Authors, here’s some advice based on my sixteen years’ experience as a book editor. Don’t make the mistake so many authors do, rushing the editing phase of the project as they try to bring their book to completion.
Enthusiastic authors are naturally in a hurry to get their book to print, so they often set up a time schedule in which that is to happen. They allow ample time for editing, theoretically. But typically, as delays pile on top of delays in the early stages of writing and revising, when the book is finally written they’re behind schedule. Then they attempt to catch up by rushing the editing.
A Good Job or a Fast Job?
This is a mistake, because it pressures an editor to “hurry up and get it done yesterday.” It’s like instructing someone to mow your lawn and demanding they get the job done in five minutes. Yes, it can be done, but what will your lawn look like afterwards? Your book will resemble that sorry lawn, if you ask for three weeks of editing to be accomplished in three days. And longer books easily can take three or more weeks in the shop.
Editing isn’t a job that can be done eight hours a day, as an editor’s mind must be fresh for the work to be done properly. If you pressure your editor to get done quickly, you’re almost ensuring the quality of the finished product will be less than if you allow her ample time to produce her very best work. Better to revise your book launch date than to rush your book editing to fit some self-imposed deadline. Once your book has gone to print, or been sent out to agents and publishers, it’s too late to correct the flaws that may be there. By then your reputation has been shot.
I’ve known many authors who have gone so far as sending out press releases and marketing materials naming the date of their book launch, only to find there’s no time for a thorough edit prior to the launch. Then they must choose between unveiling a book filled with embarrassments or delaying the book launch past the promised date. Either way, they come across looking unprofessional.
Hold Off the Launch
You only have one chance at a first impression, so hold off on that launch date at least until the editing phase of your book is complete. If you’re self-publishing, remember that after editing, the book must go through the design phase before it’s ready for printing, so it’s a better idea to delay the launch until the graphic designer is finished with her portion.
Of course, plenty of “self-proclaimed” editors will be happy to deliver back your book in a few days, but you pay in the long run. Only industry-trained developmental editors (substantive editors) have the skills to effectively edit for content and structure, addressing the deeper issues that most manuscripts have (and that new authors usually are blind to). This kind of editing takes time. A qualified editor can only do a thorough job of editing your book if you give her ample time to do it.
Take the Time to Hit Your Mark
If you’re willing to invest in your book and give it the time it takes for it be great, an excellent editor can make your book hit the mark. Keep in mind that editors worth their salt are not sitting without work, ready to pounce on the next project. They need some lead time before they can get to your book, because good editors are busy and usually have a wait list.
So plan to give your manuscript the time it needs to be edited properly. Your book deserves that. Hold off on naming your launch date at least until after your editor delivers your finished manuscript. Better yet, hold off until the designer delivers the camera-ready copy.
Jessi Rita Hoffman … book editing by an industry professional