I work as a freelance copy editor, so I am biased. But I think proofreading is critical to self-publishing. There are lots of errors that spell check and grammar check cannot catch, and readers will call you on it every time. So, would you rather shell out a few bucks for a proofread or risk getting reviews that mention poor grammar?
I'm not published here or anywhere else, and may never be. But if I were, I don't think I'd be able to justify paying for a professional editor. That's a lot of money, and I'd need a lot of sales to recover that.
The first thing: with your document in Microsoft Word, run a spell-check and grammar-check, and really look at everything that gets reported. To save time, create a custom dictionary for each manuscript and add all of the names, specialized jargon, etc. to that dictionary. I'm not a huge fan of Word's grammar-check, and about half the time I think it's off-base, but sometimes it's right.
[I'm stunned at the number of published e-books containing errors that MS Word's spell-checker would be screaming about. Especially when those e-books almost certainly passed through MS Word at some point.]
The next step, courtesy of Anne Mini. I quote, "read the manuscript IN ITS ENTIRETY, IN HARD COPY, and OUT LOUD." It's amazing what you'll find.
A relatively low-cost approach to getting the worst screw-ups out is an online service called AutoCrit. Their computerized critiquing service will point out some stuff that you missed. For $77 a year at the "chapter-at-a-time" level, it's probably worth it. Try their free 500-word analysis and see what you think. They also offer a 30-day money-back guarantee, although heaven knows how easy it is to collect on that.
I'm a member of a writers group, and we critique each other's work. It's not as good as professional editing, but it's a whole lot better than nothing. And it's free or low-cost, depending on whether there are dues or not—you're mainly paying for it by critiquing other writers' work.
When you're all done editing and ready to publish, repeat the Anne Mini step: "read the manuscript IN ITS ENTIRETY, IN HARD COPY, and OUT LOUD."
I did the editing on all of my ebooks and in-print physical ones. I have several dozen ebooks and a couple dozen physical ones via the CreateSpace-Amazon company (these print ones are beginning appear on B&N and all of my ebooks do). Like many of you, this has been a learning process for me and thankfully, with the ability to improve my works via the editing tools through the different publishing platforms, I've improved them over time.
I had lots of online writing experience before I started publishing ebooks and even more experience, including being editor of Thyroid Health at BellaOnline and a general health writer for Suite101, before I started publishing e-books and in-print ones.
One drawback to self-editing is that if you have a lot of books you're publishing, you can find small errors in some of them, even after re-reading them so many times, your eyeballs almost fall out. You later pick up one of your books off your home shelf and read a chapter or two and you find a small glitch. How in the world did I overlook that? - You ask yourself. In my opinion, a few very small insignificant glitches, does not degrade an overall- well-written book and I've seen errors in books by authors I've followed for many years. Mary Shomon is a Thyroid Patient Advocate as I am and I've reviewed a number of her books after she sent me free copies to do so and she had a few small errors in her hair loss book for thyroid patients. Nothing that detracts from the content but things like a sentence being repeated exactly on a same page. To see someone that has had New York Times best sellers, have a glitch or two in a book, was reassuring to me that this won't shoot one out of the water and doesn't degrade a work overall. Certainly the more perfection, the more perceived professionalism but I won't hit myself over the head in regard to a few small mistakes I find after publishing. If they're significant enough I of-course do the corrections and order a new proof.
Actually the thing I most agonized over was in-regard to my physical books not having content seperated properly from page-to-page, due to my having converted them from e-books. I'll explain - I will have pages with sentences partially carried-over to the next page or a chapter heading on one page and only a sentence or two under it (or maybe no sentences under it), with the chapter continuing on a next page. I experimented with tons of different book templates and none would correct this problem. I would do the page seperations perfectly but when I finished my pages in word and converted them to PDF for submitting, it would change the layout, so that even if my page seperations were perfect, they no longer were after conversion.
I actually decided at first, due to this I've described, that page numbers weren't really necessary under the circumstances. I have my Chapters, sub-headings and paragraph indents/seperations and the content is well-written, so I actually left page numbers off at first.
After more thought however, I decided to number the pages on all of them despite the carry-over of some sentences on to next-pages. While I've yet to receive reviews for most of my physical books, people I personally know who've read them and people who've written me by email after reading them gave me wonderful reviews. I asked some of them if the page carry-overs came across as lacking professionalism and they actually had to look at the books again to see what I was referring-to. Apparently, this did not hinder their enjoyment of reading them at all nor did it come across as shoddy.
Hopefully not to sound arrogant but the content of my books is high quality and I spent years writing them and improving them, so I feel good about letting them run as they are. Sometime in the future I may seek editing from someone set up with the tools to do so but for the time being, I'm confident in my works and they continue to sell. In-short, I'm a happy trooper!
Getting professional editing can certainly be beneficial but not a requirement to publish good works that people will enjoy reading.
I agree that a book should be professionally edited. It would be nice to see what other people are paying for this service, and who they recommend. I know people that have had there book professionally edited 20 times over the years.
Thanks for all the great comments! I never thought to read my work OUT LOUD. I am borderline OCD (joking) when I proof read my own work, but no matter how hard I try I always find minor mistakes sometimes many weeks or months later.
I also like the idea of reading my work to my spouse to see her reaction. Two heads are better than one, right?
It is very hard to be perfect. I have read many books by big publishers and there are still grammar errors and typos. Even some video games are falling into the trap of not proof reading their work good enough.
In the end, no work is perfect because no human is perfect. I just want to do my best to avoid any obvious mistakes like misspelled words and obvious grammar errors.
