What Authors Really Want

Most authors recognize that in order to get published today, a manuscript must be edited and prepared for publication before it is ever sent for consideration. Most publishers today do not have the staff, the time, or the money to edit a book once it has been accepted, unless, of course, you are one of the elite authors for whom such things are still the norm.
That said, most authors understand that they must have another eye critique and edit their work before it is sent off to a publishing house.

What many authors don’t understand, however, is that an editor’s job is not simply to rave about the work, declare it ready to go, and fix a few spelling and punctuation errors. Any editor worth paying will read the book with a critical eye and provide honest feedback. Editors should not be hired as ego strokers. It is our job to look at the work and find ways to improve it, ways that would be readily apparent to any reader at any decent publishing house.

As a writer, I know how hard it is to put my work out for review, after I’ve slaved over every sentence, nuanced every line, and agonized over the structure, plot, and storyline. But I also know that when I do have other, knowledgeable readers critique my work, I am able to improve my writing in ways that weren’t readily apparent to me.

As an editor, I have frequently encountered those authors who truly want my professional opinion and suggestions. These are the delightful clients, ones for whom I am willing to put in longer hours and more effort. But there are a few authors who seek my advice and then get indignant when I make suggestions for improvement. For these authors, their works are their children, and how dare I criticize what they have created. These are the authors from whom I know I should run, because neither of us will be satisfied: not them with my editing, and not me with their final product.

But that’s what makes the world go round. Me, with my opinions, and they, with theirs. As an editor, I have to realize that I cannot always edit a work to my vision, but must accommodate the author’s vision first and foremost, but only after I have given my honest opinion, assessment, and suggestions.

Last Stop: Editing

It amuses me to see how many people have months to write a paper, an article, or a book, and yet wait until the 11th hour to get it edited. In the past few weeks, I’ve received several Ph.D. proposals and dissertations to edit, many of which were due the following week or week after. A few have only needed formatting and cleaning up, but others have required major rewrites and reorganization.

Few people realize that early editing is key. Once the outline is completed and a first draft has been completed, that is the time to get an editor, simply to verify that the paper is on track, to catch errors in organization and presentation of facts early on. Otherwise, it’s like building a car and completing it, down to the leather seats and the hi-fidelity sound system, only to discover that the two front wheels point forward and the two rear wheels point sideways. All that extra work amping up the interior for nothing, because you have to go back to the drawing board on the initial design.

Design, check your design, refine your design, then build. That’s the key to success. Same for editing. Organize, draft, check your draft through editing, rewrite, and do a final edit. Simple.

Book Editing

Published books don’t “just happen.” There is a great deal of work that goes into getting a book published. Of course, the author must write the book, and then the “back” stages begin, primarily the editing cycles.

I offer four levels of editing. First is an Editing Assessment, in which I read the book and make notes on what further editing is required. This is a fixed-price service. The assessment then determines what further editing is necessary to prepare the book for submission for publication: Mechanical editing (fixing the Ps and Qs of an otherwise-polish manuscript), structural editing (fixing the organizational and continuity problems, along with mechanical errors), and finally, comprehensive editing (in which I work on character development, story and plot, structure, and mechanical problems).

Because so few publishers today will spend time “nurturing” a new author as they did in days of old, any manuscript sent for consideration for publishing must already be edited and polished, ready to go. That’s not to say a publisher won’t have suggestions on editing the manuscript, but an error-free, ready-to-roll manuscript has a much better chance of making it through the gateway than does a document filled with errors and story gaps.

Most independent publishers suggest that new, and proven, authors run their manuscripts past an editor before submitting them, to save time and effort on everyone’s part.

This is where I come in. Whether fiction or non-fiction, I thoroughly enjoy reading a manuscript and figuring out how to improve it. My services cost money but that is part of the process if a writer wishes to find publishing success. No guarantees, of course, but certainly improved potential!