Editing and Editors — Essential Services for Your Work

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Fundamentals series: Brilliant Idea Books

hiring and editor for your work

In the “good old days” book publishers had editors on staff that could mold and shape a manuscript into a publishable state. Sadly those days are gone as publishers operate on leaner staffing levels. Enter the rise of freelance editors. Not surprisingly this has been a big growth industry within book publishing. Many high quality and experienced editors, either by choice or by necessity, have set-up their own boutique editing service.

And that is excellent news for business authors and all entering the self-published world.

However there is some basic understanding of what editors can do for your tome which will determine what you need for your work.  And the status of your work is the most important factor as you begin this process.

Let me state right here one of the most critical aspects in producing a book:

EVERY MANUSCRIPT NEEDS EDITING. ”

Please don’t let people tell you your book is perfect – and don’t delude yourself with the thought that it’s good enough to hit the printing press today or tomorrow. If it hasn’t been reviewed by an experienced editor it is akin to trying to sell your house with a damaged roof or holes in the kitchen cabinets. The flaws are quickly apparent and any potential buyer (or reader) heads for the hills.

The first step is to understand what kind of editorial service you’re looking for. Editors work with manuscripts in different ways. There is the “big” picture point of view – there needs much reshaping and rejigging while at other times the structure is sound the writing is shall we say “rough”?

Which is right for you? Do you want someone to tear your work apart and reconstruct? To suggest alternate endings, or to move chapter 3 to the beginning, delete chapter 6  and remove others  that aren’t necessary? Or do you want someone to simply check the spelling?

Here are the basic editing areas:

Substantive or Developmental Edit

This might be considered by some as “manuscript evaluation.” This service invites an editor to critique your overall manuscript. The editor doesn’t actually change anything in the document itself. A detailed report or memo is usually issued.

For nonfiction manuscripts, the feedback will focus on the impact of your content: its clarity and conviction, the flow of ideas, and the effectiveness of the writing style. There is less emphasis on the narrative style or character development for instance.

If your work is unfixable or your writing will need massive amounts of work – this is the place where it can be shall we say “internally reviewed” by you before moving forward?

Line Editing

Line editing represents the highest level of the editor’s craft and makes your writing shine. That means that sometimes a line editor will make actual content changes to a work. An experienced business book editor will understand your audience and that is critical at this stage.

Line editors consider what can be trimmed, condensed, or cut in order to improve pace, avoid repetition, and make the experience of a book as engaging as possible. A line edit might include:

  • Eliminating wordiness and inappropriate jargon.
  • If there is narrative – giving dialogue more “snap” and bite.
  • Smoothing transitions and moving sentences to improve readability.
  • Developing examples, adding subheadings.
  • Deal with graphs, charts, lists and where they might fit (or not)
  • Suggesting—and sometimes implementing—more comprehensive additions and deletions, noting them at the sentence and paragraph level.

 Copy Editing

Copy editing is what most people envision when they think about editing. The book remains largely in the order and at the pace that it was, and editorial changes happen at the sentence level.

Copy editing may include:

  • Editing for clarity, format, syntax, obvious factual errors, and continuity.
  • Canadian/British vs. American spelling issues are dealt with at this point.
  • Correcting faulty spelling, grammar, and punctuation.
  • Correcting incorrect usage (such as who for that).
  • Checking specific cross-references (page numbers, references, etc.)
  • Flagging inappropriate or over-used figures of speech.
  • Changing passive verbs to active.
  • Flagging ambiguous or incorrect statements (very important in business titles).

 Proofreading

This is usually the final step in editing, when a detail-oriented, meticulous editor goes word-by-word to correct grammar, spelling, usage, and typographical errors. Proofreaders make sure that spelling, hyphens, numerals, and capitalization are always consistent. Proofreading fixes what our computer spelling and grammar checkers miss. We are all guilty on this last point – computers programs make life perhaps a bit too easy!

Let me reiterate – all manuscripts need editing. It is a matter of what stage your work is at to determine which service you feel you need.

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This post is the fourth in a series on the Fundamentals of Self Publishing Your Business Book.

More articles in this Fundamentals Series:

3 Approaches to Defining Your Business Book Concept

Keys to Writing a Non-Fiction Outline

6 Essential Ingredients for Writing a Book

6 Essential Ingredients for Writing a Book

Fundamentals series: Brilliant Idea Books

writing a business book

Writing a book brings concepts and ideas to light that most business authors never even consider. Some are practical while others are like a big splash of reality. Consider author, consultant and business coach Kristi Hedges (www.thehedgescompany.com). She wrote a powerful business book The Power of Presence a few years ago and wrote about her experiences in the publishing world in a Forbes magazine piece. The information applies to authors who take the traditional route or chose to self-publish. She agreed to let us run an excerpt from the article.

#1  Make sure you love the topic.

I had no idea how important this point would be — even years after a book is written. Of course it’s helpful during the writing process if you feel energized about your topic. But after the book comes out, you will likely spend years talking about it, and this continues in a self-propagating way. You do a book talk, then someone hires you to speak to their company, leading to a series of workshops there, and so on.

