By: Marc Histand | A 7-minute read.
Let’s face it. You’re perfect! As a perfect person, you never wake up with bed head, you always get to work on time, your breath is always minty fresh, and you never miss a deadline. Right?
I’m sure that no one reading this can answer “yes” to all of those points (if you can, let’s talk about your superpowers) but even though that’s the case, there are many authors out there that believe editing is not necessarily something their book needs.
A good edit is the single most important part of your book. Even if your book is not meant for a mass-market distribution scenario, remember: your work will be available for the world to buy and read. Even those books meant for certain individuals are listed for any Tom, Dick, or Mary to purchase and review. Let’s break this down by type of book to see what is really necessary for the different kinds.
Non-fiction, Professional or Scholarly Work
In this case, the expectation is that the author has an extremely vast knowledge of the subject at hand. Since you are assumed to be well-versed in your field, typically a content edit can be skipped in this scenario. Instead, work with one of your colleagues or fellow scholars in your field to review the book and provide an overall summary of the book’s final concept. If another professional is unable to identify the concept clearly, it’s time to do a re-work on your own and repeat this editing step. Once this step is completed, it is best to have an editor complete a copyedit on the text to ensure spelling, grammar, and overall sentence structure are correct. You should always review this edit yourself and run the edit by another person in case there are glaring errors that all parties have missed.
Works of Fiction
There are two schools of thought when it comes to editing a work of fiction. Some authors believe that line editing will alter their story to the point that it becomes a completely different story in-and-of-itself. While this can happen, it’s all about communication. Be sure to set clear guidelines with your editor about what content is most important and where the main pieces of the storyline land. A best practice here is to outline your book’s dramatic structure. If you provide this to your editor, you’ll find he or she will either not disrupt this structure, or will discuss any potential change before it’s made to ensure you, the client, is happy with the work.
If you’re still concerned about the content of your book being changed you’re not alone. Many fiction authors skip this step. Just be sure to have a copyedit done to the book to ensure it meets Chicago Manual of Style standards.
Poetry, Children’s Books, Special Interest Books, etc.
These books are where editing types are completely subjective. Poetry, for example, comes from the soul. You don’t want a content editor to touch this type of work as there is a certain emotion behind it that should not be disrupted. In fact, as poets tend to organize and format their work to be out of the typical Chicago Manual of Style, copyediting is also not recommended. All poetry should be edited though, but you’ll need to read on to find out how.
In contrast to poems, children’s books should still be copyedited. Ensuring the mechanics of the book hit a certain age range is always important and should be discussed with your editor before the edit begins, so they know in which direction to proceed.
Finally, special interest books are another tough one to edit for content. I recommend that if you do choose to have your manuscript edited for content that, like the scholarly works above, you choose someone that is also an expert in the special interest about which you’re writing. Then, don’t forget the copyediting. It’s still important!
Now that you’ve had your book edited, that’s it, right? Wrong.
Did you know that one of the first editions of the Harry Potter series had a typo so obvious it’d make you cry? That’s right! J.K. Rowling’s name was spelled wrong on one of the first proofs of the series. While this proofing set sold for thousands, it’s not guaranteed that a limited edition print such as this will work for everyone, so there’s one last step that any book type should go through before publishing:
No matter what type of book you’ll be launching or what your ideal target audience is, all books should be proofread before going to market. Typically, this is done after all edits, typesetting, and formatting are done so the editor is reviewing a “fresh” book. Things sure do look different between the manuscript and a formatted book, meaning some issues may catch the eye better than when it was in its raw form.
Look, editing can be overwhelming. I know that. In fact, this blog went through a line edit and a copyedit before it was proofread one last time. It’s a necessity in any writing to ensure positive reviews and word-of-mouth advertising.
I’ll leave you with this… if you bought a book that was clearly not edited through this cycle, you’d notice, and when your network asks you what book they should read next, it won’t be the one that is riddled with thematic disruptions, or spelling & grammar issues. Remember, no one is perfect, but you can get your book close enough to perfect as possible by following the correct editing steps.