I'm very pleased to have Georgia Carter Mathers on Fantasy Fun Reads today. She has some great tips for Indie authors, tips I wish I had read when I first started publishing.
Editing in the wild wild west of indie book production
The life of an indie writer is like weathering a dust storm in an old western. We must produce quality books quickly or die a death that results from our readers forgetting about us. We don’t have the benefit of a big publishing team or a big budget. When the dust storm arrives, we’re tough enough to ride it out, release another book, and still find time to socialize on Facebook and woo that blogger.
While a trade-off in book production results when speed is favored over quality, indie writers can still produce books with minimal errors to a strict time schedule, sometimes in as little as three months, by implementing some or all of these suggestions:
- Assess your goals
If you’re writing as a hobby and hoping to make a little bit of money on the side, you may only want to take up some of these suggestions. Consider all of these suggestions if you’re writing as a professional writer and you want to make a lot of money.
- Be proactive; learn your grammar and your style guide.
This is one of the most important suggestions I can make to you. It is based on the way that journalists work. Because sub-editors are being phased out or outsourced, journalists are now required to produce high volumes of work, accurately and quickly, and they must produce material that is grammatically correct every single time. An indie writer is no different. Getting it right the first time is in your best interests.
If you know you have a problem with grammar, do something about it. Buy a book of exercises that teaches basic sentence construction. Work through it slowly. Learn to recognize basic errors, and it will save you time and money in book production. At the very least, learn from websites like the Purdue Online Writing Lab.
Get a copy of your style guide and use it as a reference until you start feeling comfortable with the conventions. If you’re writing for the US audience, you might want to use The Chicago Manual of Style.
- Develop an army of beta-readers, but don’t treat them like editors.
Rather than give your manuscript to one or two friends, give it to upward of six people in your network. Select those who like the genre you’re writing in and give it to those who can provide feedback on the issues you’re writing about. When they have finished reading your manuscript, ask them whether they enjoyed it and what they thought could be improved.
If you’re writing a character from another culture, get a sensitivity reader. Be prepared to hear that you’ve written a stereotype that makes them angry. This means that you need to be prepared to either dump or significantly rework your characterization. Be prepared to repeat this process until the sensitivity reader is happy.
Use your beta-readers to make decisions about how much work your manuscript realistically needs and whether it is worth spending money to publish this manuscript.
Some beta-readers will correct your grammar, and that is great. If they are correct, by all means, thank them, take their advice, and make the changes. But they will not be able to correct grammar reliably; they don’t have the skill required. If the indie has used a beta-reader instead of an editor, the indie will eventually receive feedback that an unacceptable amount of mistakes have been missed. Often there is no time for another round of editing. The indie writer is already in the middle of producing another book, and they will have to wear the embarrassment.
- Develop an editing schedule that includes all the editing phases and stick to this schedule
The kinds of editing that occur in each phase can differ between editors, so it is best to ask what the editor will do before you hire them. Incorporate the scope of the work to be done into the editing contract.
Make sure your editing includes structural and developmental editing, copyediting or line editing, and proofreading after your manuscript has been put into the book template. Don’t skip any of these steps. You will be sorry if you do.
Lay out your editorial schedule and keep to it as though it is your bible. The structural and developmental edit might come back with editorial suggestions that will take a long time to fix, but wherever possible, keep to your schedule.
- Develop an editing team you know you can rely on.
So, this all seems like a long and drawn out process. It doesn’t have to be. When you’ve done it once, you will learn what works for you and what doesn’t. Basically, you will develop a set of procedures or steps that you know will need to be completed to produce a quality book. You will get quicker the more books you produce. You will learn who supported you and who didn’t. You will also learn which team member is worth the money you paid them. All this increases your efficiency in producing quality books.
When you follow these steps, and you’re announcing over social media that you’re releasing another book, your readers will come back for more. The behind-the-scenes-stuff that often feels like an almighty dust storm has not influenced the quality of your latest book. When readers buy it, they will have nothing to do but enjoy the book, knowing you produced it with love and skill. They’ll also know another book will be coming from you very soon.
Georgia Carter Mathers is an Australian writer and freelance editor. She holds a Bachelor of Arts, an Associate Degree in Creative Writing, and is currently halfway through a Graduate Certificate in Publishing at The University of Sydney. Her latest book, Trelloran Seduction, is a dystopian romance. She is currently writing the second book in the series, The Miana Prophecy. You can find Georgia at her website https://darklovestories.com
Trelloran Seduction is available for pre-order!