You don’t just write your book, promote it for awhile, then go back to your day job.

#2 You have to be ready for self-promotion.

I ran a PR firm for 10 years, and even I was surprised at the sheer amount of promotion that goes into a book effort. Yes, your publisher will help some, and an independent publicist if you choose to hire one. But the one doing the talking — with reporters, on webinars, in speeches, on social media — is YOU. And again, this doesn’t go on for three months, it lasts indefinitely. I still do some element of book promotion every single day.

Back to point #1, it’s a whole lot easier if you genuinely feel passionate about the topic, and can focus on promoting the ideas rather than just yourself.

#3 You’ll be doing 90% of the marketing.

A common complaint about traditional publishing is that authors have to do the bulk of the work promoting their own books. With the industry in such a state of change, marketing staffs have been cut, and publishers have to make strategic decisions about how many resources to put into the books that are coming out in any given year. This means for a first time author, you will likely not get much, unless you’re the likes of Sheryl Sandberg.

I found that my publisher was able to offer a good bit of support, and still does, but I was also realistic about it. They have numerous books coming out at any given time, and appreciate authors who are willing to put in their own effort. I knew that the most I could do on social media, and on my own, would amplify my publisher’s efforts.

This is all to say you should be prepared to take the lead on marketing, and work with your publisher to fill in around those efforts.

#4 You should be willing to go global.

One of the most rewarding aspect of having a book in the world, is that literally, it gets read around the world. I’ve gotten requests to come speak and offer services all over the map. Back to that learning curve, perhaps I should have expected this, but I am still surprised at the reach a published book provides. I anticipated that it would help with my current clients and market, but it has opened up so many possibilities beyond that.

Especially with social media, we are truly in a global connected society. When you write a book, you should consider that you’re going national and global, and get ready to have your passport stamped. Conversely, if you’re not willing or able to travel, you may want to think twice.

#5 Be open to connecting.

To me, this has been the most personally satisfying aspect — the meaningful connections that get made. Your thoughts get read by tens of thousands, and the interviews and blogs you do go viral. Well beyond your actual book sales, your ideas in the book spread. And people reach out to you, in emails, Twitter, Facebook, and in person.

You should know this is coming, and expect to be generous with your thoughts and your time. Many authors love to write because they are introverts, who don’t need as much social stimulation. But your readers feel as if they know you, and want to connect and get your advice. My advice is to be prepared and to embrace it. And look at it as a privilege.

#6 Be thoughtful about what time you can dedicate, or it will take you over.

As you can probably gather from all of the above, having a published book takes a considerable amount of time. It’s like having a second full-time job the first year, and a part-time job thereafter. There’s an infinite amount of work you could do, but your time is finite. It’s important to think of your entire career, and life, and where you want a book to fit into it.

Truthfully, I feel like I am still trying to find this balance! There’s always more I could be doing, and want to be doing. (Keeping the web site updated alone is a thorn in my side.) But I have gotten more mindful of the activities that have the best ROI. Webinars, blogs, Twitter and workshops have become my mainstays — while it’s tough to speak for free anymore. You find your groove, eventually. But with hindsight, I could have benefitted by being more strategic on the front end.

Today, with some perspective, I can say that publishing a book is one of the highlights of my career. I’m excitedly nervous (or nervously excited) about doing it again. Regardless, I’ll be starting with Tip #1 — finding a topic I’m passionate about.

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This post is the third in a series on the Fundamentals of Self Publishing Your Business Book.

More articles in this Fundamentals Series:

3 Approaches to Defining Your Business Book Concept

Keys to Writing a Non-Fiction Outline

Keys to Writing a Non-Fiction Outline

Fundamentals series: Brilliant Idea Books
writing a non fiction outline

This post, the second in a series on the Fundamentals of Self Publishing Your Business Book, tackles the sticky question of non-fiction outlines.

To outline or not to outline…

I suspect a few business people have the innate ability to apply the same logic and clear thinking used in their business when they sit down with a laptop and construct their book. Ideas flow naturally with a solid structure and foundation.  And the writing seems effortless.

The majority of us, however, need some guidelines and that’s where an outline comes in.

Based on my experience working with business authors, there are three basic steps to crafting a solid, workable outline that will see you through the whole project.

#1: Create a Mindmap

On a blank sheet of paper write your book’s title (or topic) in the centre. Sounds simple enough. Remember you are the business expert in your field – so perhaps the name of your company in the center might be a place to start. Or you might want to select some phrases from your mission statement.

Jot down all the ideas that you have around the edge. You can use circles for each idea or lines connecting back.  Don’t worry about putting them in order or selecting between them – just get everything down.

Once you’re confident you’ve captured all your key ideas, you can start prioritizing them. Which ones belong in my book? Are some of the ideas too basic, or too advanced? Do I know what I want to say and can I explain it easily?

Now step away. Ignore it for a day or two to distance yourself from the information. When you’re ready, go back and look at it fresh. Do you see topics that are similar enough to be covered in the same chapter? Circle or number them. Are there any topics that don’t really fit in with your overall idea? Start deleting them now.

