Ebook Launch Recap Part I: Writing

If you’ve been following me for a while, you know that I recently wrote a book (Write.Publish.Market. launched YESTERDAY, as a matter of fact.) Since we all love “behind the scenes” peeks into other entrepreneurs’ lives, I thought it would be fun to recap the launch, from the start. This week’s post covers the writing part of the book, and next week I’ll talk about the launch itself.

If you’ve been following me for a while, you know that I recently wrote a book. (Write.Publish.Market.[AMAZON LINK] launched YESTERDAY, as a matter of fact.) Since we all love “behind the scenes” peeks into other entrepreneurs’ lives, I thought it would be fun to recap the launch, from the start. This week’s post covers the writing part of the book, and next week I’ll talk about the launch itself. | Jodi Brandon Editorial

Because I was self-publishing Write.Publish.Market., I got to select the launch date, and I selected November 1st. I wanted it to be early enough so that it wouldn’t get lost in the shuffle during the holiday season but late enough that I had time to get everything done properly. I knew the majority of the writing would be over the summer, because the book needed to be in my editor’s hands by Labor Day. When I work with writing coaching clients, I advise them to create a research schedule and writing schedule, so I followed my own advice. My plan was to brain dump my table of contents in early June, research the three phases of the book (writing, self-publishing, and book marketing) for the balance of June, and write in July and August. My best writing sessions (which I know, because I write every day and track the sessions) cap at about 1,000 words, so my schedule included almost all 1,000-word sessions, with some 2,000-word sessions as summer wore on.

I  walk the talk when it comes to brain dumping. (You can read about the process here.) I spent a couple days narrowing the focus of the brain dump, picking out particular ideas and then doing micro brain dumps of those. By the time I was finished, the brain dump papers were a hot mess — but I could see the book taking shape, which is EXACTLY what you want out of this process. Brain dump: CHECK.

The research phase went fairly smoothly. I took my brain dumps and organized them into what would become the table of contents. I then decided which areas needed research to supplement what I’d be writing: where interviews would be helpful, where statistics would be important to include, and so on.

I know there are, generally speaking, two schools of thought regarding productivity: eat the frog (i.e., do the biggest/hardest thing on the schedule) first, or start small and gain momentum. For this process, I decided to start easy and gain momentum: The research for the writing phase of the book was done, for the most part, because I offer a course called Book Prep Bootcamp that’s all about getting yourself ready to write a book: idea generation, developing the structure, conducting and organizing research, and so forth. So it was more a matter of determining what information made the most sense to include in the book rather than hard-core research. My knowledge about self-publishing was extensive but secondhand. I work with publishing clients every day, guiding them through the process, but I had never done it firsthand. (Now I know why they drag their heels about some parts of the process!) And the final section of the book, however, was the opposite of the first: I had NO in-depth information in any coherent format about book marketing since I’d never conducted a true book launch of my own before. I set up a schedule of what I’d research each day so that I didn’t end up down the Twitter or Google rabbit hole. Some days it was a topic, some days it was a hashtag, some days it was a particular expert in a topic. I know lots of authors who don’t enjoy researching and pass it off on a VA, but I happen to love it. After two and a half weeks, my research was complete and I was ready to start writing. Everything was moving along just as I’d planned. Research: CHECK.

Okay, time to start writing. I blocked off the days in July and August that I knew would be unavailable for writing, for whatever reason: family days, an annual volunteer commitment in mid-July, etc. As we all know, life happens and our well-crafted plans are disrupted. That was the case for me this summer. Long story short, my nephew visiting from California unexpectedly spent two weeks at my house smack in the middle of my writing schedule because my mom, his grandmother, was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor. My mind was all over the place, but I worked when I could and wrote when I could — and thanked my lucky stars every day that I had left some wiggle room in my schedule, because I sure needed it! The MOST helpful part of that time was that my brain dump was thorough and well constructed, so I had, essentially, an annotated outline to work from each day as I wrote.

