Self-published books are often frowned upon because of poor editing. While some authors try to save money by not having their books professionally edited, other authors find they have hired incompetent editors or print-on-demand publishers who produce a flawed product. Authors need to know what to expect before they agree to any editing.
Where do you find a good editor? Many self-published authors have made the mistake of hiring a subsidy or print-on-demand publishing company to edit their books, or even a freelance editor, only to find out after the book was published that professional editing was not done and even that changes requested were not made. While many good editors are out there, and POD companies may have good editors working for them, just because a company claims it has good editing services does not mean a quality editor will be assigned to your book.
Trust me. I learned this the hard way. When my book “The Sitting Swing” was first published, I paid a subsidy press to do the editing, and then after I was told the editing was done, the book was published. Not long after, as my book started to gain attention, I was contacted by a major newspaper reviewer who told me she would have written a story about my book for her newspaper but she couldn’t because she found major editing issues. Consequently, I halted sales of my book. Later after I found a traditional publisher and an editor I could trust to do a professional job, I released a revised edition of “The Sitting Swing.”
I don’t base this article simply on one example. Recently another author contacted me who told me:
I have had two unhappy experiences with the same publisher (POD). I realize that there is no recourse according to my contract, and obviously, the first was less distressing than the second….In my case, not only were two sets of galleys not properly corrected (I wasn’t given a final approval, but I had to have faith that the second set would have the corrections made before printing), but the printer left out whole blocks of type. The result..[my book] offered for sale at $17.95 isn’t worth $5! It’s humiliating.
I could provide many more examples, but it’s sufficient to say if you do decide to hire a subsidy or POD publisher, be sure you have a contract that will cover all your bases. Because most of these publishers work within a “cookie cutter” one-size fits all mindset, they probably will not agree to special stipulations within their contracts, but be sure to ask anyway and move on if they will not.
Here are a few stipulations to make sure are included in your contract:
- Have a sample edit done. Before you agree to let the company, or any editor for that matter, edit your book, ask to have an editing sample done. Submit a few pages and ask to have them edited and a quote provided for the editing. This way you will know up front what the editing will cost, and you will be able to see what kind of editing will be done. If you’re not happy with the editing, request a different editor and another sample done, or look elsewhere. And don’t be afraid to ask other people’s opinions about the editor. It doesn’t even hurt to have two or three different editors do sample edits for you. Interviewing your prospective editors will not hurt at all.
- Review the editor’s work. I don’t mean spot-checking. After the editing is done, sit down and read through your entire book slowly. If the editor returns the manuscript with the track changes on it, it may take you a while to go through it, but you will also see what was done and be able to change or approve it as you see fit. Remember, it’s your book, not the editor’s, so be sure you get the final say on changes made. That said, be careful with any changes you make yourself—too often authors make last minute changes which are grammatically incorrect or contain typos and punctuation errors.
- Retain the right to make changes. You, not the editor, should submit the final manuscript to the printer to ensure that the edited version you approve is used. Once the book is then laid out, you will be sent the proofs. Most subsidy and POD companies, as well as most independent book design and printing companies, will charge you for excessive changes at this point—primarily so you don’t rewrite sentences, but fixing typographical errors are perfectly permissible at this stage. Read over your proofs and request any changes be made. Even if you are only allowed something like fifty corrections, do not let this deter you from correcting errors. Often errors found are not your fault but the book layout people’s error, such as not italicizing something, a title omitted, a paragraph accidentally cut, a special quote not indented or centered. Make sure these errors are corrected and you are not charged for any that were caused during the book design and layout process.
- Double-check all changes. Once you send in the corrections for the proofs, make sure you are sent back another proof so you can see the corrections were made. Double-check each correction closely. The author I quoted above had problems because these changes were not made. Perhaps it was an honest mistake and the wrong file was sent to the printer, but in any case, the author should have had the right to make sure the changes were corrected.
- Double-check the first printed copy. A good printer will send you a single printed book to ensure you are happy with it before a larger print run is made. Most POD companies, however, do not send a sample copy. Insist they do so or go elsewhere. A pdf of a book cover is well and good but when you see the printed cover, the colors may be lighter or darker than you want. The book itself must also be put together properly. Make sure you go through the book to ensure every page is there and all the pages are inserted properly—not upside down. The last thing you want is people to come back to you later complaining that their book is missing or has defective pages. Believe me—many an author has gone through a nightmare situation when books have been shipped that contain flaws.
These simple steps can save you from a lot of trouble, frustration, and heartache down the road because a publisher, editor, or printer failed to live up to his or her promises. Always get a contract and make sure any foreseeable problems are covered in it. If a publisher, editor, or printer does not want to work with a contract, find another. Similarly, if the person or company is unwilling to alter the contract to allow you to have final say over all steps of the editing, layout, and printing process, look elsewhere.
Remember, this book is your book. It has your name on it for the rest of its life. If it’s your first book, the process of publishing can be overwhelming, but don’t let that stop you from being assertive and making absolutely certain your book will be the best product possible. Once you find a publisher, editor, and printer you can trust, you’ll be ready to publish your future books.
Irene Watson is the Managing Editor of Reader Views, where avid readers can find reviews of recently published books as well as read interviews with authors. Her team also provides author publicity and a variety of other services specific to writing and publishing books.