Book Success Recipe

Have you ever made chili but didn’t add enough chili powder? It might have tasted okay, but it wasn’t, you know, chili. Creating a book is similar in that the ingredients are all necessary, and they must work together in order to achieve the final dish (book) that you want. A successful book is equal parts strong manuscript, professional editing and design, and appropriate marketing plan.

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What to Expect from Your Book Editor

By the time you’ve finished writing your masterpiece, whether it’s 10,000 words or 90,000 words, you are attached to those words and want them handled with care. I promise you: A good editor wants the same thing! Regardless of the type of editing you’re paying for, the author-editor relationship is a special one.

The Author-Editor relationship is a special one. (Tweet)

Once you’ve spoken with a few editors and found the right person for your project, here’s generally what you can expect from your book editor:  

Solid Editing

First and foremost, your editor must know how to edit. That’s the primary function you’ve hired her for! If you’re working with an editor who utilizes Microsoft Word’s “track changes” feature (as I suspect you are), you’ll be able to see just how many errors your editor catches. I would be remiss, however, if I didn’t mention the dreaded “p” word when it comes to editing: perfection. No book or ebook is perfectly error free. It’s simply not possible. Science tells us that human eyes catch, at best, about 96 percent of errors. Now, the more times (passes) your editor goes through your manuscript, the fewer errors she’ll find each time. The same goes for you or anyone else reading, by the way. One more reason not to rush the process! She’ll find errors she missed the first time through on a second pass as well. I tell my clients not to be alarmed at the markup; it’s SUPPOSED to be messing during the editing process. (Think of it sausage making: The end product is yummy, but the making of it? Not as appealing.)  

Queries/Rewrites for Clarity (Not Full Rewrites of Entire Paragraphs/Sections)

If your text is confusing from a reader’s standpoint, your editor will let you know. Some editors will simply query you; others will offer a suggested rewrite. Know that any edits are coming from a good place — a place of wanting clear text, not a place of the editor wanting ownership of your work. I’ve written books and been edited, so I know it can sting to hear that something you thought was clearly written was, in fact, not. Remember that your editor is on your team and wants you to publish the best, most clear text possible. If she’s raising an issue, consider whether she might be right.  

Your editor is on your team, and wants you to publish the best text possible. (Tweet)

Respect for Your Work

An editor won’t suggest or make a change to your text just because they think another (read: their) wording “sounds better.” It’s your work; not theirs. An editor will treat your words and project with care.  

Honest Feedback

There are editors out there giving the profession a bad name by not telling clients when a manuscript needs more work before it’s ready for publication. Countless times a client reaches out for a copy edit when I KNOW they need a developmental edit but either don’t have the budget for one or are in a hurry to publish. My job — any book editor’s job — is to be truthful about your work. If you’re trying to publish a first draft, for example, my job is to tell you the book needs more work before you should publish it. If I don’t do that, I’m doing neither of us any favors. Even a well-copy-edited first draft is still just that. So solicit this feedback if an editor does not offer it.  


There may be instances in which an editor suggests a change that you don’t want to make. That’s okay. As I said before, it’s YOUR work. If it’s a case of right versus wrong (say, a grammar rule), I’d advise you to trust your editor. If it’s a style issue, then trust your gut — and trust that your editor will accept your decision and move forward without trying to browbeat you into thinking her way. You may become friendly with your editor (I consider lots of my clients friends now), but remember that the relationship for this project is a professional one. There is no place for lateness, rudeness, or bullying.  

Is there anything else you’ve experienced when working with an editor? I’d love to hear from you.  Are you ready to talk to a book editor?

Contact me today to learn more about how I can help with your book project.

Writing Your Book: A Marathon, Not a Sprint

Writing a book is a serious undertaking. It takes preparation and planning. You don’t just sit down one day and write a book. (Well, not a good book, anyway.) Think about running a marathon or climbing Mt. Everest. You wouldn’t show up on race day or the day the climb was beginning without training, would you? Of course not. That would be foolish.

Of course you want to get your book published sooner rather than later, but you don’t want to risk quality. That’s exactly what happens when you rush it. I’m not suggesting you sit on a book outline forever or let perfectionism creep in once your manuscript is ready, but writing a thorough book of an appropriate length certainly takes some time.

Here are a few tips to get you moving in the write direction: 

-Set a deadline/goal. When exactly do you want to have your book published?

-Create a schedule, working backward from publication. How many chapters do you think you want? How much research do you still need to do, if any? The answers to this will help determine your schedule.

-Create a writing routine. Maybe it’s one hour every morning, maybe it’s a four-hour block every Saturday morning, maybe it’s one chapter per week. I talk a little more about that in this post.

-Allow time for revisions before submitting to an editor, and make sure you self-edit first. Self-editing helps cut down on what your editor will have to do.

-Don’t edit as you go; it just slows you down. This one is hard. I once had a client who literally took the backspace key off if her keyboard so she couldn’t back up even if she wanted to. (That’s pretty extreme, obviously, but you, I hope, get my point.) You can always go back and edit later.

 “The purpose of the first draft is not to get it perfect, but to get it written.” - John Dufresne

-Practice writing. Find a list of daily writing prompts or join

Even professional writers say writing is hard. Don’t be discouraged on the days the words don’t flow easily onto the computer screen (or paper, if you’re old school). You’ll get there. If you’ve done the training, you’ll be able to weather the storm.


