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Self-Publishing: Everyone Needs An Editor

Ask any professional writer about the need for a fresh set of eyes and they’ll tell you it’s essential. I don’t have an editor for my blog posts and newsletters, but when I write long form, whether a white paper, article or book, I always collaborate with one.

When putting together my team for Live Full Throttle I knew I’d use Aprill Jones (@aprillwrites on Twitter). Aprill writes copy and is as an account social media content manager with an area advertising agency, in addition to being a freelance copywriter and editor. We’ve hired each other to edit client’s book projects.

Editor as Reader Advocate

There are different kinds of editing assignments, only two of which I’ll cover here, the “conceptual” editor and the “copy” editor.

The conceptual editor  is akin to an architect and a copy editor to a home inspector. The conceptual editor guides the writer in how to present the material for maximum impact, while the copy editor makes sure the final output doesn’t distract the reader with inconsistencies, punctuation, grammar and other details of craftsmanship. Some projects call for another layer of edits between conceptual and copy, because familiarity with the work dulls the senses (and that familiarity begins with the writer). Editors are the readers’ advocates for the project.

For Live Full Throttle, I asked Aprill to focus somewhere between conceptual and copy edits on the first round.  I originally wrote:

In 2005 Karen was diagnosed with Choroidal Melanoma, a form of eye cancer. Five years later, in a three-month period, her position with an Episcopal parish was terminated, her husband left her, and she was literally run over by a Mack truck while riding her motorcycle out of state.

She described cancer was “a skate” compared to the triple-whack.

What’s a laid off minister facing divorce do with a paid sabbatical? Take a motorcycle trip on a Suzuki Boulevard, of course. But what began as a wind-in-the-face opportunity to assess life and career options ended in an orthopedic exoskeleton from neck to waist.

After Aprill’s feedback it became:

In 2005 Karen was diagnosed with Choroidal Melanoma, a form of eye cancer, which she described as “a skate” compared to what came five years later. In a three-month period during 2010, her position with an Episcopal parish was terminated and her husband left her.

So what’s a laid-off minister facing divorce do with a paid sabbatical between employment and unemployment? Take a motorcycle trip on her Suzuki Boulevard, of course.But what began as a wind-in-the-face opportunity to assess life and career options ended in an orthopedic exoskeleton from neck to midsection when Karen was literally run over by a Mack truck several states from home.

Advice for self-publishers

If you are a business professional planning to use a book as a door opener for speaking engagements or as a leave-behind with clients, remember that old saw about judging a book by its cover: people will judge YOU by your book. Your book should be at least as professionally designed, written and edited as it would have been in the hands of an experienced publisher.

No matter how well you write, you need an editor or two. Non-fiction writers, I’m not telling you to hire the local high school’s British Literature teacher as an editor, I’m advising you to hire someone who will read your work on behalf of your intended audience. Works of high literary fiction read very differently than self-help and inspirational books, which is how Live Full Throttle is categorized.  The white papers, newsletters and books I write for financial professionals are different from Brit Lit, too. Command of the language and its conventions is just the starting point when looking for an editor.

I wrote a post last year about how to find the right ghost writer for your project. Some of that applies to finding the right editor:

Before you hire someone to write for you, be sure they have domain expertise. My specialty is business writing and nonfiction because I have the background and education to do the job well.  If someone asked me to write for pharma or hi tech I’d have to take a pass — actually I’d have to question why they called me in the first place!

The right relationship starts with due diligence, including work samples and client referrals.

For self-publishers hiring book design firms, ask if the firm can refer editors they’ve worked with in the past. Some firms even have copy editors on staff.

When I ghost write, I also function as conceptual editor, but I wouldn’t take on a copy editing job. If you’d like to work with Aprill and me on a project, send me an email.

About Tamela M. Rich

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From Charlotte, NC, Tamela writes books, articles, speeches and presentations for business professionals. From "the road" she writes about the people, places and experiences she discovers and the life lessons she learns from them. Invite her to share some of her lessons from the road at your next event!

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  • Hiring a professional editor is really essential. It is always better to have your manuscript proofread by someone else other than yourself. This gives your work a better polish and ensures content quality.

  • Yes, we all get too close to our own work to see the inconsistencies and mistakes. Spell check isn’t an editor!