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Tips on editing your book Writing tips

Editing your story: what you need to know

How do you edit your story before submitting your manuscript to a publisher? Do you use a professional editor? Or do you self-edit?

My recommendation, from personal experience, is to get another pair of eyes to look over your work.

I’m not talking about readers who leave comments or reviews in a writing community, but someone with professional publishing experience: an editor who has the right skills, qualifications, and experience in the editing and publishing world.

Also, find someone who specializes in your genre so they can spot things related directly to your book’s genre. For example, if you’re a romance writer, then get an editor with experience in the romance genre, rather than a nonfiction editor.

Here are the common excuses for not getting your story properly edited:

  1. I can’t afford a proper editor
  2. I’ve got good enough editing skills – after all, I topped my high school English class
  3. I’m terrified of having my story criticized and butchered to pieces

I’m hoping this article will help writers to consider how a more thorough editing process with the right editor will help boost the chances of a publisher saying “yes” to a manuscript. Of course, you need to take in other factors, for example, is the story potentially ‘hot’ in the market? Is it sellable? That’s why publishers have acquisitions editors.

A good editor can give your book the boost it needs.

1. I can’t afford a proper editor

My question to you is: have you looked hard enough? If you’re still telling me the same thing, then keep looking.

There are editors who are affordable and great to work with. Google is your friend. Ask around in writing groups, community forums, or social media book-related groups. Facebook has a plethora of groups where readers, writers, and editors unite to support each other.

Instagram and Twitter are other places where you can find editors and editing companies.

Writers’ associations also namedrop editors from time to time. There are different freelance websites too, so check these out. Pick your editors carefully; check that they have the right language skills that match the language of your manuscript. Try to find someone with industry experience (they’ve been around long enough to pass on their first-hand knowledge and experience).

There are different types of editors including developmental editors, structural editors, copy editors, and proofreaders. I won’t go into detail in this blog article, but you can read 6 Types of Editing on Reedsyblog to determine what editing suits your needs best.

2. I’ve got good enough editing skills

Avoid following this guy. Push away your pride and allow yourself to be humble during the editing process.

You scored top grades in your high school English class and got into a literature or journalism course. In fact, you work as a writer, editor, or communications professional in your day job. Heck, you’ve even got a Master’s degree.

You don’t need an editor, right? Why waste time and money when you can do it yourself? You’ve received enough comments, ratings, story “likes”, and other feedback from your writer’s group and community platforms for stories. Your story has been handpicked by the organizers of the community to be officially featured. Your readers tell you how much they love your story and how it made them cry, laugh, etc.

Sounds familiar?

Hmm, yeah. However, is our self-edited work good enough for publishers?

C’mon, let’s be serious. If self-editing has worked for you, then that is an achievement and I’m your cheerleader. I know someone who had his work traditionally published after years of self-editing, and I have a copy of his book on my bookshelf (I’ve read it twice and it’s really good). 🙂

However, many of us aren’t that lucky. The reality is that you may not be the best person to edit your work.

Let someone else be the second pair of eyes to give you sound advice and help you find the flaws in your story, may it be plot or character development, grammar and spelling errors, or even using a style guide that’s different from ones that the publishers use. There are some things good editors pick up that programs such as Grammarly don’t spot.

3. I’m terrified of having my story criticized and butchered to pieces

Sometimes book surgery is necessary to succeed.

Well, would you rather wait until you get butchered to pieces by reviewers on Amazon, Goodreads, or other places?

Editors are meant to help you progress, not hinder you. Trust your manuscript in the hands of good editors and you’ll thank them later.

Allow them to criticize and perform surgery on your manuscript. They may save your book’s life. No publisher wants a sloppy manuscript, nor do they want to see poorly developed characters or flimsy plots. If your story is filled with purple prose and overly long and boring descriptions, it’ll end up in file number thirteen (the trash).

I challenge you to find the toughest editor who might even scare you a little. From personal experience, I found the best editors were my toughest critics. They found flaws that I would never have spotted in a million years!

Can editing help boost your book’s rating?

Good advice from Harper Lee, author of To Kill A Mockingbird.

I can’t give a definite answer but I’d like to think that a nicely edited book improves its ratings and reviews. Getting your story properly edited might turn a three-star book into a four-star book, or a four-star book into a five-star book. In the world of social media, where emotions and jealousy are rife, there are plenty of trolls who, like loose cannons, may leave a one-star rating with no review. The four and five-star reviews may save your story from tanking on Amazon.

How do you aim to get good reviews? Make sure your story is a top-quality one.

In my case, I depend on readers I don’t personally know to leave reviews because my family and personal friends won’t buy or read my books.

They’re not being mean, believe me (I’m laughing here). I write erotic romances—my mother, sister, brother, and my best friends will not read something I’ve written along the lines of 365 Dni or Fifty Shades of Grey. They don’t want to think of explicit sex scenes with BDSM, kink, and ménage à trois when we catch up. My husband hasn’t read my stories, and he won’t read them either. He’s not interested in hunky gigolos or sexy cowboys.

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Getting published What readers want Writing tips

So, you want to get published?

By Estelle Pettersen, author of Lessons on Seduction.

Lessons on Seduction, an erotic romance novel by E Pettersen
Lessons on Seduction, an erotic romance novel by Estelle Pettersen, published by Black Velvet Seductions.

I’m writing this blog post for aspiring writers who dream to have their books published one day. I hope this will help you make clever choices as part of your publishing journey.

Are you looking for a publisher?

