If you decide to independently publish, it's critical to have multiple sets of eyes review your work before pulling the trigger. I strongly recommend hiring a professional creative editor and a professional copy editor. If you don't have the budget for either, solicit input from friends, coworkers, or anyone else willing to help for nothing more than your gratitude and a signed copy of your book. (Be sure to include them in the acknowledgements!)

Creative editors help identify and fix problems with the major elements of your book, such as plot, character development, pacing, and style. However, not everyone is comfortable providing constructive criticism - especially to loved ones - so it's important to choose people who aren't afraid to tell it to you straight.

Copy editors have eagle eyes for typos, missing words, punctuation, grammar, repetition, etc. After so many hours of writing, rewriting, and tweaking, our brains begin to play tricks on our eyes, and we often see words that aren't there, or we don't see words that are. My mom proofread my most recent novel for me before I turned it over to anyone else, and she found more than 100 errors! Copyediting can be a great job for friends who want to help but aren't cut out for the "tough love" approach required to be an effective creative editor.

The bottom line is that when it comes time to edit your book (or promotional sign, see above), you need to check your ego at the door and welcome any feedback you can get - good, bad, or ugly. It's much better to hear the criticism from trusted friends now than from disappointed readers later, right?

 -Maria :)

Maria Murnane writes romantic comedies and provides consulting services on book publishing and marketing. Learn more at www.mariamurnane.com.

This blog post originally appeared on CreateSpace.com. Reprinted with permission. © 2011 CreateSpace, a DBA of On-Demand Publishing, LLC. All rights reserved.

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Comment by Maria Murnane on January 17, 2012 at 8:56am

@Mary, it was my pleasure! I'll be posting a new blog entry today, so please stay tuned. :)

Comment by Mary L. Holden on January 16, 2012 at 9:32pm

This has been a fascinating exchange of information! Thank you, Maria, for getting this dialogue going. 

Comment by Liz Carmichael on January 16, 2012 at 9:25pm

@ Diane... Well said.Yes, there are authors who believe their work, as it rolls from their fingertips, is perfect. It was my misfortune to meet one or two, as well as those who don't send in until after the first deadline leaving no time for a full edit.

You have clarified many points made here by expanding on them. I think everyone is in agreement that good editing is an absolute must for every writer, no matter how long in the business.

Comment by Diane O'Connell on January 16, 2012 at 6:53pm

@Liz...You bring up so many valid points here. I'd like to expand on each of them, because they are so important. Regarding those well-known authors who, in your words, "slip through the editorial net at times," there are a number of things at play here. Some of them absolutely refuse to be edited. When I was at Random House many years ago, one of my authors was a major bestseller and had it written in his contract that not even a comma could be changed without his approval. Needless to say, not much editing was done on this author's work. (This is a word to the wise to any author who falls for an independent editor who claims to have edited NY Times bestselling authors. Really, how much editing did they really do? Far more impressive is the editor who works with a first-time author and actually helps them get a contract.) 

Another thing to keep in mind is that publishing is very much a bottom-line business. So if you have a James Patterson, it really is your flagship "brand" that you're selling and there's less of an incentive to spend precious $$ editing something you know already has a huge built-in audience. Sad, but true.

Also, authors should keep in mind that publishing houses have been decimated since the crash of 2008. As you so rightly pointed out, Liz, editors have been laid off, as well as their staff, and the editors that are left are far too overextended to give much attention to every author. Essentially, the job of editor for a traditional publisher has really turned into that of an acquisitions editor.

Which brings me to your excellent point, Liz: all authors should be concerned with good editing. The more you take care of yourself by helping your book be the best it can possibly be -- before turning it over to a publisher or agent -- the better off you'll be,  the happier your readers will be, and the more successful you will be as an author.

Comment by Regina Y. Swint on January 16, 2012 at 4:16pm

Yes, indeed, Liz.  I agree. 

All authors, traditional and self-published, need good editing.  I think my expectation is like many as far as traditionally published books go.  We think traditional houses put out near flawless work because they have the best editing staff at their disposals, but I guess with cut-backs and other influences, more traditional or well-known houses run the risk of putting out poorly edited work, too.  And in all cases, that would be a disservice to the reader.

Comment by Liz Carmichael on January 16, 2012 at 4:06pm

@Diane... If every author took up all the suggestions their editors made - when keeping to the author's voice - then we should, if the editor is worth her fee, have wonderful reading experiences.

One thing I have noticed is that well-known authors seem to slip through the editorial net at times, and the enjoyment that came from reading that author's previous books doesn't happen. I don't know if the publisher feels the author no longer needs editing, or if the editors have convinced themselves that a quick run through does the job.

We are all quick to pick on the self-published authors for their slips, but how much worse is it when a publishing house puts out poorly edited material? It's true some houses still employ good editors, and ensure MSS go through more than one edit from the team. It's ones like the traditionally published book I'm currently reading that annoys me most - this has come through a house that should know better.

What I'm saying is please don't look down on self-published authors as the only ones who need the help of good editors, which seems to be what the theme of this thread is becoming. As publishing houses cut back, good editing staff are being dropped and new ones are not receiving the in-house training they once did.

I think I've said enough on this subject, so... :)

Comment by Mary L. Holden on January 16, 2012 at 11:20am

And Regina, trust me on this one: we editors say "Thank goodness for writers!"

Comment by Regina Y. Swint on January 16, 2012 at 11:15am

@Mary...I agree totally.  I've learned my lesson, and I hope to pass that lesson along to as many authors as possible.  I'm in the process of revising my first novel with an editor, and I will take his recommendations more seriously and give the process a chance to work the way it's supposed to work. (Not that I didn't take Kaytie's recommendations seriously, but I was just in too much of a rush to go through the entire process).  The 1st Edition was okay, but I want this 2nd Edition to be the best it can be.  Thank goodness for editors.

Comment by Diane O'Connell on January 16, 2012 at 8:31am

@Mary, @Regina...Both of you bring up a really crucial point about the editor/author relationship. While most of my authors are really dedicated to the craft and take my recommendations seriously, there are also those who just tinker around the edges. I know they've done a superficial job of editing when I get an email back saying that their manuscript is "fixed" and they made all the "corrections." When a manuscript needs substantive revisions, I warn my authors not to go directly back into the manuscript and start "fixing" pieces of it. But there are those who are in a rush to publication and unfortunately, those are the ones whose books don't do well and who give other self-published authors a bad rap. All authors -- especially those who want to self publish -- should keep in mind that at traditional houses, manuscripts are revised multiple times and gone over by multiple levels of editing and proofreading before the manuscript ever becomes a published book. We do ourselves no service if we cut corners.

Comment by Jolie du Pre on January 14, 2012 at 12:43pm
Regina wrote:
"When many folks see that someone is self-published, they usually assume the worst.  Hopefully, we can change their ways of thinking once we start devoting more of work to a proper editing and polish."
THANK YOU.

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