Editing Guide for Indie Authors: 5 Steps to Polishing Your Manuscript

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Editing is a crucial part of getting a book ready to sell. Without it, readers might be confused by a messy story or vexed by glaring typos. Even the best writers need an editor in their corner. Though many authors think they can catch the errors on their own, enlisting the help of a professional is highly recommended. After all, professional editors are well-versed in the rules of grammar, formatting, and citations, and they will make your project as perfect as possible. 

Wondering when you should hand your manuscript over to an editor? The short answer: When you feel there’s nothing left to change. 

This post will provide an overview of the different types of editors and how they contribute to perfecting a manuscript. Looking for editorial services for your book? Check out our services for self-published authors.

Types of editors

A developmental editor focuses on the overall story, not the finer details. They look at how the narrative is moving along (or not), poring over the plot, characters, themes, structure, or any key elements that affect it. They will offer helpful suggestions on how you can fix any problems and also highlight the parts that are particularly strong. This will give you a good sense of how much work you need to do to improve your story.

A copy editor checks for grammar errors and rewrites any clunky or fuzzy sentences. Their job is to make each sentence clear. They will not focus on plot or characters. Therefore, it is better to enlist the help of a copy editor after consulting a developmental editor and making the necessary changes.

Finally, a proofreader focuses on the finer details and polishes the writing. They’ll find grammar, spelling, and punctuation mistakes that may have been missed and check for inconsistencies and formatting issues. A proofreader will not rewrite anything.

In traditional publishing, editors are in-house staff or people contracted by the publisher, but self-published authors need to hire these professionals themselves. While it may seem like an extra expense, you need to work it into your business plan. The goal is to recoup this cost when you sell your work, and books riddled with errors don’t sell. Therefore, you want yours to be as polished as possible. Only by hiring a professional will you ensure that your book is ready for publishing.

5 steps to editing your book

For indie authors, it’s important to get an editor at the right time. There’s no use in hiring one when you haven’t ironed out all the kinks in your story. You don’t want to waste time and money with unnecessary rounds of editing. When you feel you’ve done all you can with your manuscript on your own, it’s time to bring in a professional editor. 

Follow these steps to get your manuscript edited.

  1. Edit your manuscript

As mentioned, you need to take your manuscript as far as you can on your own before you give it to an editor. Look for any significant problems with the story. Are there pacing issues? Limited character development? Plot holes? Revise until you think there is nothing left to fix.

  1. Hire a developmental editor

Now, your manuscript is ready for a professional. A developmental editor can suggest creative fixes for any problems with the story, highlight areas that need expanding, and point out elements that are working well. They will provide you with detailed notes so you can make revisions. 

  1. Revise based on your editor’s suggestions

Review the issues raised by your editor and their suggestions for how you can fix them. Their revisions may include adding a character to further flesh out the protagonist, cutting or adding scenes to improve the pacing, and changing events to fix plot holes. Keep in mind that you are the author; you are in no way compelled to make all the changes the developmental editor suggests. However, their job is to help you make your story as great as possible. Therefore, think carefully about all of their proposals before you discard them.

Start with revisions of big-picture elements before. After that, work on individual sentences, revising line by line to get the writing as polished as possible.

  1. Hire a copy editor

The copy editor will revise your work line by line, correcting errors and improving sentences so the writing is in tip-top shape. This will make for a better reading experience for your audience.

  1. Hire a proofreader

While some indie authors try to proofread their manuscripts, it’s difficult for anyone to proofread their own writing, and we recommend a professional for this job. Writers are often too familiar with their own work, which prevents them from viewing their writing with fresh eyes. Most likely, when authors are proofreading their own books, they will miss typos and minor grammatical errors. After this part of the editorial process, your manuscript is ready to go.

For self-published authors, proofreading should happen before hiring a typesetter so the manuscript is error-free before formatting.

The above may seem like a lot of steps, but each type of editor improves your manuscript in different (and significant) ways. You don’t want weak characters, poor sentence structure, or spelling mistakes to distract from your story. Find out more about our services for indie authors so your manuscript can truly shine.

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