Okay, so you’ve spent time researching (this is a MUST), writing, editing, editing, and editing your story. Have I emphasized the editing part enough? You’re now feeling ready and excited to submit your story to an agent or publisher.

There’s been a lot of buzz, hype, and excitement about finding publishers, but here’s what you need to know, because amid the good publishers, there are many sharks out there. When I mean sharks, I’m referring to:

Vanity publishers

Vanity publishers offer you contracts where you pay an arm, leg, foot, or kidney to have your work published. With some vanity publishers, you pay for all the services, but you don’t even own the book because they may demand in the contract the same rights over the book as a traditional publisher would. Does this sound fair? My advice: don’t do it.

They paint themselves as credible but Google them. Google publisher reviews on them. Be wary. Their game is a dirty business, driven by what they can milk out of you, not giving a d-mn about the quality of your content.

You’re only selling yourself short because what have you really achieved? If your work is truly outstanding and you’ve jumped too soon in bed with a vanity publisher, you’ll always be questioning yourself, “What if I had gone with a traditional publisher?” When I talk about traditional publishing in this sense, I’m referring to the Writer’s Digest definition:

Traditional book publishing is when a publisher offers the author a contract and, in turn, prints, publishes, and sells your book through booksellers and other retailers. The publisher essentially buys the right to publish your book and pays you royalties from the sales.”

(source: https://writersdigestshop.com/pages/how-to-publish-a-book-an-overview-of-traditional-self-publishing)

False agents

False agents will pitch your book to publishers for an inflated fee. What happens? You end up paying a lot of money and they do the work you could have done: send a generic email to a ton of publishers but nothing is personalized; it’s just a big blast.

Companies that claim to have direct contacts with publishers and will write your synopsis and submission letter for a large amount of money also fall into this category. Plus, you can pay more! Why? Because there are add-ons if you want more, such as a tracking list of publishers/agents, edited chapters of your manuscript, etc.

For goodness sake, don’t you trust your own writing and research skills? If you can write your own story, you should be able to write your own synopsis and submission letter. And guess what? Doing it yourself is free!

Cold-calling publishers

Cold-calling publisher. If you’re a Wattpad user and you’ve been contacted on the platform, please report it as spam.

These are ‘Publishers’ who approach you out of the blue, claiming that they love your work and offer to send a contract. Do they even know your name? Have they really read your novel? What do they like about your work? Did they even mention your novel title in their message? Be very careful about what they promise because all that glitters ain’t gold. Do not lock yourself into a contract that seems too easy and too good to be true.

Did you check their platform and see how many readers they actually have? Or how many stories they have? Are they quality stories? Will you be lost in the sea, competing with others who have been promised the same shady, shoddy deal? My advice: stay away from them.

Find a publisher that best fits your book. Aim for a publisher with a good reputation. Image source: Pixabay.com

Good publishers don’t:

  • Approach you out of the blue. They’re often going through submissions and picking the ones that are the right fit for their publishing goals.
  • Ask you to pay a ridiculous amount of money to cover publishing or marketing costs. This is a general statement as there are some good hybrid publishers out there who do give a fair deal.
  • Offer a small percentage of sale returns – your share (eg. 5%).
  • Hike the price for your book’s selling price so that it’s harder to sell.
  • Aggressively push you to sign the contract with haste.
  • Leave you in the dark when it comes to marketing your book.

Good publishers do:

  • Have a submission process where writers (or agents on behalf of writers) are encouraged to submit a manuscript, based on the publisher’s requirements.
  • Offer a contract where you, as the author, are not required to foot a hefty amount toward the publishing of your book. That’s right, you heard me. The publisher pays you, not the other way around.
  • Offer a fair percentage of sales returns – your fair share.
  • Price your book so it’s at a competitive price, including a presale prior to the book’s release. The book’s price will be similar to other books in your subgenre.
  • Give you a reasonable deadline to sign the contract.
  • Encourage you and guide you with marketing your book, and offer promotional opportunities and events. This includes developing a social media presence and offering suggestions such as having an author’s website among other things.

There’s one last thing that good publishers do: they believe in you. I chose to go the hard road and persevere with my writing. It took me two years from draft to final manuscript of Lessons on Seduction, and I did my research on publishers.

I found my publisher Black Velvet Seductions after doing my homework and checking for erotic romance publishers with great reviews in the publishing industry. It was also listed on renowned sci-fi and fantasy author Piers Anthony’s website, in the publishers’ list.

Make your writing and publishing journey an enjoyable one. Image source: Pixabay.com

Finally, there are three platforms I recommend, where you can meet and interact with other readers and writers to help you grow in your writing journey:

  1. Wattpad
  2. Radish Fiction (by application only, they can be tough on screening content quality)
  3. Inkitt (by application).

I’ve got a presence in all three platforms (I’ve only got draft sample stories on the latter two and haven’t been too active; I just don’t have the time to stretch, sorry!), but I’m most active in my role as an ambassador for Wattpad, doing my best to give other writers a helping hand. I believe we can all succeed. I really do!

Whatever your goals are, please be patient. Please be persistent, and please persevere. Every author who has a contract with a publisher will tell you that they have had to persevere before they get their work published.

The other option, of course, is to self-publish. However, I would suggest trying an agent or publisher first. Why? They can open the door for you in so many ways and can give a boost to lift first-time authors. You can also meet other more experienced authors (with the same publisher) who you can learn from and grow.

I’ll write some more about publishing, but I thought this is a good start.

Authors supporting authors. Image source: giphy.com

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