In 2011, for a number of reasons, but primarily time, I decided to self-publish my Darcy McClain and Bullet Thriller Series. I felt it was time to cut out the middleman and sell directly to the buyer—my readers. The books would either sell—or languish—in online retail sites or brick and mortar bookstores.
As an author, my first priority was to produce a quality product, one I could be proud of from cover to cover. So my first order of business was to hire an editor, a professional invaluable to the success of your novel. Right on the heels of hiring an editor, I hired a professional book cover designer.
Having written my first novel and experienced firsthand how much work goes into turning out a quality book, I knew the editing part would be time-consuming and tedious, especially since my plots center on technology or science. A good writer will do her utmost to be spot-on with facts. It takes an inordinate amount of time to thoroughly research various subjects, but it ensures the authenticity and the feasibility of your plotlines. Therefore, one of my main criteria for hiring the “right” editor was a keen eye for detail, in addition to the traditional skills an editor brings to producing a quality manuscript.
When I decided to self-publish, I had already written five novels in the series and had rough drafts for an additional three, so I wanted to find an editor I could build a long-term relationship with, someone who could grow with my characters as they grew, someone who knew them almost as well as I knew them. Sure, situations change for any number of reasons, and the editor you have today may not be available tomorrow, so you have to be flexible. Still, I hired my first editor with the hope of having her on board for the life of the series. And when I felt I needed a second editor, a fresh pair of eyes, I hired her with the same thought, hoping she would be available to edit the entire Darcy McClain and Bullet Thriller Series. Why hire a second editor? I’ll get to that in a moment.
Recently, I’ve read several articles about editors missing or making mistakes during their edits. Editing is far more than simply finding typos in a manuscript, but it seems that many newbie authors like to point out mistakes or challenge their editors regarding oversights or errors. Sure, I’ve come across typos or errors that have been overlooked, but there is a polite way to point them out to your editor. If they are minor, I simply make the correction(s) during one of my many passes of the edited book. Personally, I don’t expect—and have never expected—my editor to apologize for any oversight. Editing is, in my opinion, a collaborative effort between my editors, proofreader, and me. We are all striving for the same goal.
I learned early on that to catch over 95 percent of your mistakes, especially with plots centered on a tech or medical theme, the more pairs of fresh eyes on the manuscript, the better. Yes, there will always be a margin of error. So to ensure the level of excellence all editors, proofreaders, and authors are striving for, hire more eyes as an insurance policy.
To date, my most complex plot was in Genocide, book three in the series. I wrote the first draft in 1990 and the novel had undergone extensive edits, but none by a professional until 2015. The book was released in 2017. Because of the complexity of the plot, its scientific theme, and the cadre of characters, my “test readers” (also known as beta readers), none of whom were professional editors, suggested I simplify the plot. Intimately familiar with the plot and the characters, I had no problem keeping track of these elements and no intention of simplifying the plot. Instead, I decided to hire an additional set of editorial eyes and have her either agree or disagree with my test readers’ assessment. That was when I hired my second editor, as well as a proofreader. Expense-wise, is hiring two or more editors always feasible? No, but fortunately, the investment has paid off in good reviews and steady sales.
Even after ten pairs of fresh eyes on the manuscript, excluding my own, my proofreader emailed me to point out that she was confused by my dockworker Don being in two places at once. I had inadvertently given two different characters the same name. None of us had caught this oversight, minor in the entire scheme of the five-hundred-plus-page novel. But the catch was most appreciated—proving that once again, editing is a collaborative effort.
One of the most rewarding compliments I have ever received from a reader was this: “Genocide is really four books in one when you look at the richness in the storylines and the fireworks at the end. I keep being amazed about all the topics Krapf has researched and talks so easily about in her books. She made a complex plot with a large cast of characters simple to understand and easy to follow.” This I attribute to listening to my test readers and then hiring a team of good editors to reach our goal.
Most traditionally published books go through multiple editing passes and rounds of proofreading, and still errors of one kind or another slip through. As much as we would love to be perfect, we are not, but that doesn’t keep good editors and proofreaders from striving for perfection. So much goes into editing. And as I pointed out earlier, editing is far more than simply spotting typos. While this is important, it’s minor in comparison to the many hats an editor must wear—for example, the skills they bring to the table include developmental, substantive editing, stylistic editing, copy editing, and proofreading, all of which are time-consuming and demanding in their requirements. And certainly all authors require more than one type of editing. Read more about the different levels of editing here: https://www.sokanu.com/careers/editor/
Your first step as an author is to polish and repolish your work to make it the best manuscript possible before submitting it to your editor. Not only will this cut your editing time and reduce your editing costs, but it will also greatly decrease the number of mistakes in your manuscript. And remember that mistakes are best prevented by doing more rounds of editing, and by more than one editor.
I mentioned that editing is a collaborative effort, a partnership between the author, the editor(s), proofreader, all working toward the same goal: to produce a quality product. A fellow writer once bragged that he had published over seventeen books, and wannabe authors admired him for being so prolific. Half an hour later, he informed me he had fired his editor because four of his books had been released with “untold errors.” I asked him if he had reviewed the book, word by word, after it had been edited. Well, no. Do you? I do. As arduous a task as it may be, especially after all the effort and time spent researching and writing the book, I reread the book at every step along the way—multiple times during the polishing stage, after every edit, and after it has been typeset, as errors can occur after the book has been laid out as well. After the book has been proofread, I read the novel again, and I read the proof copy from Amazon before the book is released for sale. And recently I listened to and read along with my entire novel, Brainwash—four times during audiobook production.
Whether you are a new author or a number-one bestselling author, you will make mistakes. Just be gracious enough to admit them, correct them if you can, and then move on. Mistakes happen. Even Sandra Brown acknowledges them. Under her contact information you will find this disclaimer: Damaged Books, Typos, Etc. Typos happen. We do our best to catch them, and believe us when we say each manuscript passes through many many sets of eyes and hands, but those eyes and hands are human. Please forgive us.
This is a great message to other authors as well as to readers who couldn’t know what it takes to produce a properly finished book!