As an editor, my job is to help authors get their manuscript to a place where they can feel confident putting it into the hands of readers. So here are some signs your book is ready to leave your hands and move into the hands of a professional editor.
1. Complete your book
This sounds obvious, but finishing your book and starting to look for an editor is a good place to start. An editor is a good next step whether you are self-publishing or querying for traditional publishing. Professional editors often book out months in advance.
However, if you have finished your book and haven’t scheduled with an editor, don’t panic. Most types of editing require your book to be completed before it can be edited, and this gives you time to do the below steps and fully prepare your manuscript for editing.
2. Let your manuscript rest
Get some space from your work. The best way to effectively self-edit your book is to get some space from it. This is probably the least popular advice that editors give to authors. As creatives, you have been invested in your book for months, maybe even years, and being told to stop working on it (even temporarily) is hard.
So what should you do with this time?
- Find your beta readers or street team
- Interview designers, editors, or look into formatting for your book
- Start a new project
- Take a break and catch up on some reading or shows
Giving yourself a break from your project allows your brain space to rest and quietly work to solve errors in the story. It also allows you to reground yourself in the real world and can make you more receptive to feedback.
3. Utilize critique partners, alpha readers, and/or beta reader feedback into your book
Is it possible to publish a book without this step? Of course.
Do I advise that? Not at all.
It can be hard to put your manuscript out to readers and ask them to point out errors, flaws, and inconsistencies, but, the truth is, asking for feedback and then utilizing that feedback not only strengthens your characters, your story, and your writing, but it helps you avoid harsh reviews and lets you have an inside view into what readers want and how well you’re meeting those needs. Your goal as an author is to tell a story that captivates your audience. If you skip the opportunity for reader feedback, you’re missing a chance to grab more readers in the future.
To make this step less scary try:
- Targeting your request for feedback to readers within your genre;
- Pick a small number (think 5 or less);
- Ask your readers specific questions to get directed feedback. It’s best to avoid generic feedback, like “this was good.” It’s nice to receive praise for your work, but remember this step is meant to help you improve your book at no or low cost before you seek professional services.
The more your preliminary readers can help you, the more your editor can dive deeper on more technical issues.
4. experiment with adding, deleting, and moving scenes, chapters, and words
Once you get feedback from your reader groups, your job is to incorporate it into your work. Depending on the type of writer you are, you may need to add or delete entire scenes or chapters. I’ve heard of authors deleting thousands of words for the sake of their story. (Reminder: those words are not truly lost. They served a purpose in teaching you about your writing, your characters, and your story.)
There’s lots of free information available online about editing techniques, questions to ask yourself, or lists of words to remove or be on the lookout for throughout your manuscript to guide your self-editing efforts.
However, it’s important to not go down an education procrastination hole here. If you know you’re struggling with an aspect of your book, go ahead and look it up, but know that it’s impossible to fully edit your book on your own. When you’re too close to the story you stop being able to see errors or holes because you know what you meant and become blind to missing information. It’s also impossible to know what you don’t know, which is where your editor will come in.
5. stop editing
You’ve done all the above things, and you no longer know what to do with your book. You deleted filler words. You plugged your plot holes. And you developed your characters as much as you know how. So now what?
This is when turning your book over to an editor is your next best step if you’re looking to publish it for readers. A common thread among authors is hitting a wall with self-editing. It usually feels like frustration at your work because you know it has room for growth but you’re not sure where. It can also feel like exhaustion at editing and like you’re going in circles with your ideas.
Editing and writing are different skills so it’s important to give yourself grace and know that you’re doing the right thing in turning your story over to someone who is professionally trained at looking at books and helping them to grow.
If this list looks like you, and you’re saying, I’m ready for an editor, now what? If you’re a romance or fantasy author and looking for editing done by E&A Editing Services click the contact me button below and submit your free 1000-word sample edit and schedule your free connection call.
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