Over the past few months, something curious has happened. I’ve had quite a few people ask me for advice on publishing, including whether I offer publishing courses as an independent author. The truth is, I’m not interested in creating author content like courses or handbooks, BUT I don’t mind a quick and dirty how-to on the very basics of the process. Bear in mind, I plan to tackle this on the simplest of terms, so if you want more in-depth guidance, I will add a few recommended authors at the end of this blog series to help you out.
Let’s start at the beginning, shall we? That seems like the logical place. Some authors will tell you that you should scrimp and save every penny to pour into your book’s editing, design, and production. Well, you can, but… what if you can’t? Does that mean your book will never fall into a reader’s hands? No, it doesn’t have to.
I have a different take on publishing. Of course, you should ensure your manuscript is as clean and polished as possible, carefully format and design the interior and the cover, and choose the publishing platform that works for you—but don’t spend your life savings to do it! It’s a bit like spending six figures on a college degree you will never use (which, I have done, and I’m here to tell you… just… don’t.) There is NO guarantee you will sell a single copy of your book, NO MATTER how much you spend on getting it to print.
So before you start this long journey, repeat after me… I DO NOT NEED ALL THE BRIGHT AND SHINY THINGS. You don’t. Maybe later once you’ve become a world-famous author, but for now, using your funds wisely is more important. After all, somewhere out there is a reader that needs to hear your story. Are you willing to deprive them of their happiness? What sort of monster are you?
So, let’s dig into why you’re reading this blog. You’ve spent countless hours researching, months or years writing, and now you’ve finished a novel. What do you do next?
There’s no way around it. Your book should be as polished as possible before you even think about publishing. But how? Well, there are a lot of ways to approach this. If you have unlimited funds, research and find a professional author (content editor, line editor, and proofreader) to scour your manuscript and help you make it the best it can be. If money is a hurdle, it’s okay! You can still produce a quality book without professional editing. The key here is to know your strengths and weaknesses. Bad at grammar? Find a friend, a teacher, a rocket scientist who drools over grammar and ask them for help. Are your plots like Swiss cheese? Grab an avid reader friend or colleague who can show you even the smallest plot hole (put your grown-up undies on for this one. It’s gonna hurt.)
For most of my YA romance or romantic comedies, I have a dedicated group of awesome alpha readers who help me find structural and other content issues. Once that’s all squared away, I read through the manuscript again and try to cut unnecessary words, use stronger verbs to avoid overuses of adverbs, eliminate my crutch words, etc.
Then, I utilize editing software and plug-ins like Grammarly, ProWriting Aid, and/or Autocrit. Many of these offer free options OR free trials. Whatever you do, do not trust the spell check option in Microsoft Word. It’s not sophisticated enough to dive into the nuances of the English language, and also—it’s kind of stupid.
Once I’ve made my grammar and spelling corrections, I have a few beta readers make another pass. After the beta read, I do an audio review. I listen to the book read aloud. This is a vital step for me because the human brain is an oddity that cannot be trusted. It’s easy for the eye to skip over problems or self-correct while reading. Listening uses the ear instead of the eye, and I catch so much editing this way.
Once my manuscript is all shiny and as perfect as it can be, it’s time to move on to formatting. Formatting requirements can vary from one distributor to another, but we’ll discuss that in the next blog in the series!
Until then—edit, edit, edit!
Have questions about this blog? Feel free to contact me!