Before you start the publishing process, stop and ask yourself, “Is my manuscript complete?” GET YOUR BOOK FINISHED BEFORE YOU START DOWN THE SELF-PUBLISHING HIGHWAY. There comes those magical moments in the life of every writer where he or she is certain that the current project is done! They are few and far between but they provide a tremendous feeling of accomplishment. As hard as you worked and as much as you enjoyed the process, you are still very happy that it’s over. After all, another book (or maybe it’s your first) is another notch on the gun belt, another demonstration to the world that you are an author. The problem is, you probably are not done. Well, not yet anyway. Writing the manuscript and doing your best to edit the pages is just not enough.
The editing and rewriting process is an effort that may surpass the actual writing. Break the editing down into three areas – content editing, copy editing and proofreading. You should address these as three separate tasks and not intermingle the objectives of each. Let’s look at them one at a time.
- Content Editing: This seems like a simple task. It simply means getting the facts right. It is, however, the place most often ignored by amateurs and if you ignore it, it will mark you as such. And the facts that trip up the amateur are typically not the major points in the storyline, or in the case of a non-fiction book, the principal narrative. They tend to be the supporting facts – all the little mundane facts that support location, background, subordinate characters and underlying premises. If your character steps out into a street and the traffic is one-way, make sure that you have the traffic coming from the right direction. If there is an acronym, make sure that when you identify it that you get it right. If you are write about something where you have little experience or insight, talk to someone in the know. There is nothing worse than reading a book and while trying to lose yourself in the plot stumble across a simple error that brings everything to a screeching stop. Check every fact. Get others to help. Look at every sentence and don’t take anything on face value. Question your knowledge. Check your facts and then check them again.
- Copy Editing: Unless you have a strong founding in all things grammar and a firm footing in the elements of style, get some help with this area of editing. Think back to your high school English class. If your papers consistently came back from the teacher with corrections in red ink liberally spread throughout them and you haven’t had any additional training in the technical aspects of writing, your skill set has most probably not improved. Fortunately, there are those who have the skill to know where to move misplaced modifiers and can rescue dangling participles. For those of you who might think that this is unimportant you need to understand that this issue maybe more than what separates the self-published amateur from the self-published pro.
- Proofreading: If you have taken the content editing and copy editing as separate tasks, your focus will have been on those efforts and there will still be a proofreading job ahead. Spell checkers alone are not substitutes for careful proofreading. They catch a lot, but not all that their (oops!) is to correct. A typical novel of just over 300 pages will have approximately 100,000 words that are the result of over 500,000 keystrokes! If you make four proofreading passes, you will look at 2,000,000 keystrokes. You will lose focus. Get family and friends (the literate ones!) to help. The net result of all of the above is our message to get these important steps done before you begin the process of self-publishing.
Errors discovered after the process begins will cause you to back up to step one over and over. Keep that to a minimum! Do all that you can to get the copy correct and finalized before you start down the publishing road! From content editing to copy editing to proofreading, finish all of these important steps before going forward with the publishing process no matter how excited you are to start the work that leads to an eBook, paperback, or hardback book.
Changes after the publishing process begins will cause a lot of unnecessary work and confusion with respect to tracking versions and ensuring that the finished product is consistent across all distribution channels. Keep this to an absolute minimum!
Traditional publishers are insistent upon having a production-ready copy locked down before production. Below is a checklist that we’ve created that includes all the tasks that are necessary to publish your book including getting an ISBN number, copyright info, Library of Congress, author summary, book synopsis, cover, uploading the book, etc., etc. This Self-Publishing Checklist will help you keep track of all the many, many details that go into publishing your book.