The writing itself went as one might expect: There were good days and there were not-so-good days. On the latter, you just have to dust yourself off and try again the next day. That’s what revising is for! I’m a big believer in “Just keep swimming,” and that applies to writing, too. I kept going even when the writing was lousy rather than spending an entire writing session trying to craft one perfect paragraph or section. Momentum is so important when writing a book due to the sheer number of words you’re working with. Writing a book is hard, particularly when you’re running a business and dealing with regular, everyday life, let alone when something extraordinary is happening. I doubled-down when I needed to and got the manuscript finished, though. Writing: CHECK.

I tell my clients daily that the longer they can take away from the manuscript, the better. when it comes to revision. Our eyes play tricks on us and read what we THINK we wrote, rather than what we actually did write. This seems to happen more frequently when we’re looking at text we’ve looked at repeatedly. I scheduled editing to begin just after Labor Day, and I had a conference scheduled during the the final week of August. I was able, then, to take several days away from the text, which allowed me to return to it with fresh eyes for the self-editing and revising processes. I know that’s not always possible, but it really is so important and makes SUCH a difference. Revising: CHECK.

The next month of the process consisted of me working on marketing and publishing tasks while the manuscript was being edited and, then, formatted.

 

Stay tuned!. Next week I’ll pick up here and talk about launch preparation and launch week. In the meantime, if you’d like to snag a copy of Write.Publish.Market., you can do so here. I would love to hear what you think.

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.  

Professionalism

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.

Off the Shelf - July

Here’s what I’ve been reading. What about you?

 

Booked

Josh Turner

The author says point-blank that this concept is not rocket science, and he’s right. However, sometimes we still need to hear it from someone else. This is a quick read filled with valuable information and motivation. The process, Turner says, is a simple one, which he outlines in general terms and then dives into each step. Generally, you must get in front of prospects, convert a percentage into leads, and then convert at least one lead into a client. Without leads, your business is in the danger zone. Getting those leads, Turner says, is easier if you can position yourself as a leader and expert. People — prospects — will then want to talk to you. And getting in front of people is how small business owners can stay off of the cash-flow roller coaster, which prevents growth. Turner urges readers to take advantage of online tools like email but especially LinkedIn and Facebook groups.

The detailed, five-step Booked process is as follows:

Step 1: The Foundation — clearly identify your ideal prospects and optimize your profiles

Step 2: Your Leadership Platform — generate appointments (appointments = sales calls = consultations = strategy sessions) and start a Facebook or LinkedIn group

Step 3: Building Your Database — after an initial blitz, reach out, on an ongoing basis, to new prospects; do this every day

Step 4: Your Messaging Machine — figuring out your numbers (# of prospects you need to reach goal) and which messaging campaign is right for you

Step 5: Email Blueprint

Turner includes scripts to use in Step 3 and notes the importance of doing this every day as well as scripts for each of the types of messaging campaigns in Step 4. He acknowledges that there are a lot of moving parts in the Booked process so it’s critical to stay organized and do prep and planning. He suggests that 30-60 minutes each day, five days a week, is the sweet spot for the system to work for you.

I had this book on my Kindle for a while before digging in. Even though a few entrepreneurs told me they enjoyed it, the title made me think it was geared more toward salespeople. I’m glad I gave it a shot!

Here are some of my favorite takeaway quotes from Booked:

“You can’t grow by cutting costs. The only way to grow, or to remain stable, is to generate a consistent flow of leads.”

“Follow up and persistence is the key to maximizing your results.”

“A well-designed email campaign can add 10-20% response rate to the overall system.”

 

The Fringe Hours: Making Time for You

Jessica N. Turner

This book is another one of those no-brainers, right? I love the snippets from real women she surveyed (found myself wanting to track a lot of these women down, either to hug or high-five them — or both) and the quick and easy “exercises” she has throughout, like noting who someone is that you compare yourself to and listing three blocks of 5 to 15 minutes you can find throughout your day. The exercises are all simple and un-intimidating (AKA, maybe we’ll actually do them). Turner talks about the challenge of finding balance, no matter our circumstances: married or single, with or without children, income, age. All women struggle with this concept in different ways. It looks different for me (41, married, and without children, full-time entrepreneur) than it does for my sister (31, married with an almost-three-year-old and a newborn, teacher) than it foes for our mother (62, married, four adult children, full-time executive). And that’s just in my immediate family.