By the way, if writing a book is on your horizon but you don't feel prepared to start, check out my new course. "Book Prep Bootcamp" starts Monday, May 23rd, and is all about getting ready to write your book: planning, researching, and prewriting. Learn more at Join us and get ready to write your book!

Self-Editing Tips & Why It is So Important

Last week, I explained the different types of editors you may need on the path to publish your book. This week we are focusing on why you should self-edit your manuscripts (and how to do so). The bottom line for most writers is this: The “cleaner” your manuscript is when it goes to an editor (meaning the fewer errors it has), the less work it needs. The less work it needs, the less time it will take the editor. The less time it takes, the less editing will cost you and the sooner you can get published!

So how do you practice the art of self-editing? Let's start with some general tips:

First, and most importantly - step back: Give yourself as much time as possible away from the manuscript as you can. That may be a couple days; it may be a couple weeks. Anything you can do to come back with a fresh set of eyes will greatly benefit your work. Even reading another book will allow you to look at your topic with a new perspective when you return to it. You'll be amazed when you see typos jumping out at you, words you left out, and sentences that aren't quite clear. This leads me right into the next tip.

Self-edit in stages: Just like an editor won’t catch everything the first time through, neither will you. Once you have taken time away from the manuscript, read it once for the big picture (macro level), then read it again while looking at the minute details (micro level). Reading for the big picture allows you to ensure the manuscript flows as a whole unit. You may recognize sections that need to be re-written to help the reader transition to the next topic or section, or this step may show you a different way to structure the chapters, topics, etc. When reading on the micro level, be on the hunt for grammatical errors. These errors may seem small and insignificant, but eliminating them shows that you care about your work down to the smallest detail. It lends a sense of professionalism and seriousness to you and your work. (Think about how you feel as a reader when you see a typo or mistake.) With each pass of the manuscript, you should find fewer and fewer errors.

Read the manuscript aloud: Your brain knows what you want that paragraph to say, but by reading it to yourself out loud, your eyes will tell you if that's what you actually wrote. Reading aloud provides another way to make sure your manuscript is ready for the next stage of the publishing process. I would even suggest reading the paragraph backward, starting with the last sentence, to catch any lingering errors.

Those are the three big self-editing tips. Now here are a few specific, micro-level tips:

  • Learn some basic grammar “rules” (Don’t panic! There won’t be a test.) - who vs. whom, that vs. which, between vs. among.
  • Almost always delete really and very.  - It's rare that either word adds anything of substance to your work.
  • Avoid absolutes where possible (e.g., always, never). - There are exceptions to just about every statement you could make. Add a qualifier if you aren’t using specific numbers (e.g., usually, almost always — like I just did in the previous points when talking about really and very!).
  •  Eliminate passive voice - Which reads more smoothly? Julie confirmed the dinner reservation. OR The dinner reservation was confirmed by Julie. The second sentence sounds clunky. Your audience wants to be where the action is!

Following these tips won’t ensure that your manuscript is error-free and won’t need any sort of edit at all, but it will put you in a better position to require less work and less time from an editor. That means you’ll be on the road to publication even sooner. (By the way, these tips apply to all sorts of writing, not just books. You can use them to edit blog posts, articles, or even Facebook posts on your business page.) If you do any other self-editing tasks, I’d love to hear about them in the comments.

What Kind(s) of Editor Do You Need?

You know the writing process has several stages, but did you realize there are several stages of editing and types of editors as well? You may find yourself wondering what the next step is for your book, and you will need one or more of these three types of editors to help move the process along. Before you hire your first editor, let’s review each type of editing.

Developmental Editor

You will get to a point in you writing where you have spilled everything out on paper, or your computer screen, but then wonder how to organize it all. A developmental editor will step in to help make sense of your writing. He or she will be able to guide you in forming chapters, flow, pace, tone, and the overall structure of your book. Think of developmental editing as looking at the big picture of your manuscript. You could also think of it as having all the pieces to build a car but being unsure how they will all fit together. Your developmental editor will help you figure out which piece goes where to have a well-functioning car. Depending on your natural writing abilities, you may or may not require a developmental edit.

Copy Editor

It is all about the details at this point! You’ve been reading and re-reading your manuscript, but now it is time for a copy editor to step in. Let the editor read it with a fresh set of eyes. He or she will make sure details are consistent throughout the book (e.g., voice, tense, even spelling), correct grammar and mechanics issues, and ensure clarity throughout your manuscript. You’ve built the car; now let your copy editor make sure your car actually runs. It’s one thing to build a car, but your copy editor will give it a test drive to ensure all the moving parts work properly (AKA everything under the hood is working just right.) This is the stage most people think about when they think about editing.


Whether you are self-publishing or sending your book off to an agent, a proofreader will give the manuscript one last glance. Your proofreader will act as your basic car mechanic. You know your book is working exactly how you want it to overall, but again think about a car: It needs to have the oil checked, windshield fluid added, etc. Could the car run fairly well without this check? Probably yes, but having a proofreader check the details will ensure a smoother trip for you and your passengers (AKA your readers). A proofreader will find that last typo or notice the formatting is just a bit off, ensuring that everything is just right for publishing. All manuscripts can benefit from a copy edit and a proofread, but at the bare minimum, especially if you are planning to self-publish your book, you really need to hire a professional proofreader.

Some editors offer all three services; others specialize in one or two types/levels. A good editor will be up-front about where your manuscript is, what service(s) you need to make your book a success,  and how she or he can help you.

Is your book ready for editing services? Are you ready to take your book to the next step? I would love to make sure your manuscript is ready for publishing!