Saturday, March 24, 2012
So, you want to publish a book? Congratulations! Writing is a rewarding process, and publishing a book is a feat that few achieve. With the proliferation of self-publishing sites, it has certainly become easier for anyone to inexpensively become a published author, but it has also opened the floodgates for poorly-edited works to find their way into the hands of unsuspecting readers.
I cannot stress how important editing is. Unedited books seem sloppy and amateurish. You may have the best story idea in the world, but if it's crafted poorly, it's not going to be reviewed well, and it's not going to impress your reader base. It reflects poorly on you, as well. If you can't be bothered to edit your work, why should I be bothered to read your work? If you don't have a good grasp on the craft of writing, then you have no business presenting yourself as a writer.
Here are some "Editing 101" tips I put together for those trying to get published, or thinking of going the self-publishing route:
1. Spellcheck does not equal editing.
Just because you have a word processor with spellcheck doesn't make you a writer. Spellcheck might catch all your typos, but it's not going to catch those correctly-spelled words that are used in the entirely wrong way. "I am going so the store" is spelled right, but that "so" will slip through the cracks every time.
2. Invest in a style guide.
A style guide can be a valuable resource for you if you sometimes get "your" and "you're" mixed up. It's basically a rule book for the English language. Every writer worth his or her salt should have at least one resource like this. Suggested guides are The Elements of Style by Strunk and White, found on Amazon.com for 10 bucks; The Chicago Style Manual is a little more expensive, about $40 on Amazon, but is a larger manual that is widely used. Journalists tend to use the Associated Press stylebook, which is a middle-of-the-road priced style guide.
3. Hire someone to proofread.
Before you seek out avenues to publish, have another person read your manuscript with a critical eye. Even if you've read your manuscript yourself, have someone else read it. We tend to overlook mistakes in our own work because we're so close to it. Another person can read with a set of fresh eyes, and question things that you wouldn't consider.
Who should you ask to edit your work? Not your mom, not your wife, not a friend (unless any of these people edits for a living and you trust them to give you a totally honest opinion). Find a college student, look on Craigslist, LinkedIn or Goodreads, and you'll find hordes of people willing to edit manuscripts for not that much money. I'm suggesting you hire a stranger because your mom isn't going to tell you your book sucks. She might point out some typos and suggest some wording changes, but if you are about to try and publish a stinker, your friends and family are probably going to sugarcoat their opinions so they don't hurt your feelings. Ask your editor to be harsh. Better to get the criticism out now than when book bloggers get their hands on it and publish harsh reviews of your work on the Internet for all to see!