The First Novel Mambo: Professional Editing

Last time, I wrote about having early readers give feedback on my novel (after several drafts and lots of proofreading, of course). I think it’s essential to get the opinions of a few trusted folks; they can only make your work better.

Today, speaking of someone who makes your work better, I’m going to tell you about hiring a professional editor.

First, I should address the fact that I self-published my book. If I’d gone out to find a literary agent, and that agent had taken me on as a client, and then shopped my book around and managed to sell it to a publisher, then the publisher would have hired (probably more than one) editor to make the book shiny and polished.

However, the book business has changed a lot in the last five years or so. If I’d written this book back then, odds are I would have gone through all of those steps. But I’ve watched the tools for self-publishing get easier and easier, and I’ve also watched a couple of friends go through the literary agent/publisher dance for years. For me, self-pub was the obvious and only choice.

So since I didn’t have a publishing house to do the editing for me, I had to hire someone on my own. I questioned whether or not I needed it for a little while─I thought my punctuation, grammar, and spelling were in pretty good shape. But in the spirit of “better safe than sorry”, I opted to shell out for a real pro to go through the book.

Thank goodness I did─he managed to find and fix TONS of things that had slipped by me in every single one of my read-throughs. Plus, I got a comprehensive stylesheet in which he included blurbs on every character, a huge list of non-words and unusual words that were staying put because of my writing style (“squaresies” should totally be a word, by the way), brand names, book names, and any other details that he double-checked for spelling or capitalization.

(I’m told that there are still a couple of typos and grammatical errors in the book. First off, please feel free to send those to me if you find them, and I can update the e-book. Second, any errors still in there are totally on me, probably because I was stubborn on a few of his changes, and also because I rewrote a few small things after the edit came back.)

My editor’s notes were also a wealth of knowledge. I got a great education on the Chicago Manual of Style, as well as a bunch of other stylistic issues I never knew about. Dialog attribution should be in the he said/she said format: Bob said, Mandy asked, Ralph exclaimed. Don’t put their name last, because you wouldn’t do that with a pronoun─don’t write “Right,” said Fred, because if you replaced Fred’s name with a pronoun, said he has a really weird cadence. Unless you’re a pirate.

I did reject a couple of his changes, but those rejections were very few and far between. And since I opted for a line edit (a step between copy edit, which is just checking spelling/grammar/punctuation, and developmental edit, which gets more into fixing and changing the structure), I got a number of notes about where things could be more clear, or where things could be swapped around.

All in all, I think it was money well spent. A lot of self-published books out there are put up for sale unedited, and the constant typos and issues can make them difficult to read. I’d like to think I’m a step ahead already, in that my typos and issues should be few and far between.

After my own read-throughs and revisions, plus Scott’s first read, plus the beta readers, plus the editor, my book was finally ready to go, on something like its 8th or 9th draft. (You really do lose count after going through it enough times.)

So onward next time to the next step, and an essential for getting people to look at your book: the cover!

We Could Be Villains
Check out my new novel, We Could Be Villains!

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