In the first part of the book, Turner has readers EXPLORE. The chapters cover balance, pressures, guilt, and comparison. You won’t read much here that you haven’t read and heard before, but it’s the groundwork. She then moves into the DISCOVER part, which she calls the heart of the book. I couldn’t agree more. Here is where she covers shifting our perspective, identifying ways in which we can care for ourselves (such as health, spiritually, our passions), and finding that time for ourselves. In this section she mentions one of my favorite metaphors for life: Put on your oxygen mask first. Then assist others. In the third part Turner teaches us to MAXIMIZE. This is where we prioritize and learn to use our time efficiently. She includes a discussion of helpful versus wasteful multitasking that I really enjoyed. (My business coach talked recently about how multitasking isn’t really a thing, and that really our brains are just toggling back and forth among activities. Maybe that’s why so many of us feel like we’re on the hamster wheel.) She also includes a discussion of asking for and embracing help, as well as an honest mention of obstacles that can slow us down, such as financial restraints, interruptions, and disorganization. Finally in the fourth part, LIVE WELL, Turner talks about community and rest, choosing joy and giving thanks.

The tone of this book is that of one girlfriend talking to another, and breaking down what we all know we should be doing. If we could each implement even one or two of the results from exercises in the book, we can call that progress.

And as always, some of my favorite takeaways (There were lots!):

“Just because something is a good thing doesn’t mean it is good for this moment in your life.”

“When you make room in your schedule to breathe, you make room for you — and that is key to discovering fringe hours.

“Self-care needs to be included in what you should be doing. It is not a privilege. It is a necessity.”

“Acknowledgment of your passions is significant, courageous, and meaningful.”

“We must refuse to let our calendars control us.”

“The prioritization of our passions benefits us in every way  — internally (spiritually, mentally, and emotionally) and externally (in our relationships with other people and how we interact with them).

“Gratitude transforms us from the inside out.”

 

All You Could Ask For

Mike Greenberg

All You Could Ask For follows the lives of three women — Brooke, Samantha, and Katherine — who don’t know each other but whose lives intersect late in the book through a listserv for women with breast cancer. I wished their stories intersected earlier in the book because there was no common thread for me as I read (other than that they all came from Greenwich, Connecticut), making me wonder why and how the three characters, who were so vastly different, would come together. Were they sisters? All friends of a mutual friend? I knew before reading the book that breast cancer was involved (because I am a fan of the author and had heard him talk about the book) but was unsure how it came into play as I read.

The novel is about female friendships and support, yet the characters meet so late in the book that I didn’t really get enough of that. What I loved was that the characters were developed well enough that as each was diagnosed and dealt with both her diagnosis and treatment, I felt that we (readers) understood the characters well enough to see why they reacted the way they did. Even if we didn’t like it, we understood it. The battle is the same yet the battle plan is different for every single person dealing with the horrible disease. We all know a Brooke, a Samantha, or a Katherine. We can all understand how powerful a force having female friendships is. I hate to call this a “feel good” book since the subject matter is mostly certainly not that, but it’s nice to know that these friendships exist in real life and in books. My hope is that anyone dealing with a struggle has these friends to call upon.

What have you been reading?

Common Fears about Writing: What’s Holding You Back?

When we put ourselves in a vulnerable position (such as, let’s say, launching a book, or deciding to write one), it’s natural to have fears (Tweet).

In my editorial work over the years with authors, creatives, and solopreneurs who are writing a book, there are some common fears that show up over and over again. This is not an exhaustive list by any means. Rather, these are the ones that seem to plague writers most often. The key is to recognize your fears so they don’t paralyze you from moving forward with your project. Doing so enables you to overcome them. (More on that later.) Four of the most common fears related to writing are: fear of failure, perfectionism, imposter syndrome, and analysis paralysis. Let’s take a closer look at each one.

Fear of Failure

No one likes rejection, no matter what form it takes. That’s essentially what this fear comes down to, isn’t it? We’ll write a book and no one will buy it. There goes our self-worth down the drain. When we have a fear of failure, we convince ourselves that our book will be awful and no one will buy it, so why even bother writing it?

