Self-publishing: The Editing Stage

Lesson One for Self-publishing: your book is not finished after you have written it.

Writing your book was the hardest part, but your manuscript is far from done. The second stage in getting your book published is having it professionally edited. This stage is necessary regardless of how great a writer you are. But, I’ve already talked about why even good writers need editors here.


What editing is not

Editing is not you reading over your book searching for errors. Yes, you should do this and need to, but it is not enough.

Editing is not having a friend (unless (s)he is a professional editor) read over your book to ensure it looks okay and reads well.

Editing is not using Grammarly, or another similar system, to correct mistakes.

What editing is

There are three major types of editing:

  • Developmental editing: This is normally the first stage of editing. It consists of checking your flow, plot, character development, and ensuring your book progresses in a coherent manner from start to finish.
  • Line editing (manuscript/copyediting): This requires attention to each word, eliminating wordiness and repetition, punctuation, sentence structure, spelling, and so forth.
  • Proofreading:  This is the final stage of editing. Proofreading consists of looking for typos, spelling, and simple mistakes. At this stage, the book is practically finished and the editor “polishes it up.”

Beginning the business of publishing

In a previous article I said authors are not only writers, but business people. Once you find an editor, you’ll most likely sign some form of contract (or at least you should) stating what the editor is providing and at what cost.

Ask the editors you speak to questions: what type of genre(s) do you edit? What style book do you use? Do you charge per page, per word, or by the hour?

Request a sample edit before hiring an editor. Most will edit the first five to ten pages of your manuscript. Some charge for this service and others may not. A sample edit is important because it allows you and the editor to see if you two are a good fit for your writing, and permits the editor to see how in-depth an edit your book will demand.

I always recommend a sample edit too because it permits you to see their mannerisms and how she works as a professional. If the editor’s responses are delayed, works unprofessionally and the suggestions given are demeaning or too harsh, this may be an indication to find someone else.

The editing phase can be humbling. An editor is not attached to your book in the way you are. She may suggest omitting a sentence you find yourself “married to,” or make comments you are not ready to hear. You want someone who will not withhold correction, yet encourages you too.

Please trust your editor

As an editor, I can say please know we only want to help you. If a part of your book is confusing to us it will probably be to your readers also. Try looking at our corrections from a reader’s point-of-view, or ask someone close to you what they think if you’re battling keeping an editor’s suggestion.

Your editor is not emotionally attached to your book and has not spent as much time with the manuscript as you have. Seeing a book with fresh eyes helps to fix “rough patches,” those sentences that do not add to your story, but instead subtract from it.

Are you finished yet?

Deadlines are important in any project. Inform the editor you are considering working with of when you’d like your book to be published. Give them a deadline and find out how long it will take them to edit your manuscript in its entirety.

Oh, and coming from this editor, if you give us a deadline and we agree to it please work with us in achieving it. If an editor returns your manuscript with corrections in a timely manner, please return the corrections made in good timing also. Most editors have several books they are working on at a time. Delaying the second pass (when you return your edits to them), can alter your intended deadline.

Remember, an editor is your partner in polishing your book. Partners work together and the more you work with us, the better we can work for you.

Any questions for the editing process? Leave them in a comment below. Looking for an editor? Contact me and let’s see if we’re a good fit for each other.


Suggested Reading:

How to Prepare You (and Your Book) to be Edited

Why Even Good Writers Need Editors


How Stephen King and Mark Twain became authors

The Hunger Games, 50 Shades of Grey, Pride and Prejudice, The Great Gatsby, and Mob Dick.  

You know what all of these titles have in common?


They’re books. Great books — as culture has said — but more than being “great,” they all started the same: a single word written on a blank page.

I guess it takes the glamour out of things. The idea of a writer coming up with this magnificent idea, wanting to be published since his or her childhood. The glorious moment of their manuscript being accepted by a New York publisher, or “hitting it big” as a self-published author.

The reality is before Stephen King had a best-seller, or Mark Twain could be known for his work, they pulled out a blank page and inscribed one word at a time.

And if you want to be an author, your path will not be any different.

Jeff Goins, a national best-selling author, always says “writers write.” It seems like a common sense thing to say, but telling yourself, “I am going to write a book one day,” means nothing until “one today” becomes today.

People often say to me, “You have a book, cool! I want to write one. What’s the process?”

I get half-smiles and “stop being sarcastic” looks when I respond: “just write.”

Yes, I know. You want the details of publishing, finding an editor, how do you figure out the design, or how much money you may make. Perhaps you’re wondering who the best publisher is, or if you should publish your book on your own.

But here’s a little secret between you and I: (shhhhhhhh! Don’t tell too many people!) None of those questions matter if you haven’t written anything. Planning to write a book won’t make you an author. Planning to drive didn’t make you a driver, did it? Of course not. You had to get behind the wheel and actually drive.

Writing is the same. Let today be that someday your drive puts the words on the paper. Let today be the day you turn the wheels in your mind on to at least write your book ideas and plot summary.

Until then, writing a book will always be the off-distance plane. Great to see overhead in the clouds, but completely unattainable.

Writers are writers because they write. So stop procrastinating, and do that.



What happens in a room full of writers

The excitement is done and now I must sit down and write. 

This weekend I attended The Writer’s Digest Conference in New York City at The Roosevelt Hotel. The three day event was packed with sessions from publishing, to developing your craft, and even creative marketing strategies to sell your book.

Overall, it went very well:

The people

Nothing beats being in a room full of people who are equally, or perhaps even more, passionate about the same thing as you are. The energy that filled the room from an array of writers who were “newbies,” journalists, and even best-selling authors never gets old.

And as much as I have come to appreciate and love the blogging world and its bloggers, there’s no better massage to the brain than to be amongst writers who blog, and have an appreciation and respect for the craft of writing, rather than bloggers who simply — well, just blog.

The keynotes

The keynotes were all inspiring in their uniquely touching, yet sometimes funny way. Dani Shapiro, author of Still Writing: The Perils and Pleasures of a Creative Life and Devotion, shared how writing saved her life. She spoke on boldly writing about our lives saying, “We do not choose the stories that we tell. The stories choose us.” And that we should never be ashamed to share the muck in our lives because others can find healing in it.

The following day’s keynote was by Harlan Coben, a New York Times bestselling author. In a comical, yet relatable way he explained how being a best-selling author isn’t any more prestigious than being a “regular” writer. Cohen said, “Only bad writers think they’re good,” and he constantly noted even in being an accomplished writer, he still struggles with insecurities. “One moment I’ll write something and think it’s genius, just to read it again and realize it’s stupid,” he laughed. Yet, he urged us all to “face the blank page,” because “the only thing that makes you a writer is actually writing.” 

Kimberla Lawson Roby, another New York Times best-selling author, was the closing keynote. She shared her writing journey from her doubts to her successes in beginning as a self-published writer. Roby said she quit her job to pursue her passion, and her husband even volunteered to use money from his 401k to support her. She said, “It doesn’t matter if you’re 18 or 80 years old. It’s never too late to live out your passion.” And using the words her husband told her, “If it does not work then you move on to something else,” because it’d be ashame to one day inquire of ourselves, “‘If I had tried what could have happened?’” Roby noted her books have received praise, and criticism for its controversial and often labeled “scandalous” stories. However, she responded saying, “I always try to tell the truth in stories whether it’s good or bad.” And preceding a loud applause, she ended on one of several notes: “Every day before I write, I’m on my knees asking God what to say.” 

What do you think? What was your impression of the conference?