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Much Ado About Editing

  • No one is perfect. That's as true today as it has always been, and will always be. We all make mistakes, sometimes ones we look back on and think "What in the world happened there?" This is why editing is a necessary part of the writing process. Your voice and your vision is only one part of a final product. Below, we'll describe some of the individual parts of the editing process and how it affects the finished manuscript as a whole, as well as what to expect from a good editor.

    Spelling and Grammar

    When asked why most won't give indie authors a chance, one of the top reasons is usually spelling and grammatical errors. As indie authors, we don't have the option to have a team at our disposal to nitpick through everything we do. A polished copy of your work demands that typos be slayed with due diligence. You should always have multiple people read through your manuscript. Brains are funny things, and can sometimes see what they want to see regardless of what's actually there. Having multiple proof editors will hopefully catch those pesky errors before your readers see them.

    A good editor will take into account specialized words that you'd prefer to be left alone, slang, and other items by a case by case basis to make sure your work is error free. At Liliom, each submission goes through 2-3 editors as well as a reader for spelling, grammar, and typo hunting to make sure your work is as polished as it can be.

    Length and Formatting

    Most publishing houses have a minimum and maximum submission length. Many will outright deny any submissions that don't meet their qualifications. Others, must hire an editor to get your word count up to par or down to earth. This isn't strictly an arbitrary decision. Printing costs for books go by the page, and the covers are adjusted based on spine width. Many printers can't handle a book that is too thick or too thin based on its spine width. Formatting also must be taken into account. Traditional publishing requires chapters to begin on the right page, and to have no widowed/orphaned sentences. To not do this makes the book look amateurish and singles an author out as a self-published author. Always follow the posted submission length specific to your desired publisher for best results.

    A good editor will keep your tone and personality while editing the book to meet min/max word count and formatting guidelines for the specific publisher you are working through. At Liliom, an editor goes through to work on length and formatting, and a second editor reads both the original and the revised work before signing off on the edits.


    Sometimes, our stories need a little extra "oomph" added to their repertoire. One of the Liliom editors has a problem with using too many "ing" words to start paragraphs. Others have different words that they use like they're sprinkling free pixie dust from a 100lb bag, and a thesaurus could help take a repetitive narration and turn it into an outstanding, engaging one. Still others have issues with tenses and first/third person narration remaining stable throughout. Other times, a story is great but lacks a bit of depth with descriptive words to really draw a reader in. On the flip side, some authors use $10 words when a $1 one would entertain readers just as well without being obnoxious.

    A good editor's job is to keep your voice and style while also helping to make your story shine. Their job is to wave a magic wand, take what you've given them, and return to you a masterpiece. It's not an easy task, by any means, but it is a necessary one. At Liliom, one editor keeps possession of the magic wand, but another has a veto eraser. In this way, you get two editors that are wholly focused on making sure your work is spit-shined to the best that it can be.

    Is all this really necessary? What if I hate the edits?

    Yes. One hundred times yes. We are authors stepping into a brave new world where we are being judged by the quality of past self-published authors, yet more and more readers are willing to give us a chance. We cannot put out more of the same dreck that has given our little band of misfits a bad name. You may have poured your heart and soul into your baby, but lets face it, babies have to grow up. And you won't be the only guiding hand in that growth, and that's a good thing. A broad, well-rounded worldview takes many, and only makes things better in the end.

    Most publishing houses allow a open line of communication between the editors and the author. This is still your work, you are still in control of it. The editors job is to give it a makeover and send it back to you prettier than it was when it came in. Most times, an editor will do a rough copy of the edits, and send it to the author to read through. This is the time when you send back your thoughts, any areas you spotted that might need re-tweaked to suit your voice, and any mistakes made in the continuum of the story, as editors aren't perfect either. Depending on how many issues there were, this process can take some time.

    In the end, it is the author's job to give a final "Okay" on the edits and sign off on the project. However, do understand that if you cannot come to an agreement with the editing, if you refuse to allow editing or make it hard on the editors to do their job, or start dragging feet because you don't want your baby sullied by another's words, the publishing press will refuse to use your work. If this happens, none of the edits the editor made can be used to publish elsewhere, that is usually in the contracts with the editors and the publishing house. If their work goes unpaid, because you didn't end up publishing through their company, you run the risk of legal action if you use their work elsewhere. If you don't approve the edits for the specific publishing house you submitted to, you must start the process over with any new publisher you may go through, with their in-house editors.

    A publisher is in this business to have their brand be acknowledged as a quality brand, publishing content that readers want to see. It's why so many rejection letters are sent. The work might not be a bad one, but it might not fit with a particular image the publisher has for its brand. It may not meet the quality standards they've set. It just might not be something they feel they could get readers for, which is the goal of anyone helping an author to publish. If a writer refuses to allow editing that would make their work better to entice readers, then they will likely be one of the self-published authors that give the rest a bad name. A publisher exists to showcase the best of their clientele. It's their job to make you look good, remember that.

    Above all, remember, you have written a book. That is a huge accomplishment, and you should be amazingly proud of yourself for it. The primping and processing is just another cog in the wheel, and every author must go through it. We've heard alcohol and chocolate help keep the editing jitters down, but you didn't hear it from us.



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