Perfectionism

Perfectionists have trouble hitting “Send” or “Publish.” We (and I say “we” because this is the one that gets me every time!) hold onto even an email for far too long because we want it to be juuuuussssttt right. Error free. AKA perfect. Well, let’s be real. Virtually no copy (whether an email, a blog post, a book — you name it) is perfect. Why? Because human eyes are imperfect. Even the best editors only catch about 95-97% of errors. (And also: Spellcheck is not the answer.) So perfectionists hang onto a draft thinking that they’ll go through it one more time. One more time becomes two more times. On and on.

Imposter Syndrome

Who am I to be writing a book about anything? I'm no expert. Does that sound familiar? If so, you might have imposter syndrome. You feel like a fake. You may not be a trained, professional writer, but you are a business owner with a story to share. You are an expert. You just have to convince yourself that you can be a writer, too.

Analysis Paralysis

This is more commonly called overthinking. You think of all the reasons why your book won’t be great, why you shouldn’t write a book, why you’re not an expert. You overthink to the point of being paralyzed to make progress. So you don’t. You stay stuck, not moving forward.

“For every failure, there’s an alternative course of action. You just have to find it. - Mary Kay Ash (Tweet)

Do any of these fears resonate with you? There is good news: Once you’ve identified your fear, you can analyze its root cause and then create a mantra to help you overcome it when you feel it creeping in. Here’s my system. (Obviously I’m an editor and publishing guru, not a psychologist, so keep that in mind.)

Step 1: Identify the fear.

Step 2: Explore the root cause.

Step 3: Visualize success.

Step 4: Create a mantra.

For me, it’s perfectionism that really holds me back. (Step 1 - check.) I can pinpoint the moment perfectionism became something that I struggled with. I went to Catholic school for elementary school and had a teacher (Sister Frances) who told me I would never be able to work in books when I grew up if I could only get a 95% on an English test. (Step 2 - check.) That stuck with me and held me back for a long time. Finally I decided that a nun from 20 years ago wasn’t going to prevent me from doing what I wanted to do. I love seeing clients holding their finished books and selling their ebooks. (Step 3 - check.) I studied harder and still study the craft to this day. But I also recognize the limitations of humans. My error rate is consistently 2-3%, which is above average, and I am more than happy with that. (So are my clients!) When I miss an error or make a mistake in a post or email of my own, I remind myself (with a Post-It on my desk, always in view) that pencils have erasers for a reason. (Step 4 - check.) No one is perfect!

So tell me: Which fear do you most identify with? Maybe it’s one not even listed here; there are definitely others. Are you willing to put in the work so that it doesn’t hold you back? I hope so!

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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 750words.com.

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.

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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 www.jodibrandoneditorial.com/book-prep-bootcamp. Join us and get ready to write your book!

So You Want to Write a Book?

Don't let overwhelm get the best of you

You might think deciding to write a book is the hard part. If only! Writing and publishing a book is quite an undertaking, and it’s easy to get overwhelmed — unless you have a plan. It is best to work on the front end — before you even write your first word — to prevent overwhelm and keep you moving forward. What does that look like? Here are some tips.

Get organized.

Whether you’re an outliner or a brain dumper, get your thoughts organized and on paper/screen. You can always go back and edit your notes, but just get it all out there to start. Once you see where all your thoughts and notes are focused, you can begin to see the direction your book is taking. This will help you create a rough structure for your book, which will be critical during those moments when writer’s block hit or when you don’t feel like writing. (Yes, they WILL happen, I’m sorry to say.) When those moments hit, pick a section and add more notes to that one section, reworking as needed.

Create a writing routine.

Are you someone who lives by routine or time-blocks your day? Even if that answer is no, it is important to create a routine to keep you moving forward with your book. This might be X words per day, or it might be X hours per week. Everyone’s routine looks different, depending on you and your other commitments (work, family, personal obligations, etc.). Look at your current responsibilities and daily tasks to see where your free time occurs (or where you can free some time) and decide what amount of time you can devote to your writing.

