- Don’t rely on self-editing. Do it, do it again and again, and the tips below will help, but don’t rely on it.
- Use your software’s built-in Spelling and Grammar check. Often. It won’t be 100% but it will pick up a lot of errors.
- Make a list of your pet words and phrases, and keep it up to date. Some you won’t even realise you over-use, the ones that will have to be pointed out by friends. You may be amazed to find out how often you use the word amazed. Never release a final document without using the search facility to check each and every pet word and phrase. My characters ‘grinned’ 29 times, ‘laughed’ 51 times, and ‘smiled’ 28 times before I got the thesaurus at work. It’s a light-hearted book, but they shouldn’t sound like a pack of hyenas.
- Read your book aloud. That seems to activate a different part of the brain which won’t skip over gems like ‘she dog then bit the cat’.
- Don’t edit for too long at a time. Take a break after half an hour, an hour at most. You’ll get bored and start to skip things.
- Make an edit copy, change the font, and split the page into columns. The change of format also kick-starts the brain. If you have Jutoh, or similar software which provides a final version Kindle mock-up, you’ll see exactly how it will look on the different types of e-reader. I’m sure I’m not the only one to read the Kindle version and instantly spot an error that escaped every test already thrown at the original Word document.
- Older typists (like me) – don’t use a double space after a full stop. It isn’t done nowadays and eBook software doesn’t allow for it, so you could have an untidy left margin where hanging spaces jump in.
- Pay a copy-editor. Really. I’m not saying it to generate work, because I mainly do technical documents, but I did all the above and still got back an edited document with thirty or more changes in red. Most of which I accepted, blushing.
- Never automatically accept all changes. Check every one. Sometimes the copy-editor misunderstood the context, in which case you should probably clarify it for the eventual reader, too. Copy-editors, even the best, are human and won’t pick up everything but after all these checks, you should have something clean enough to leave the most critical of your readers with only a short list.
Experience may be cheap at any price but grab a bargain, learn from the mistakes of others instead.
I had set my heart on publishing for the first time on 1st January and publish I did. Some of the people who have bought my book have said really nice things (some were people I don’t even know). Some have pointed out errors quite tartly and, oh dear, most have said nothing at all. At ALL. That includes some friends and family.
Things I have learnt from this include, first and foremost, do not rely on self-editing. I copy-edit for others and I genuinely believed I could do it for myself and I was wrong. The brain simply self-corrects familiar work. (There are some hard-learned editing tips in the next blog)
Do not get wildly excited by your first book cover and accept it if you have the single tiniest reservation. My artist was and is very good, and uncanny at picking things out of my mind, but we don’t agree on lettering. First cover, I let her lettering stay. Now it has been corrected to what I like and even she thinks it looks better. (It so does)
Get the manuscript read by others. The ideal is to get it read by a professional pre-edit reviewer, or critiquer, but it took me two months to find one whose style I liked, and in the meantime I had really useful feedback from the friends who, bless them, had bought the book. REALLY useful. Just one example, I’d referred in my book to ‘the old purple hat story’. I genuinely thought everyone in the world knew the old purple hat story. They don’t. They do now, because it is added in at the beginning. (Go read it in the sample on Amazon, it’s a good story.) (viewBook.at/B00AVQDKXC)
Don’t rely on Kindle’s own HTML version of your Word document when you upload. They tinker with their software as often we tinker with our books and two or three changes down the line, your book will become peculiar. Formatting will change and puzzled readers will find oddities, split paragraphs, centred text thrown all to blazes, and will think you are the idiot. Or that eBooks are rubbish. I recently bought Jutoh EBook Converter and it is phenomenal. One unexpected bonus is that it creates the book exactly as it will be, in a format I can copy to my kindle.
So, nearly three months after the book was first released, it has been updated, the cover has been changed, but there are existing buyers out there who will think I am still the rankest of amateurs. I asked Kindle how I get the changes out to the earlier buyers. They are going to review them (it will take four weeks) with one of the following outcomes –
- If they consider the changes critical, they’ll send an email to every buyer to receive the update through the Manage Your Kindle page www.amazon.com/gp/digital/fiona/manage
- If they consider them cosmetic, they will activate the buyers’ ability to update the content on the above but not email them.
- If they deem the changes to have caused critical issues, they’ll remove the book from sale, notify me of the changes which need to be made so I can fix them, and then go via route 1.
Doing things the right way round will save so much trouble. Book number two comes out this week – fingers crossed.