Turning your book over to an editor comes with a mix of emotions that most authors are prepared for. They understand the angst that accompanies turning their work over to a professional trained to critique and fix errors within their work. But when I talk to authors, I try to warn them of the rollercoaster of emotions they should expect from actually getting the edits back.
“I can do edits in two days.”
“I’m ready for this.”
“That sounds like what I’m ready for.”
These are all real quotes from authors when warned of the impending thousands of edits and hundreds of comments that are going to be left on their manuscript by their editor. For reference the author who swore she could do her edits in two days, did not, in fact, get her edits done in two days once they were returned.
Phase One: Excitement
The day you get your edits back is undeniably exciting. Authors are usually on the edge of their seats ready to get their work back with the feedback they paid for. This day is the culmination of months of writing, research, interviews, and space from their writing. Authors wait with bated breath to see their edits and really feel like they’re entrenched in the publishing process.
Phase Two: Shock
The initial excitement fades quickly once authors take in the number of edits on their document. The estimate I give to most authors is to expect about 15-25% of your word count back in edits. What does that mean? If you have a 100k word manuscript you can expect about 15k-25k edits from your editor. Those edits can be additions, removals, or movement. But the system counts them as edits. That amount of color on your manuscript is overwhelming.
Even when you think you’ve prepared for it, the sight of your writing marked up can be shocking for anyone.
Phase Three: Curiosity
The day after receiving the editing package is when authors have moved a little bit past shock and are curious what has been suggested for their work. Everyone goes about reviewing edits in different ways. I provide a “how to” sheet to my authors with their edits that has not only the technicalities of reading their edits but also strategies and ways to read to read and accept/reject their edits for efficiency.
But this is where authors are ready to read through their comments or at least try to see what their editor suggested. You should be curious. You researched your editor and paid them to do this job. Read through their feedback.
Phase Four: Determination
At this point, you’ve read through the comments, their instructions, and their final letter to you and you’re ready to tackle your edits. You have decided how to accept or reject their in-text edits and you’re going to address their comments one by one. This is when you’re ready to get down to business and make your book market ready.
Phase Five: Exhaustion
Unfortunately for us, determination and motivation only lasts so long before exhaustion sets in. This is a great time to remember you wrote a whole book! You know that motivation only carries you so far and perseverance is essential. This can be an okay time to take a break, but I caution against not giving your break an end date. When you face exhaustion and overwhelm you’re more likely to walk away. Though space can be good, it can also taint your overall view of the project. So allow yourself to rest, but also remember this is a phase.
Phase Six: Doubt
Here is where I see authors start to fall back into imposter syndrome feelings. At this phase such a small audience has seen your book and spending days or weeks looking at corrections made by a professional really starts to get into your head. Day after day of reading comments for additions, removals, or possible problems test even the most detached authors.
Here’s your reminder from a real editor: your book is getting stronger, you’re not a horrible writer. You’re brave and you’re doing something really hard.
Phase Seven: Frustration
You paid all this money and you’ve worked this hard and for what?! You still have so much to do! Not only that but what does that comment even mean?! Does my editor really not understand my book?
That’s probably what’s running through your head at this stage. You did all this work and what was your editor even reading?! It’s obvious what you meant there. You don’t need to clarify anything, people aren’t stupid.
Take a breath. This feeling is because you’re coming off of exhaustion and you’re mentally trying and wishing you’re in the next step. Your frustration is valid and this is a good time for you to vent to one loved one and then remind yourself why you chose your editor and why you wanted this journey in the first place. It’s also a sign you’re moving into less turbulent phases.
Phase Eight: Second Wind/Recommitment
You’ll know you’ve entered this phase when you sit down at your computer to tackle your edits and start to feel less annoyed with the world around you and more like you can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Maybe this means you have hit a certain percentage or you’ve hit an “aha” moment with a comment or scene, but you’re ready to get this baby to print.
This phase can even look like creating a deadline or plan to move forward. Maybe you’ve set your release date, or your deadlines are approaching. Either way you’ve discarded your self-pitying emotions and have readied yourself to finish these edits even if it’s the death of you.
Spoiler alert: It will not be the death of you. I promise.
Phase Nine: Excitement
The light is getting closer, and your work really sounds like a book ready to hit your target audience. Even better you even like some if not all of your scenes! You may have even picked up the marketing of your book because you can’t wait to share your story with your readers. The chaos that was a bunch of colors on your manuscript has faded and you’ve rewritten the scenes that needed to be addressed. You’ve got the point where you’re fine tuning and maybe even formatting.
Phase Ten: Confidence/Acceptance
Finally! This is what you’ve been waiting for. You have a whole book, a book you wrote, tested, edited, marketed, and are now almost ready to release. You’ve got to the point where you’ve fallen back in love with your characters and story and accepted that perfection isn’t possible in the whole book. In this stage, you’ve realized your book is reader ready and there’s not much else you can do to strengthen it. This is where you breathe a sigh of release and prepare for release day.
When you read this list before you’ve been through the process you say, “obviously there are ups and downs.” But when you’re the person who gets your edits back and feel like you’re drowning in phases five through seven, it feels like you wasted your time and money.
I’m here to tell you that these feelings are normal and that makes them no less real or valid. If you really struggle in any of these phases, reach out to your editor if they’re open to it or vent to loved ones who’ve been supportive of your journey. If all else fails, know that it’s a phase and the biggest benefit of self-publishing is setting your own deadlines and publishing milestones. You’ve got this