Practice writing.

Write every day, even if it’s for 10 minutes. You may not always be writing for your book, but writing is like a muscle that gets stronger with use, and that muscle needs to grow!

Set a publishing plan.

It’s never too soon to think about whether you want to self-publish or publish traditionally, via a publishing house. There are pros and cons for each. Many business owners choose self-publishing, and you can see my post on self-publishing here. When do you want to release your book? How much time do you need to get published? Start with your end date and work backward. This will also play a factor in creating your writing routine.

Think about marketing.

You certainly don’t need a full-fledged marketing plan at this point, but it’s also never too soon to think about marketing. A marketing plan could range from creating your email list or giving your current list “sneak previews” of what is to come (book cover, quotes, etc) to planning a book launch party to having book ambassadors who help promote your book.


Are you ready to start the journey to writing your own book? I promise it is not as scary as it may seem. I am getting ready to launch a course called “Book Prep Bootcamp” all about that front end work, and I’d love for you to join me. At the end of the course, you’ll be armed and ready to write, with a book map, a writing routine, and a research plan. Registration will open on May 12th. Before we start Book Prep Bootcamp, join me on May 12th for a webinar called “I’m Going to Write a Book! Now What?” - you can register for that here.

 

What a Book Can Do for Your Business

There’s a lot of talk these days in the business community and within the creatives community about scaling, leveling up, and creating passive income. One of the best ways to do this is to write a book or ebook. You maybe wondering why - what can a book do for you and your business?

Let me count the ways….

Credibility

A book establishes you as an expert in your field. This will help you attract better clients in line with the services and/or products you offer. Testimonials from clients who are recognized in their industry will do wonders for your credibility and make you sought after. People will begin to associate your name with the topic you’re writing about, which allows you to become the go-to person for people seeking information about your topic. And if you stay top-of-mind, you’ll be referred by others. In other words, your credibility is tied into visibility. Speaking of visibility...

A book establishes you as an expert in your field. (Tweet)

Visibility

Have you ever seen an author featured on Good Morning America as the subject expert on a story they’re running? Me, too. Or an author who runs a business showcasing their product on a product review/roundup on TODAY? Me, too. That could be you! A book can give radio/TV personalities and producers, podcast hosts, print journalists, and others a reason to reach out to you. And being featured in the media can grow your audience like nobody’s business! You’ll have an added blurb for press releases, starbursts on your next cover, and so forth that say “As Seen in Inc.” or “Featured on Good Morning America”—and that is just what helps you get more of these opportunities. As a reader, what does it make you think about an author when you see those starbursts and blurbs? You automatically think that author knows what the heck he or she is talking about and would be a good resource on that topic. And with a book, that could be you! (Do you see how credibility and visibility are tied together?)

Growth

Once you have one book written and published, the credibility and visibility it creates builds the platform for writing your second book.  One book can lead to another, which can lead to a discounted bundle price on your website, more back-of-the-room sales at speaking engagements, or perhaps a live workshop or a course based on your book, and more. Think of your first book as a building block to grow your visibility and credibility (there are those two words again!). The possibilities are limited only by your imagination—truly. Well, that and the number of hours in a day.

Think of your first book as a building block to grow your visibility and credibility. (Tweet)

Money

Many people consider money a dirty word or something not to be talked about, but as my friend Heather Crabtree often says, “You’re running a business, not a charity.” It’s true. Wanting to make money doesn’t make you (or me) greedy. Money enables us to do so many things with our business: Hiring employees, scaling, and launching a new product or service are just a few examples. As the old saying goes, you’ve got to spend money to make money. I tell my self-publishing clients this all the time—that a small investment up-front can pay off in spades down the line.


As you can imagine, this is just a handful of the reasons to write a book. They’re interconnected: Credibility leads to visibility which allows for growth and puts money back into your pocket. The possibilities are endless! Can you think of any other ways a book could help your business grow? Let me know in the comments.

Ready to start brainstorming? What are some areas of your business that you could teach and share with others—those areas that you feel most confident in? That’s where you begin when thinking about where to start 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.

Proofreader

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!