Under the Covers: Editing

Everyone needs it, but no one wants to admit it. Every writer fears receiving a dissected manuscript—that precious body of work, bloodied by the editor’s red pen (or red pixels; who doesn’t use Track Changes these days?). But here is the truth about editors: they don’t hate you or your book, they’re not out to get you, and they really aren’t trying to make you cry. A good editor knows the pen is mightier than the sword but doesn’t have to prove it.

Editors wield pens like scalpels, not broadswords—to heal, not to harm—cutting away the bad so that the good can flourish. Even so, many writers feel as anxious about submitting a manuscript for editing as they would about watching their child go into the operating room. It’s perfectly natural to feel this anxiety, even fear, for your creative brainchild. But at the end of the day, the kid needs surgery!

Okay, your objections are really good ones; your book is surely fine without editing. You could go ahead and publish without it. But what happens when the book goes live on Amazon and people start writing critiques? Will you regret your decision? Maybe you should read the rest of the article first.

But Mom Says It’s Great!

If your mother happens to be an editor at Random House, you can ignore this paragraph. No disrespect to your mom, but she is not exactly unbiased. The same goes for all your other relatives and friends.

Hey, your friends and family mean well. They want you to succeed, and they are proud of you for coming so far already. And they should be! You have a manuscript, and that is no small accomplishment! So it is awesome that you have such encouragement, but don’t get cocky. Look at it this way: if you would get a professional opinion before investing in the stock market or real estate, why would you not get one when investing in publishing your book?

But I Don’t Have the Time!

Where’s the fire? If you’re expecting the world to end on a certain date in the near future, well, first of all, it probably won’t. Secondly, if the world is ending, why bother publishing a book?

Okay, let’s be serious. You have a date by which you need books, and the date was sprung on you before your manuscript was ready. It’s ready now, and if the book goes to layout and straight to printing, you will probably have those books in time. That is a plausible scenario, and it is easy to understand the way you feel. But is there any margin for error? What if the interior designer’s computer crashes, and your file gets blitzed and has to be started from scratch? What if the cover file has a problem and gets rejected by the printer? What if the proofs show errors that weren’t in your manuscript? What if your shipment gets delayed or lost?

Think about it this way: this inflexible date gives you a prime opportunity to promote your book and take pre-orders. People will understand if you tell them your book is being edited; they will appreciate that you are making the effort to give them a better book. And the situation will also give that audience time to spread the word about your book before its launch. So print some business cards or bookmarks with the book’s cover and ordering info, and make the best of it.

But It Costs Too Much!

Price is always a concern, it’s true. You will be investing a lot of money in this book, even without editing. But what is the point of an investment? The point is to receive a greater return. And in this case, the old saying is true: quality doesn’t cost—it pays.

The two aspects of a book that contribute most to its success are the cover and the content. The cover is what first grabs your reader. It doesn’t make the sale, but it certainly contributes to it. The content, though, is what really matters. The content truly makes that initial sale. The content is what keeps the reader up at night, unable to put the book down. The content is what sets people talking, passing the word to friends, letting other potential readers know all about your book, for better or worse (sales, that is).

So to maximize your potential sales, you need to invest in making the content of your book the best it can be. And that means editing.

The next question is, how much and what kind of editing do you need? Next month, we will take a look at different levels of editing, what each does, and how much the services might cost you.

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