Editor? Proofreader? What’s in Your Indie Budget?

So you’re hot on language, your grammar is impeccable, your style puts Strunk and White to shame and like Akeelah you could win any old spelling bee. Why would you, as an indie author, need to pay for outside help? Well, you only have to read a few Amazon reviews to know that readers can be an unforgiving bunch, quick to spot a typo or a missing space between paragraphs. As an indie author you have to make some difficult choices about how much assistance you can afford to enlist. We wrote a whole post on the importance of a good book cover and we still feel that unless you’re amazingly hot stuff at art, you’re probably wiser to leave that to a professional. But here’s Ellie Campbell’s take on things.

 

Having a good editor is brilliant. Our first editor, Emma at Arrow Books, was instrumental in whipping How To Survive Your Sisters and When Good Friends Go Bad into shape. She pointed out that the endings were too short, the middle was too long, told us which characters needed motivation or fleshing out, where we’d over-described, repeated ourselves, or missed some vital information. After our rewrite, she did a massive line edit, cutting, stretching and pulling those babies until they cried uncle and turned into halfway decent novels. And did we learn a lot from her! These days we rely on our two sets of eyes, multiple drafts and hard-won experience to get the story tight and hopefully catch any glaring errors. We might then send the book to one or two amazing friends who can be trusted to say things like ‘your hero’s a bit of a creep’ instead of just ‘it’s great, honest’. BTW, if you have discerning friends like that, never let them go. They’re pearls beyond price.

 

Then copy editors, what an amazing job they do. Who knew that you’d been misquoting Shakespeare or the words of that pop song for your entire existence? Or what year Madonna adopted her black biker jacket, cropped bleach hair, ‘bad girl’ look? How could the fact that your own heroine changed from blonde to a redhead halfway through the manuscript escape you? A copy editor will check facts, correct misspellings, grammar and punctuation, notice when you switch from British to American English, or say ‘10’ instead of ‘ten’, warn you of potential lawsuits and altogether bring clarity and consistency to every element of your manuscript.

 

In fact Ellie Campbell has been saved from all kinds of awkward bloopers by copy editors, and anything they might have missed (or we’ve introduced in the flurry of a last-minute re-write), our proofreader, Wendy Janes, will spot. Traditionally proofreaders come along at the end of the process, when the edited manuscript has been printed as a proof, looking out for printing errors, spotting those awkward word and page breaks – and of course the dreaded typos.

 

Meanwhile, about those typos – isn’t it amazing how you can read and re-read the book numerous times, scan each word line by line, yet still those little devils slip past you? Apparently the reason it’s so hard to spot your own typos is because your clever busy brain skips over details like transposed or missing letters because it knows the meaning you’re trying to convey and focusses on that. In other words it sees what it expects to see. And that, more than anything, is why we need outside help. But perhaps you have a different experience. Or another professional you – and your writing career – couldn’t live without?

 

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11 thoughts on “Editor? Proofreader? What’s in Your Indie Budget?

  1. I chose to have my new children’s book professionally edited rather than get a professional to design the cover. This is partly due to the fact that my artwork is made of fondant and has a shelf life and it is a quite expensive to have a food artist and photographer and a set for the cover design. The other reason was, however, that I really hate finding errors in books and wanted to avoid this in my own books.

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  2. Pingback: Smorgasbord Blogger Daily – Monday June 5th 2017 – Tina Frisco, Joyce Gatschenberger, Ali Isaac #BloggersBash and Take Five Authors | Smorgasbord – Variety is the spice of life

  3. Professionalism is key. BUT – as others have pointed out, you do need to trust your own instincts and not bow to pressure to change if you feel wary about it. Some readers will like the change, others won’t. Be true to yourself – but invest in top quality copy editing and proof reading too!

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  4. Before I sent my debut novel out into the world I submitted the first three chapters to professional scrutiny. Among other suggestions the editor advised me to make a change to the opening lines, to join several actions together. Good advice, I thought, and made the changes. The novel was eventually published by Accent Press. Hurrah! But one reviewer criticised the same first lines, on the grounds that they combined actions you can’t perform at the same time (in this case, reaching under a pillow for a mobile and reading a text). We were aiming for an impression of movement and fluidity, but it just shows you can’t please everybody.

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