For some writers this may be enough to keep them on track, but for others this exercise feeds directly into a chapter outline.

#2: Create a Chapter-by-Chapter Outline

Your next step is to turn your mindmap into a chapter-by-chapter outline: this could very well be the basic table of contents for your book.

You might want to start with an “Introduction” and end with a “Conclusion” (though you can name those slightly differently if you want). But many writers work on the beginning and end much later in the process. In between, you’ll have chapters. If you find that you’ve got a lot of chapters, I think that’s OK – there is no rule on how few or how many you can have.

Obviously you’ve now moved to your computer. You’ll want to create your chapter-by-chapter outline as a document, so you can easily rearrange the chapters. Logically, you’ll want to put the more basic material at the start of your book, and work up gradually to more advanced topics.

If you are writing a narrative non-fiction book, then this gets a bit tricky. In this case you have to think about the narrative arc or how the book will span from the introduction to conclusion. It could be that it works to have specific chapters but with a narrative it is best to start the writing process and let this table of contents keep you on a clear path.

#3: Write Notes for Each Chapter

You’re starting to fill in the space now. It’s a great idea to also make a few notes on each chapter at the planning stage. It’s up to you exactly how you do this, so jot down subheadings or key points that you want to cover in each chapter.

Sometimes, you might find that one chapter is going to require a lot of research: if so, you might choose to change the scope of your book slightly and cut out that chapter, or you might want to keep it in but allow extra time for writing it. In either case don’t get hung up on adding or deleting chapters as you’re making progress.

Last – and this is something to both accept and remember. You will be re-writing your work. As mentioned at the start there are a few gifted writers who have the knack for letting the work unfold simply, easily, and beautifully. But the vast majority of us need to work, re-work and re-work again! the material until it feels absolutely right.

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More articles in this Fundamentals Series:

3 Approaches to Defining Your Business Book Concept

3 Approaches to Defining Your Business Book Concept

Fundamentals series: Brilliant Idea Books
writing a business book

What do I want to say in my book?

This can be the biggest obstacle out of the starting block for any writer. For some people it can take years to describe their book concept and in many cases it never does get clearly defined.

Ideas swirl around, scrawled notes on Starbucks napkins get left behind, and individual one page Word docs start to plug your computer.  Everyone means well but becoming disciplined to not only think out what you want to say but how to say isn’t easy.

In this first post in a series on the Fundamentals of Publishing Your Business Book, I’ll try to get to some answers. Let me give you some ideas which could open up a path forward.

1. Tell a Story

Keep in mind the basics: determine your goals, know your audience, and only then start to write an outline and basic one or two line chapter highlights.

The approach is where people get bogged down. One suggestion for defining your book concept is to determine how you might normally explain something to a group of people. Think about it – if you are a born storyteller or you consistently use examples to illustrate your point vs someone who logically breaks down a talk into a PowerPoint or bullet point approach – you might be on your way to how you will feel most comfortable with the process of writing your book.

For storytellers, constructing chapters into parables might work. A really good example of this is Bill Bishop’s How to Sell a Lobster: the Money-Making Secrets of a Street wise Entrepreneur.  The book has seventeen short chapters and each has a beginning and an end.

Taking this even further an entire business book could become a story.  You can create a fictious company and staff, create a problem and set out various ways it was solved.  One terrific book I’ve read that uses this method is  Built to Sell: Turn Your Business into One You can Sell by John Warrilow. The book is about how to sell your business but written with a compelling narrative than easily supported John’s thesis – and his consulting business.

For some people this is a comfortable approach and it can bring out the “writer” in some entrepreneurs.

2. Solve a Problem

But it doesn’t work for everyone.  Most business books have a linear approach. Start with identifying a problem and lead the reader down the road to a solution.

That isn’t to say they don’t have examples sometimes in sidebars but generally the emphasis is on presenting the facts or expertise in a common-sense manner.  This is where a clear and logical chapter progression is essential.

Don’t worry about the number of chapters. I’ve read business books that have twenty or more. And that might work for you or not. The editor who works on your book will have guidance on how they flow.

Knowing your audience is the key for this writing approach. You don’t want to talk down or talk up to potential customers for your business or service. Getting the correct tone might take some time – again, an editor will help.

3. Write What You Know

As you start writing, just pour it out on the paper. Many masters of writing have one consistently common phrase that has stood the test of time: write what you know. If you feel you are an expert in your field then tell the world why. If you have a service that can be extremely useful to a certain segment of the business world – tell them how it can help them.  If you have a unique business philosophy that more people could use – use your book to illustrate why.

For business entrepreneurs who know they need a book, believe they have something different and unique, getting the concept right requires thought and planning. Defining your book concept depends on your style and comfort level of how you want to deliver your message.

One final thought:  do not get bogged down with making the writing perfect. There are far too many books that remain in a desk drawer or buried in a hard drive that with some skill editorial work could be a really useful business card that reflects your business.

Once you have an approach you like get it all down on the page. An editor can do wonders with any method you choose.

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