Careful attention to detail and timing goes in to making a wine that people will want to drink or a book that readers will want to read. Self publishers who are too willing to take shortcuts and make compromises in the editorial process tend to produce books that leave a bad aftertaste—if they get read at all.
When amateur winemakers learn from master winemakers and emulate the processes that work for professional winemakers, they are more likely to make pleasing wines. When self publishers are guided by publishing professionals and implement the necessary editing processes, they are more likely to create a book that can compete well with traditionally-published books.
Self-publishing authors often don’t know what they don’t know: that despite what their family and friends may say—their manuscripts need serious editorial attention. It takes more than that though. Producing a book that people will read requires a professional editing process—one that involves the author and meets the specific needs of that manuscript.
Sometimes one professional editorial pass followed by careful proofreading (either by a professional editor or by the author and a friend or two, for example) is adequate to help the author meet her goals. Other times the process necessary to help an author meet her goals is more intense. One editorial pass may not be enough.
Many authors do not take seriously their role as publisher of their own work. Publishers expecting to sell books recognize the need for excellent, professional editing. They require authors to implement editorial recommendations. In traditional publishing, disregarding editorial requirements is not much of an option. Because of the publisher’s financial investment, the author is generally expected to revise as the editor suggests to produce a book that will grab and hold the attention of readers—regardless of the author’s opinion.
One advantage of self publishing is that the author’s opinion counts; you maintain editorial control as both the author and the publisher. Yet I am vexed by authors in a hurry to sell books, who quickly invest in design, printing, and online services, seeing no need for professional editorial input.
Even more perplexing is when writers pay for professional editing, but leave out many of the recommended changes. Why pay for editorial expertise, and then disregard some of it without fully understanding the editor’s reasoning? Authors who do that might as well save their money and skip editing entirely, because readers will think they did anyway.
To my dismay, I recently discovered that an author had undermined her own book by deciding to not implement some important edits. She had no idea that she was about to embarrass herself in the publishing world. Her expertise was in a field other than editing and publishing. So she did not know that after all of her hard work on the publishing project, and after paying for professional editing services, she was about to produce an amateurish book that would undermine her credibility as an author, as a publisher, and as a professional—all because she chose to ignore certain recommended edits.
I remember another case when an author used much of our editorial feedback, but did not do some of the more extensive revising we had suggested. Then a publisher decided to invest in producing the book—if the author would fully implement their editorial recommendations—which were mostly the same recommendations we had made. The author had initially hesitated to implement all of our recommendations because it would involve major rewriting in some chapters. The client then acknowledged, “You were right,” and made the revisions.
It’s a publisher’s job to ensure that essential editorial revisions are made—even when an author protests. If you are both author and publisher, it’s up to you to do the publisher’s job, even if you more naturally identify with your role as author. So, as a publisher, be sure you achieve a sound editorial process that will help move your project toward your goals.
An effective editing process often requires:
- More than one editor, each with different kinds of specialties and expertise. Some editors are better at developmental editing—helping to fully cultivate the structure and other critical elements of a manuscript so that it evolves into its full potential. Other editors specialize in line editing to polish the manuscript for publication after it has been fully developed, for example.
- More than one editorial pass. A back-and-forth process may be needed, in which the author does not disregard editorial recommendations without seeking necessary clarification to fully understand potential implications from the perspective of the publishing experts who made the recommendations. Lacking a compelling reason to disregard an editor’s advice, a serious self publisher will require the author (herself) to implement the editor’s recommendations, even when it means extensive rewriting.
Fortunately, self-published books do not have to remind readers of a disappointing homemade wine that is not ready to be sold. After all, some do-it-yourself winemakers craft wines that are unique and refreshing—if the winemaker has sought guidance and taken the time to do it right.
Depending on an author’s goals and on the editorial needs for a specific manuscript, multiple editorial passes may not be necessary. That kind of extensive editorial process doesn’t make sense for every book.
Replicating the “back and forth” editing process that traditional publishers use, however, is helping to transform the image of self publishing. Self Publishing’s Level 3 Editing Process makes that possible: http://www.selfpublishing.com/editorial/copy-editing/level3.php.
Increasingly, serious self publishers with the drive to produce high-quality books use this comprehensive three-phase editorial process to get the professional editorial guidance they need to ensure their books do not fall short of expectations—like bad do-it-yourself wine.
Oh, and one more tip: Don’t serve bad, homemade wine at your book signings either!