Let’s face it, Indie authoring can cost a lot of money with not a lot of return. Where you spend your business money means tough decisions need to be made. Do I spend it on marketing? Editing? Cover art? All these things are important, almost equally so. But what do you prioritise when money is tight?
I’m never not going to advocate for spending money on editing, especially for Indie Authors. Or, more accurately, more so for Indie Authors. If you want to know more of why that is I wrote about how badly edited books damage the industry last week.
On a more personal level you should care about the quality of your editing because a poorly edited book sets you up for failure. A pretty cover on a error laden book won’t bring readers back. Expensive ad campaigns on badly edited books won’t lead readers to line up for book two. Readers inclined to leave star ratings and reviews often give poor reviews for badly edited books. This not only warns other readers off but on some selling platforms negatively affect the algorithm making your books harder to find. For this reason I put editing as the #1 place to spend your money on improving your book. However as an Indie Author (one who wasn’t always working a day job full time too) I understand sometimes you just don’t have cash flow for anything – and that shouldn’t stop you chasing your dreams.
For this reason I put together a list of 10 things you can do for yourself to improve the quality of your book.
1 – Use cheat sheets for errors. There are heaps of free templates online or you can make your own. Especially things you do all the time wrong. Know you always use the wrong word between “effect” and “affect”? Put it on an editing list then run a search program like Find in Word to cross reference and check your usage. Learning your own automatic errors will help you curb them in the future.
2- Over-used words. I have a list of do not use words given to me by an editor. Some are common (over using “that” or “really” etc.) Add your own over used words. That way you can write normally to get the story out then fix it later. Every writer has their own crutch words and phrases they automatically overuse. By learning what yours are you can easily tighten your writing and re-write sentences to have more impact.
3- Don’t trust autocorrect. Programs like autocorrect, Grammarly, spell check etc. are useful but not infallible. Use them but make your own call.
4 – Take time between writing and editing. Even taking two weeks between finishing your manuscript and started the edits can make a world of difference in the quality of your editing. So can working on a different project between the two. It helps re-set your brain out of the world you’ve been writing in and makes errors stand out more.
5 – Read/buy books on editing to know what to look out for. You want to bake a cake you’re going to use a recipe right? If you want to improve your editing learning how to do it properly is a must. If money is tight see what you can get for free. Think libraries and Kindle Unlimited. Author service providers often have free or cheap ebooks to help you DIY your Indie Book.
6 – Read slowly. Don’t let your mind fill in the blanks or make assumptions. Let your eyes read what you actually wrote, don’t let your brain trick you into reading what you expect to see.
7 – Read out loud. Especially if you’re unsure the sentence is right. If it sounds wrong it probably is.
8 – The way we talk isn’t the way we write. My uncle wrote a book that was written verbatim as if he’d dictated it. Including all those colloquial things we say that aren’t technically right. Including repetitions and idioms that you wouldn’t normally see in a book.
9 – Learn how to use commas. Incorrect comma use is the #1 thing I find wrong in people’s books both as an editor and a reader.
10 – Find a style guide. One of the most obvious editing issues in a book is usually down to formatting. While formatting itself isn’t “editing” it is part of the editorial and print ready process. If you aren’t sure, google a template or instruction sheet. I’ve seen quite a few floating around the internet. Amazon has its own templates for their print and kindle services and Mark Croker has books out on how to format for Smashwords. Last time I checked the Smashwords Style Guide was a free download on Smashwords and Amazon.
Still intimidated about editing your own book but don’t think you can afford an editor? Ask about a payment plan. As an editor I’m happy to work with people to see if we can arrange something beneficial to both of us. I’m sure I’m not the only one. Also, remember waiting is always an option. Just because you finished your book doesn’t mean you need to publish it right away. You can take a few weeks or months to put aside money to pay for editing. As an Indie author you’re running to your own schedule not the demands of a publisher. Lastly, don’t forget there are free teaching resources are available online if you look hard enough for them.