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1. What You Can And Can't DIY When Launching Your Book: Editing

1. What You Can And Can't DIY When Launching Your Book: Editing

1. What You Can And Can't DIY When Launching Your Book: Editing

As an indie author, you’re basically DIY-ing the publishing process. But that doesn’t mean DIY-ing every single aspect of your book project. Editing, design, and illustration can be expensive – which of these can you reasonably do yourself, and which are better left for the pros? In this article, we'll dig into editing.

As an indie author, you’re basically DIY-ing the publishing process. But that doesn’t mean DIY-ing every single aspect of your book project. Editing, design, and illustration can be expensive – which of these can you reasonably do yourself, and which are better left for the pros? In this article, we'll dig into editing.

As an indie author, you’re basically DIY-ing the publishing process. But that doesn’t mean DIY-ing every single aspect of your book project. Editing, design, and illustration can be expensive – which of these can you reasonably do yourself, and which are better left for the pros? In this article, we'll dig into editing.

Editing, design, illustration, marketing. None of these are a single thing. They are each a broader category of work, within which there are different services and specializations. Here’s what I mean:

  • there are up to four different types of editing;

  • there are at least two different types of design;

  • and there are as many styles of illustrations as there are genres of writing;

So when you hear blanket statements like, “you must hire a professional editor” the first thing you should be asking yourself is, “which type of editor?” and the second thing you should be asking is, “does this actually apply to me?”

Developmental Edit

What is developmental editing?

Here’s an excellent definition from editor and author Katherine Pickett’s guest article on Jane Friedman’s blog, What Is a Developmental Editor and What Can You Expect?

“Developmental editors (DEs) are concerned with the structure and con­tent of your book. If your manuscript lacks focus, your DE will help you find the right direction—the ‘right’ direction generally being the most marketable. [...] Development editing is also where problems of inconsistent tone or an unclear audience often surface. [...] When work­ing with a DE, be prepared to be challenged.”

Does it apply to me?

Personally, I think nearly every book could be improved by a developmental edit, fiction and non. One exception to that might be a very simple picture book or concept book, such as a cookbook. I’m a die-hard fan, but even I need to recognize that (a) it’s really expensive; and (b) there are free alternatives.

Can I DIY a developmental edit?

If you aren’t going to hire a professional developmental editor, then try to use a combination of the following:

  1. Crit groups & manuscript swaps

  2. Beta readers very early on in the process

  3. Do it literally yourself

During this process, I highly recommend two books. The first is from Rayne Hall, Novel Revision Prompts: Make Your Good Book Great - Self-Edit Your Plot, Scenes & Style. Frankly, the entire Writer’s Craft series is worth collecting. Have a look through.

The second, and this is the one I used to really dive in and solve plot holes, missing themes, bad scene organization and whatnot, is Rock Your Revisions: A Simple System for Revising Your Novel by Cathy Yardley. It is phenomenal.

Line Edit

What is line editing?

If the developmental edit is about structure, the line edit is where you get to really play with words. Aka: it’s the fun part! 

Does it apply to me?

Yes. Every book needs a good line edit, be it professional or DIY. Just don’t skip this step.

Can I DIY a line edit?

Absolutely. And since you’ll be focusing a lot on word choice, there’s a set of thesauruses by Becca Puglisi and Angela Ackerman in the Writers Helping Writers series that every novelist should own. They include titles like The Emotional Thesaurus, The Conflict Thesaurus, and seven others. These are also all available on Kindle Unlimited, but they are priceless. Go get ‘em all.


Copy Edit

What is copy editing?

Simplifying, it’s a pre-proofread. It happens after the line edit. Folks tend to get line edit and copy edit mixed up, but it’s far more similar to the proofread in my opinion (and also in the NY Book Editors opinion).

Does it apply to me?

I’m going to get myself in hot waters with all the editors out there, but… you can do this yourself. Think of it as a run-through looking for errors with a fine-toothed comb.

Can I DIY a copy edit?

Absolutely.


Proofreading

What is proofreading?

When the untrained ear hears “editing” this is usually what they think of. Proofreading is the last step in reviewing a text before it gets published or shared. It's all about fixing small mistakes and making sure things like punctuation and capitalization are correct and consistent.

Does it apply to me?

Yes, all books should be proofread.

Can I DIY a proofread?

The good news is that there are tools which can help you DIY. My personal favorite is ProWritingAid and I have a lifetime plan. You can also enlist the help of friends and family to do a read-through for you, checking for errors. Folks want to support, so let them!

You can also go the professional route. And if you do so, the good news is that the proofread is the least expensive of all the edits.

Sidebar: If you enjoyed the simplicity and honestly of this advice, then you'll love Frontlist. It walks you through every task in the book production and book launch process, with clear instructions on what to do daily.

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As indie authors, we have to tackle various aspects of the publishing process ourselves, but it’s crucial to know when to seek professional help, and when we can handle things on our own. Hopefully, this brief guide will help you make the most efficient choices for you. 

Next up in the series, we will do the same type of analysis for book and cover design work answer the question: can I illustrate my own book?

About the Author

Tara Kelly left a cushy Silicon Valley job to pursue writing. Since then, she’s published a book on UX design, as well as seven children’s picture books under the pen name Kelly Tills where she tackles topics like neurodiversity, gender, and why you shouldn’t steal bananas from a monkey. Tara is the co-founder and CEO of Frontlist.io where she helps other indie authors launch their books on their own, and without falling prey to the predatory underbelly of the author services industry.

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