Monday, January 25, 2010
5 Reasons Why Your E-Book Needs an Editor
There's no argument that e-books (I'm talking about the self-published ones) are one of the latest greatest evolutions to hit publishing in quite some time. Bloggers, writers, and social media enthusiasts can gather their real life experiences into an e-book. They can compile their blog posts like Darren Rowse at Problogger and turn them into super successful e-books. Entrepreneurs can offer their e-books at no cost to provide potential clients with samples of their expertise, or test the market by selling their books at varying prices. And while there's a lot of talk about the design, and marketing of books and e-books, very little is written about the writing process and editing of e-books. My guess is that many business owners and entrepreneurs figure they have gone as far as to write their books, so why not just edit themselves and save time and money? To me, that's like going for a walk around the blog and then setting out to do a 10K race the next morning. It just doesn't work that way, and it's a costly lesson to learn. In fact, it's a big mistake, and here's why:
1. You need another set of eyes. Ever prepare a meal and think it's fine, and then offer a taste to someone else who asks why there's so much salt or pepper? You can't ever really assess your own meal, just like you can't be your own final judge of your writing. Why? Because you're too close to it. You need a professional who can objectively review your e-book and check it for: tone, voice, style, consistency, grammar and punctuation (remeber them?), formatting issues, clarity, search engine optimization, and more. Those who rely on spellcheck are in for a rude awakenening...I've been really shocked at some of the mistakes I've seen pass spellcheck. If you are self-publishing and don't have the benefit of an editorial staff working with you already, all the more reason to find an editor to work with.
2. Your designer is not your editor. Assuming you are outsourcing the design of your e-book, keep in mind that designers design, and are not wordsmiths or copywriters. They need to understand well enough the topic you are writing about so they can include whatever graphic elements best convey your concept, but they are not going to spend their time reworking your top paragraph on page 3, your chapter title on page 22, or your overview or summary, nor checking for typos, missing words or elements, etc. Nor do you want to pay them for this, since a designer's time can be expensive and should be spent letting them do what they are best at: the look of the book, the treatment of the typeface and font, graphics, photos and illustrations, etc.
3. Editors save you money. There are 2 main types of editors: developmental editors who review all aspects of the book and can provide guidance on its overall consistency and scope; and copyeditors who will mainly focus on grammar, spelling, readability, and marketability. If you can find an editor who does both and work with them at the outset or early stages of the project, you can confirm that your focus is on track for your market, and that your outline (you should have one) will hold together and make cohesive sense. If your book is educational or has a tutorial focus, your editor can make sure that you are doing your job in explaining the concepts properly and objectifying them so they are clear to others. If you leave all this to chance, or hire an editor too late in the game, you may be wasting your time on a concept that never worked to begin with, or did not hold together, much less grab the readers' attention.
4. Editors can help you reach the finish line. One of the notoriously challenging aspects of writing is finishing your book, even if it is a relatively short e-book at 50 pages or less. How often have we heard the phrase: Help, I can't finish my book! Many people set out to write a book but never do. Working with an editor shows that you are serious. An editor will help you stay on track with your book project and make sure you are accountable.About a year ago, I helped a writer who was stuck about halfway through her book, by suggesting she fast-forward to the future so that the final outcome of a decision was apparent. Then, she could go back and finish out the rest of the story. It worked.
5. What's Reason #5? You fill it in. I'd like to hear your stories about working with editors and how it affected the final outcome. How did you find your editor? What kind of changes did they suggest, and what surprised you most about the process? Would you work with an editor again, and why?
Final thought...no matter how many technological advances we see in the world of publishing, certain fundamentals will always remain the same. Remember "the four C's." Your writing and your e-books have to be clear, compelling, cohesive, and customized for the audiences you are trying to reach.