What I would really like an editor for is to check my flow/pace of the work and I always notice my tendency to write long paragraphs, when they probably should really be broken up into multiple paragraphs.
Anyway, thanks for all the suggestions and thoughts and hopefully this thread receives more comments. I would like to find someone that has actually paid someone legit to edit their work. I wonder what it cost them?
It helps of course to have a good grasp of English grammar and punctuation, but you seem to have that. So equipped, your best bet is to print two copies of the book, preferably double-spaced, and to READ IT ALOUD to a long-suffering spouse or friend who is equally versed in the written language. It's astonishing how many errors will slip past any silent and especially on-screen proof-reading.
It is always a good idea to have someone else edit your book. Sometimes we get too close to our work and miss things. Something that means something to us may be confusing to others simply because we have a picture in our head that readers can not reference.
A great deal of editing may be done by the author especially with using the spell and grammar checkers in programs. Once you have done the initial edits it's time to ask if this is something you are are good at and enjoy. If no hire someone who enjoys editing and spend your time working on things where your talents are.
We have authors who send us their edited works and spend two weeks correcting. They are good writers, not editors. Or they have paid someone to do a bad job.
When hiring an editor watch out for pay to print and scammy editing companies. They are all over. I have two friends who paid over $1,000 to have their books edited and published. The don't know one another and used different companies but their experience is the same. Very expensive, very poor product.
Here's how I look at it. If writing is just a fun thing you do edit yourself. You can probably do a good job. If you are serious about being an author have your works professionally edited.
All writers need editors. Period. Professional editors are great, but sometimes really anal retentive grammar maven, reader friends who will work for cheap (or beer and pizza) can be very handy if you can't afford a professional. I keep a few of my friends at hand for this and I pay them in cash($100 a MS), and give them free copies of every book they work on. I also use beta readers (usually fans of my work who will gladly read the book before it goes live) who I've trained (by giving them a list of things to consider and reassuring them over and over again that it's okay to be blunt and that they won't hurt my feelings) to give me honest input.
Of course that said - there's no pleasing everyone and sometimes a typo will get through. It's the nature of the beast. On top of which, there's always going to be that one reader who gives you a review on a few typos instead of the content. I've seen the same thing happen to books put out by big publishers that contain typos, plot holes, etc... And sometimes people just don't like the writer's "voice" and conclude that the writer can't write. Just as an example - I just started the sentence before this one with "And" which is a HUGE grammatical no-no. That's going to drive at least one person who reads this post absolutely batty.
Have 15 - 20 people read the manuscript. Just having several people read the manuscript helps smooth out rough edges. After you've corrected any errors they found, you can create the ebook (change your word document to html, download it on Calibre - free program, then click on the Calibre create book, save the document to your desktop). After the ebook is on your computer desktop (should be under a folder with author's name), add the book to your Nook under "my stuff," and see how it looks. Sometimes, just seeing it up there in finished form will help you see things you didn't see before. If it looks good on your Nook reader, you can then submit the ebook to PubIt. As an aside, you'll want to have the chapters show up on the Nook reader. You can do this in the word document by highlighting the chapter names as Heading 1, 2, or 3. After all of your chapter headings are designated as a heading, click on "References." There is a Table of Contents icon you click on to create your Table of Contents. Hope this helps.
Great responses from everyone! i will take all the advice I can get, that's for sure! I also like how someone started a sentence with And. Hehe. That's something I do from time to time. I've read many authors who don't always use "correct" grammar. I guess it all depends on your style.
I also appreciate the above comment, because I am just starting out using Open Office 3 to write my ebook and am trying to figure out the TOC/hyperlink stuff. Your little guide should help me. It seems to be trial and error right now when it comes to the formatting from Open Office to the Nook. (I've downloaded a page or two of my novel just to see how it looks on the Nook emulator and the PC Nook Ap. It will definitely take some time to get right....
I do plan on getting my manuscript into a few of my friends hands to read. I really don't want to have to pay for editing done professionally. Someone a few comments up wrote that they paid mid-level for editing. I wonder what the ball park figure was?
Anyways, thanks for all the great responses everyone!
I use a program called Editor by Serenity Software. Its not exactly tailored for fiction, but it's very thorough and improves my writing.
Well, I think it's crucial--but then I would, since I'm an editor. But I certainly get clients who have excellent English. Editors are not just for people who don't know the difference between "which" and "that," or why "He is taller than me" isn't grammatically correct, but what to do when "He is taller than I" sounds wrong to your readers. As previous posters have said here, you get so familiar with your own work that it's easy to miss things, because your eyes know what should be there, even if it really isn't.
Reading aloud will help catch lots of things, especially missed and repeated words. It won't catch homophones, always, and it won't catch punctuation. A computer spellcheck is a great idea, but MS Word's "grammar check" will leave your manuscript worse off. Don't even get me started on that!
I don't think an indie writer should ever go with an editor or editing service that does only one round. You need to be able to have some back and forth, some discussion. A comma splice can be fixed in so many different ways! The author needs a chance to have some input. Also, if there are any adjustments and rewrites (as there will be), then those need to be checked. Otherwise, you risk introducing new errors as you sort out old ones.
Ask any editor you don't know for a few sample pages of an edit (which should be free of charge). I like to get midle pages from a new author, as the first pages are often the most polished. That way, you can see what the editor would do for your manuscript, the editor gets to see what condition the ms is in (which helps with setting a price) and you each get a feel for each other's working styles.