Editing and Proofreading Your Book

This blog was originally published on Amazon’s Author Insights Blog.
You can read it here.

One of the five cornerstones of a professionally published book is the magical combination of proper editing and a final proofread. (These other three: cover design, book description and sales copy, and interior design, also known as formatting, are covered in separate posts.) When your book has been given the careful attention of a trained editor and a meticulous look by an experienced proofreader, the reading experience can be nothing short of wonderful.

Why Everyone Needs a Good Editor

Any piece of writing left unchecked is likely to be full of little mistakes, which leads to a bumpy read. Look, you want to do everything in your power to ensure a reader reads your whole book. Wouldn’t you agree it takes quite a bit of effort on your part to find potential readers? And, you don’t want them to abandon your project because of something as simple as a misspelled word.

If you’re just getting started, part of your hesitation about publishing might be that you’re not convinced you’re a great writer quite yet. Well, I have great news for you: your editing and proofreading team can turn a not-so-fabulous first draft into something your readers will absolutely love!

While every writer gets better when they practice a consistent writing habit, keep in mind that every first draft is ugly. After writing a couple of dozen books, I still brace myself for the return of my first draft from the editor. I always say it looks like a crime scene! There are enough marks and comments to drive anyone mad. But you know what? Those marks help me to learn my writing crutches and eliminate them so I can make better choices as a writer. For example, you won’t find even one dash in this post, yet I used to overuse them all the time (in lieu of our good friend the comma). Not only will a good editor turn your initial drafts into your intended message, they will help you become a better writer.

While some writers are of the opinion they can self-edit, it is likely that many simple errors will be missed. The kiss of death to a potential client in a business book is a typo, misspelled word, or even a missing word. Rabid fiction readers are more likely to abandon your tome when they spot an extra word, a missing “s,” or a character you renamed in the middle of writing but missed correcting in every instance.

Remember that no book is perfect and, no matter how many eyes you have on it, something is bound to slip through. But engaging an editor will create as smooth a ride as possible for the reader and help you turn a one-time reader into a raving fan.

The three kinds of book editing

There are three basic types of editing: developmental, copyediting, and proofreading. A developmental or content edit helps you take your good book and make it great by ensuring you have all the necessary elements in the right order. A copyedit takes your great book and delivers the information in a smooth and clear way, sentence by sentence. The proofread turns a smooth and clear great book into one that is also error-free, or as near as may be. Your book may not need each level of editing, but you’ll want to get a professional assessment to be sure. The editor can provide an estimate of timing and fees as well. Without question, it could be argued that every single book needs proofreading, at the very least.

Keep in mind that quality editors are in high demand, and you should seek to engage the editor of your choice about three months before you think you’ll be ready. The bonus of a deadline is the accountability it provides, and we all need a little help to stay on track.

Once you’ve had a round or two (or more) of edits and you’re sure you’ve got the final version, engage a separate proofreader to review it at least twice. To err is human, to proofread, divine! Your proofreader will catch any last mistakes and put the final polish on your work.

Where to find great editors and proofreaders

When choosing editors and proofreaders, I lean toward hiring freelancers who earned their chops at traditional publishers. The folks in New York have high standards, and I’ve found that there is an abundance of quality editors and proofreaders who would love to help you. Many of them consider themselves “word nerds” and truly enjoy the process of taking any project and making it great. Generally, they will have an English degree, have edited hundreds of projects (preferably in your genre), and are avid readers as well. You’ll want to make sure they work from the Chicago Manual of Style rules because they are eloquent, reader-friendly, and comprehensive.

You will find great editors through word of mouth, in Facebook communities with a focus on writing (such as Prosperity for Writers Mastermind), or even on KBoards.

It took me several books to recognize the power of a great editor and the true benefit of a proofreader. These two form a power couple that will help to ensure your writing success.

More Good Stuff…

Your prosperity begins and ends with what you think, say, and do–or in this case what you do, read, and listen to, so try these on for size:

~Prosperous Networking: Business Dating: Applying Relationship Rules in Business for Ultimate Success by yours truly

~Prosperous Marketing: Book Marketing Questions to Help You Sell More Books with Joanna Penn

~Prosperous Listening: The Author Biz  Episode 118 – The Essentials for Marketing Your Books, with Chris Syme


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