So you’ve finished a book, and now you’re ready to take it to market—or are you?
The publishing world is evolving so quickly that it’s not always easy to know where to start. I know excellent writers who are finding it difficult to secure representation in today’s publishing environment.
The alternative may be to self-publish, but if you go that route, it’s essential that you give your book every chance to be successful. I recently read that less than five percent of self-published books are considered decent by readers, and only a small fraction of those will be financially successful. These aren’t very encouraging odds for a new writer.
As the saying goes, you only get one chance to make a good impression. If you rush to self-publish, and your book has lots of problems, chances are none of its readers will buy anything else with your name on it. And if an unhappy reader posts an internet review of your book, they could alienate any and all new readers.
In the same vein, if you submit a poorly written manuscript to an agent, they may automatically refuse to read any future submissions from you. To give your book its best chance, you should join a writer’s group whose members can provide you coherent, constructive criticism. In addition, you should consider hiring an editor.
The next question is: what type of editor do you need?
Editors generally fall into four categories: developmental, structural, copyediting, and proofreading.
Developmental editors work most closely with the writer. Let’s say you have a strong idea for a book but aren’t sure where to begin. A developmental editor will hold your hand throughout the creative process, from beginning to end. They may also write segments of the book for you.
A structural editor provides you with an overview of your book, identifying the ways in which it does or doesn’t fit the requirements for its type. For instance, your novel may lack a strong plot. If so, the structural editor will work with you to devise ways in which your plot can be improved.
Copyeditors and proofreaders are the mechanics of the editing world. Copyeditors (aka line editors) edit for syntax, sentence structure, paragraph development, dialogue integrity, and smoothness of transitional choices. When I copyedit, I also provide a short analysis of the writer’s consistency with voice, organization, point of view and clarity of purpose as well as an overview of the manuscript’s effectiveness and a critique of the work as a whole.
The proofreader comes in after all other questions about a book have been settled. The proofreader is concerned only with grammar and spelling errors, assuring that your work is ready to go to print.
As an editor, I know it’s not always easy for a writer to recognize which type of assistance they require. For that reason, I offer free editing of the first five pages of a manuscript in order to determine whether or not the writer and I would be a good fit for each other.
So now that you have a clearer idea of what an editor can do for you, it’s equally important to understand what they cannot do. Primarily, they cannot guarantee a writer an agent or a book deal. However, if you choose to self-publish, an editor cannot only help you bring a polished product to the marketplace, they can also help prevent you from embarrassing yourself with a poor presentation of what could otherwise have been a successful project.
Kerry Holjes is a poet, writer, editor and accountant. She lives in North Carolina where she is working on her poetry and a fun mystery. She offers editing services through Parchment Pen Editing, and loves doing that. She has edited several novels, including two by Tamara Ward, Storm Surge and Private Deception. She has a personal profile on Facebook, and can be contacted through gmail.
About the Author (Author Profile)
Kerry Holjes is a professional editor retired from a career in corporate writing and accounting. She is certified in editing from Duke University, and enjoys helping creative writers make their work the most readable it can be. She works with several small publishers and the writers they’ve chosen to publish. Kerry is also a poet and in her spare time is working on a paranormal mystery. She has roots in Ireland, England and North Carolina, where she currently resides.