Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Professional Editing - It's NOT Optional if You Want a Professional Book

Professional Editing - It's NOT Optional if You Want a Professional Book

Staying on top of one's industry takes a lot of time and effort, but it's essential if you want to be worthy of the expert status you should be claiming for yourself. One way I keep informed and in touch is through membership in several writing/editing/publishing groups on LinkedIn.

Yesterday, a man posted a question about the best way to sell a spiritually compelling autobiography. He was specifically interested in information about securing an agent and/or traditional publisher and how to craft a successful book proposal. I was the first in the thread to post a fairly comprehensive answer. As is the case with many of these "conversations," a number of people often chime in to offer their expertise. I have to imagine that is both good and bad for the question-asker. Good, because they can get a lot great of information; bad, because sometimes they have to wade through some dreck with a BS detector to discern the good info from the less useful remarks.

Case in point. One woman, in responding to my second comment on this particular thread, wrote the following. Please pay specific attention to the portions I have highlighted.
Laura is right. The first step is to write and not focus on how you write. It sounds as if you've done that. The next step is to either edit it yourself or pay someone to edit it. But nobody can write it like you can. I still suggest you study up as I did. Sometimes a critique group can help. Don't publish it until it is the best it can be. Have people read it and comment. Read other successful memoirs and see how they did it.
This is flat-out contradictory information. It doesn't matter how good a writer you are, a professional editor will ALWAYS improve it. In the past, I have likened this to an interview I once heard with Michael Jordan. The reporter asked him what made him such a great player. His answer: "I had great coaches." If even the great Michael Jordan, with undeniable natural basketball talent, needed good coaches, then even the best writer needs a good editor.

Another way to think about it is like preparing a succulent meatloaf. You select the choicest meats, add the perfect spices, choose the ideal baking dish, get the meat settled in just right ... and then decide not to cook it. Who would DO that? No one. But that's essentially what you're doing if you decide you don't really need the services of a skilled editor experienced in your genre.

Price is not always commensurate with skill, but it's a decent indicator. And quality editing is not inexpensive. But if you want to take the good part of the advice in the quote above Don't publish it until it is the best it can be you will spend the money and invest in a professional editor. Notice the use of the word "invest." If you really want to make a book you can be proud of, a book a publisher or agent WILL look at with interest, a book that will sell well, you will make an investment in editing. 

Of course, there are other expenses involved in creating a really good book: cover design, interior layout, and pagination, to name only a few. But think of it this way. The cover and title draw in the potential reader and get them to pull the book off the shelf, pick it up from the sales table, or "Look Inside." But it's the words that sell the book. If you have the best message in the world, but your words are not polished, you won't sell many copies, and you especially won't create the buzz that comes from word-of-mouth praise.

You've worked long and hard on this book. Don't you owe it to yourself and your readers to do everything possible to publish the best book possible?

I invite you to do 3 things next:
  1. Visit Write | Market | Design to download your free eBook copy of The First-Time Author's Guide to Hiring the Right Editor for YOU!
  2. Visit my Facebook page - and "Like" it if you like it.
  3. Visit my new book marketing blog, Marcie Brock - Book Marketing Maven. If you like it, subscribe and tell your friends!

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