You have spent months and months getting your manuscript into the shape you want it. You are confident in your plot lines and character development and, little tweaks aside, you are certain that you can hit the publish button.
But can you?
If you are the only person to have seen your work so far, then the chances are you need to get a fresh pair of eyes to look over your work. Your overfamiliarity with the manuscript will mean that your mind will see what it wants to see, and what it thinks should be there.
It happens to ALL authors and is not something to beat yourself up over but there will be room for improvement.
But who do you need? Where do you turn? Here’s an overview of some of the services available to you before you publish your novel.
Your first port of call should be a trusted beta reader. These are people who you can trust to give you honest and constructive feedback and who you will not be offended by when/if they are critical. A beta reader’s job is to cast a critical eye over your manuscript as opposed to being a supportive friend who will only tell you what they think you want to hear – that is pointless and counterproductive.
This type of constructive feedback at this stage is critical to your success as it will allow you to identify and rectify any plot holes that you may not have noticed and deal with any core elements that may need some revision prior to publication.
There is a temptation to use lots of beta readers to try and ensure that every issue is picked up, but I would strongly advise that you use no more than five trusted people, with the worry being that if you use lots and they all come back with different suggestions, what do you do then? Whose advise do you take? Too many cooks can spoil the broth and this is true with your manuscript and your confidence. Twenty different opinions will do more harm than good at this stage in the process.
It is wise to have your manuscript professionally critiqued. This is where an experienced editor will look at the big picture elements and give you detailed feedback on the overall style, structure, and content, outlining the strengths and weaknesses.
Structural, substantive or developmental editor
This is a more hands-on involvement and involves you employing the services of a developmental editor. They will give you advice about the overall plot, characterisation, sub-plots, continuity and consistency, and point of view elements. This isn’t a line-by-line edit, but once again, taking the bigger picture into account in their feedback.
Once you are completely happy with the big picture elements, the overall structure, and plot, you should consider investing in a copy-editor. Looking at your words on a line-by-line level, your copy-editor will help to ensure that your text is correct in terms of spelling, punctuation, and grammar, they will query any areas which they feel may not be clear to the reader and, whilst doing this, will ensure that your voice is maintained throughout your manuscript – they are not a ghost writer. The list of things a copy-editor will help you with is a long one! Take a look at my Big Difference Editing service to see more about how I can help with this.
The very final stage of the process, a proofreader will help to try and catch anything that has slipped through the previous editorial passes on the manuscript. With a delicate eye, they will check for spelling, punctuation, and grammar, continuity and consistency from a textual, typographical, and point of view angle.
Be aware though, proofreading can only be successfully carried out on a manuscript where the majority of the sentence and word-level problems have been dealt with and all the big picture elements have been perfected. You can see what my Little Tweaks service includes here by clicking the link.
There is no right or wrong way to get your manuscript ready for publication. Only you know what you feel you need help with and what you can afford. I would strongly advise that you save up if needed and employ the services of at least one round of professional copy-editing or proofreading though. When you read book reviews, the main area of complaint from readers is poor grammar and punctuation – it is also the area which many indie authors who didn’t go down this route, admit to regretting and wishing they could go back and change. With many actually employing the services of one or the other retrospectively. But by this point though, the damage is already done with some of your potential readership.
Bear in mind though, there is no guarantee that all the errors will be picked up either. Even the big five publishing houses, who run their manuscripts though several passes of edits, publish books with errors in them. Editors and proofreaders are only human.
Trust me though, we will do our utmost to ensure that your manuscript is practically perfect in every way.
I do hope that you find this information helpful and as always, let me know if you have questions.
Happy writing x