Hi sweet readers! I thought I'd do a series of posts detailing my experiences taking Publishing 101 via publication of my debut novel.
My goal is to publish a book that is indistinguishable to my readers from any novel from a Big Five publisher. It can be done - in fact, finding such a novel is the one thing that finally got me off my butt and pushed me to self-publish ONE.
Just as a traditionally published book has a huge team of professionals behind it, ONE does as well. My plan is to blog about every step of the process from agent-approved manuscript to published book. Please feel free to ask anything, and thanks for reading!
So. Your manuscript has been polished and shined to a high gloss, and gotten the thumbs up from (almost) everyone who's read it.
So, it's ready to go to a copyeditor for spelling, grammar, and punctuation check, right?
There are two stages I sent my manuscript through before I even thought about sending it to my copyeditor.
For many people, the first of those those steps is hiring a developmental editor - someone who reads the MS and points out problems with characterization, plot, structure, worldbuilding, pacing - all big issues with the MS that someone who's so very close to it (you, dear writer) can't really tell how to fix, and may not even know are there. (Since I didn't hire an editor, I've asked my dear friend Clare Davidson to post later in the week on her experience working with a developmental editor. Can't wait.)
In my case, I'd had dozens (literally) of readers, completed a revise and resubmit for an agent, and had the manuscript prepped for submission to editors by my agent, so *my* first was finding one last round of readers. I picked a diverse group - all serious writers, two published, one teen, one college student. These people had gone through dozens of manuscripts' worth of critique themselves, whether theirs or someone else's. They knew how to spot MS trouble a mile away, had never seen the MS before, and weren't afraid to give me honest feedback.
At first, I thought this was more for my peace of mind than anything else, but when the comments came back, I discovered why I really needed one last round of readers:
They called out stuff that I knew, deep down, was a problem, but was waiting for an editor to tell me how to fix once a Big Five house bought my book.
Yeah. I know. I'm not really proud of that. But I am being open and honest here, so....yeah.
For ONE, the big example was the pacing in the first half of the book. The book has romance and sci-fi in pretty equal parts, which is fine. The problem was that the romance was the first half and the sci-fi was the second, mostly (oops.) I'd addressed this a little more deeply with each edit, but whispers of this issue were still there. I knew it was kind of maybe sort of a problem, but one final-round reader in particular kicked my butt into high gear to really take care of it.
The other benefit of these last round readers was that they were the beginning of the end of finally, finally killing my darlings.
Again, these were things that I totally loved about my manuscript and wanted to see if I could slip under an editor's nose, knowing full well that I probably couldn't. The biggest example was bits and pieces of snark from the main character, Merrin. I originally wrote this girl to have a pretty strong attitude and a mouth without a filter, and remnants of that still came out in places that rubbed one of my readers, in particular, the wrong way. He called them out, and I knew he was right - they had to change. *Sigh*
Anyway, if you've taken the plunge of deciding to self-publish your book, do yourself and your future readers a favor and put it through a developmental editor or one last round of (seriously kickass) readers. The worst thing that could happen is that they would come back and say "It's perfect!" right?
Next up: Publishing 101.1 part two - Working with a developmental editor, a guest post by Clare Davidson.