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Ensuring Your Book Is All That It Can be

Beta Readers, Copy Editors and Editors -- why you need them!

by
Sarah Hoyt

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November 23, 2013 - 6:16 am
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Selling Your Writing In Thirteen Weeks — Week 7

So you maggots think you're novels!

So you maggots think you’re novels!

This is important whether you’re going the “new, new indie” or the traditionally published route. The level to which you want your manuscript bullet-proofed might be different, but you should still have someone look over your story before sending it in.

Yes, I know, the big houses are supposed to do their own editing, checking and proofreading, just like the big newspapers are supposed to have layers and layers of fact checkers. Don’t count on it.

The quality of the editing you get is proportional to their hopes of your selling really well, which in turn is proportional to the size of your advance.

That means if your advance is under ten thousand dollars (and most advances are) you cannot expect your book to get more than a cursory look by someone who finished college last year, and whose most notable reading – let alone editing – achievement was devouring Fifty Shades of Gray at one sitting.

But the more important thing, if your advance is ten thousand or less, is that copy-editing for punctuation and typos might be the only editing you get.

And this is a problem, because no matter how good you are, how smart you are, or how carefully you researched your subject, in the middle of the book, your brain is going to do something utterly bizarre and you’re going to reverse the name of two towns; you’re going to introduce a technology that didn’t exist at the time, or you’re going to forget the color of your character’s eyes… or remember it wrong.

Now how much you spend depends on what you expect to be paid, whether you’re going indie or traditional, what your expectations are of the book and well… who you know.

It also is important that you know what you’re paying for – and what the person reading is supposed to do for you.

So, let’s take this thing in order –

You’ve finished a novel. Good for you! I suppose if it’s your first novel, I can’t prevent you from letting your mom read it. (Unless you’re like me. I give thanks daily that mom can’t speak/read English.)

That’s fine. Just don’t take it seriously. Your mom, unless your mom is a published author in that genre and notoriously mean (ask my kids) in critique, is not an appropriate judge of marketability or how publishers/the market will react to your story.

The first thing you should do is find what we call in the field “beta readers.” This comes from software, where they have beta testers. Every writer should have beta readers. Yes, I know that this can be a problem. Way back almost thirty years ago, as a young author, I had trouble finding three people who knew enough about the genre I was trying to break in and who were willing to read my book. Which was a pity because I desperately needed a reality check.

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All Comments   (3)
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Thanks, Sarah. Good advice to follow. I can vouch for the lack of editing provided for most unknown authors. It's no fun when a reader points out all kinds of embarrassing mistakes that "editor" breezed right past. I like the idea of swapping beta reading and editing with another cash-strapped indie author. Might lead to a good friendship too.
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
"...someone writing romance as though they’d never met a live human being."

What's this? Are you condemning the thrilling new category of Zombie Romance? Oh, the shame!
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
Thank you very much. I don't write novels but I am very curious to read what you will say about "the various indie outlets".

51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
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