Are You Ready To Publish? A Guide to Professional Editing for Authors

26th April, 2023

5 min read

Are You Ready To Publish? A Guide to Professional Editing for Authors

Are You Ready To Publish? A Guide to Professional Editing for Authors

Written by:

Hannah Cather

If you're reading this, you likely have a finished manuscript and now you're eager for the next steps. However, the big question is: are you ready to publish? Is your book publishable? There's a huge difference between having a completed manuscript (a Word doc on which you've proudly placed that final piece of punctuation) and a pub-ready manuscript (a finely tuned, thoroughly checked book). The difference comes down to editing – excellent editing, both by you and outside book editing services.

The Self-Edit

The best gift you can give your book is an in-depth edit – and you, as an author, should be the first person to do so. You know this book inside out and you have its best interests at heart. But before you do, take time away from the screen. Have a break; create distance, both literally (step away from your laptop!) and metaphorically. The aim is to edit with fresh eyes, as though you're looking at your manuscript for the very first time. When you've gained that crystal clear perspective, delve into the edit.

One of the main things to remember is that consistency is key. This usually falls into two branches: Consistency in style – this would mean, for example, that you are using the same quote marks (either single or double) for speech throughout; that a text break is indicated by the same device (a single asterisk, triple asterisk or a line break); italicisation is used consistently (book titles, thought etc.); and chapter titles are in a uniform pattern. In short, the style of your book is identical throughout. Consistency in writing – this includes ensuring character names are consistent (you'd be surprised by how many authors change a name or a gender in the middle of the book, and then back again!), locations are spelt correctly and identically, and that timings don't jump around. Do basic checks to avoid silly/unnecessary mistakes.

Don't overlook a basic check! The ever-faithful spellcheck function will often highlight a rogue error even when you think the edit is steadfastly spot-on. Similarly, checking for missing punctuation, such as at the end of a piece of dialogue or a paragraph, is a crucial but often overlooked check. These kinds of mistakes can be both easy to miss, but also glaringly obvious to the reader. Just a bit more time spent on simple, basic checks makes a world of difference.

Macro your manuscript! For more of a thorough edit, macros provide incredible checks on Word and can be done from home. Not sure what a macro is? They're 'one-click wonders' that run complex checks on the whole document in, you guessed it, one click. For example: looking for mismatched speech marks, word pairs that aren't styled the same (humankind and humankind), or inconsistencies in number usage (ten and 10). Macros can seem daunting at first, but, once used, are an absolute game changer. If you are looking for a more structured and professional way to self-edit your work, Jericho Writers has an excellent course, Self-editing course for writers, that is well worth exploring as a way of getting your manuscript ship-shape and ready for submission. 

The Outside Edit

Once your self-edit is complete, the next step is an outside edit by one of the many available book editing services. As much as you love your manuscript, and as much as you think you've filtered out those final errors and inconsistencies, and however many family members have taken a glance at it, it is essential to get a professional editor to look at it for you. And there are plenty of brilliant book editing services out there to do so.

Beta readers – these are 'test' readers, who evaluate your work and provide invaluable feedback from the viewpoint of an average reader. Beta readers may not always be professional editors or critics, but they should be avid readers, interested in the publishing world, and ideally will be members of your target audience.

Opinionated edit – an objective, realistic edit in which professional editing will provide feedback on the content of your manuscript: structure, pace, plot, characterisation, whether it suits the target audience and whether there are any areas of concern. They will not rewrite but will highlight anything that doesn't work or ring true.

Copy-edit/proofread – a professional editor will make your manuscript as 'correct' as it can be. A copy-edit is the more in-depth of the two and acts as a corrective edit that looks for mistakes in spelling, grammar, consistency and style, while a proofread is a final read-through to ensure that there are no remaining errors. A proofread tends to be done at the later stages of the publishing process, after typesetting, as a last chance to pick out any sneaky errors.

If in doubt, get a copy-edit – it will always be beneficial.

Final Pre-Submission Checklist:

The above edits will ensure your manuscript is tip-top, in shape and publishable, but here are some additional extras to pop in your submission package:

  1. Create a short, interesting synopsis that encapsulates the main themes and messages of the book – it should grab the reader and leave them wanting more.
  2. An author bio is a great way to introduce yourself and provide background info on the person behind the pages – which is always of interest. 
  3. Format the Word doc so it looks more professional. Nothing special; simply adding page numbers, using 1.5 spacing and a classic font to your Word document makes a big difference. 
  4. 4. It might sound simple but don't forget to include your contact details – and if you have social media for your writing, include those, too.

Troubador Publishing's Book Editing Services

For any author looking for an outside editor, Troubador can certainly help. We offer a range of high-quality book editing services from a team of professional editors, to suit any need and any book. All initial quotations include the cost for a copy-edit and/or proofread by an editor based on word count– further information can be found here.

If a more detailed edit is required, sister company Indie-Go - offers a fantastic opinionated editing service, in which an editor offers an objective, feedback-heavy view of your manuscript, in addition to a copy-edit. Please do get in touch – we'd love to hear from you.