It’s a great time to be a self-published author. It’s relatively simple and inexpensive to publish a book in trade paperback and e-book formats and to find distribution. Independent authors are now being recognized by libraries and major book stores so opportunities for selling books are available. Authors are celebrating their independence and some are even moving from large publishing houses to enjoy the freedom and opportunity that independent publishing provides. Independent authors are in complete control of their destiny. But there’s the catch. It’s still up to the independent author to produce quality books.
There are many facets that go into a quality book. Of course, it has to have an eye-catching cover that is indicative of the story inside. It has to have a good cover blurb that will grab the attention of the reader. But most importantly, it has to be a well written, captivating story with developed characters that capture and hold the reader. Any author is happiest if their readers lose sleep because they are unwilling to put the book down. After all, the author wants to establish a fan base that will be asking for more.
One of the keys to writing a quality book is editing. I’m not referring to the work authors do to polish their manuscript. When I refer to editing, I’m talking about hiring a professional editor. It’s not cheap and I’m sure that is a deterrent for many. But, can an author really afford not to have the manuscript edited professionally? An author spends months, and in some cases years, pouring their heart and sole into their masterpiece. So shouldn’t the finished product be as good as it can possibly be? The answer, in my opinion, is a resounding “yes.”
Wikipedia defines editing as “the process that can involve correction, condensation, organization, and many other modifications performed with an intention of producing a correct, consistent, accurate and complete work.” Whether one usually agrees with Wikipedia or nor, this definition perfectly describes what an author should be striving for: correctness, consistency, accuracy and completeness. If an author can honestly say that their manuscript meets those criteria, they will have a piece of work that will make them proud.
That’s why a good editor is so important. After reading a manuscript a few times, the reader starts to see what was intended to be on the paper, not what is actually there. An editor is a second set of eyes and they will find the typos and grammar and punctuation issues. But a good editor will also challenge the writer. They will ask questions, find places in the manuscript where more elaboration might be required or suggest the elimination of redundancies if any exist. They will watch for timeline issues, inconsistencies in characters and help to make sure the storyline holds together. The final say belongs to the author, of course, but a good editor will make the author think about their work. And the manuscript will be better for it.
That doesn’t mean editors are perfect. A typo or two can still find a way to lurk among the 100,000 or so words that have been so carefully written and reviewed. We’ve all found typos in popular novels. Friends will gleefully point them out and that’s when the author can say the typos were left in the book deliberately to test their observational skills. One or two typos are not going to affect the author’s credibility as a writer with most readers. But weaknesses in the story line or inconsistent characters or numerous typos or grammatical errors will and a reader will not be buying a second book from that author.
So while an author is slaving away writing their masterpiece, they should also be setting aside some money to hire a good editor. The author shouldn’t be afraid to check references and to ask the editor what they consider editing to be to ensure it’s in line with expectations. Suggested changes should be viewed objectively and given strong consideration before accepting or rejecting them. The end result will be a good working relationship and a product that will win readers over and encourage them to want to read more from the author. Most of all, the author will be happier with the result.