re/your/yore; horse/hoarse, bridle, bridal, mantel, mantle… and all the similar little gaffs that can make a reader’s eye come to a screeching halt.
  • Figure out what apostrophes signify. You may think you know these things, but you really might not… What’s plural, what’s contraction, what is possessive? What’s right? Pies or Pie’s? Hers or Her’s, CDs or CD’s? These may seem like innocuous mistakes, but to many readers they are maddening, and they can be an instant turn-off.
  • Get a Roget’s Thesaurus. You might not see that repeated word until it’s too late.
  • Get a dictionary. Don't use $10 words without knowing their full meaning.

In summary: You may think your story will stand on its own. It might. Chances are; what you might perceive as superficial things like spelling, grammar, flow and continuity are really pulling it down. You could have the next Harry Potter series, but if it looks like a third grader wrote it, well… how far do you think your readers are going to get before they toss it aside?

You have to be honest with yourself about your work. No matter how confident you are in how good it is, you need to be objective about how it is presented on paper. And if it takes extra work or extra dollars to make it worthy, then do it.