So, since I’ve been integrating myself into the indie author scene, I’ve realized major themes that are constant. I mentioned many of them yesterday in my blog post about covers, but I want to talk about editing today.

We have always heard that editing is sooooo important. My high school English teachers and college professors would pretty much threaten us if we turned in badly edited papers. Of course, we all thought our work was fantastic as it was. We had read over it at least once, so it had to be great. Right? Nah.

No matter how great of a writer you are, someone else has to read your work. There are many benefits to this other than just finding grammar and spelling errors, and trust me, no matter how many times you have read your work, there will still be errors. It’s natural for us to miss our own mistakes. We have already written it once, so when our brain is reading it again, it knows what to expect. It jumps ahead. Unfortunately, our brain has a bad habit of jumping right over all of the errors.

I was a teacher for a while, so I have a new appreciation for the editing process. I didn’t realize just how easy it was to spot errors in a paper/book until I started reading stuff that had not passed through some kind of gatekeeper. Some of you may think that one or two errors are fine, and usually you’re right. A few errors can be forgiven if your book is spectacular. But finding more than a few, especially obvious errors, leaves a bad taste in people’s mouths. When I am reading a book and keep running into errors, I form a picture of the author in my mind. I picture them as sloppy and maybe even a little snobby. I mean, if you think your stuff is already good enough to not be edited, then I’m sorry, I won’t be reading any more of your stuff.

Sure, have family and close friends read your work. Tell them to be honest and brutal if need be. Guess what? They will still sugarcoat it for you. If you rely on family for editing, use them for part of the editing process, not the whole. Get your work out to acquaintances, not necessarily friends. Make sure you get it to people that will not hesitate to take a red pen to it!

Within a few days of being involved in the indie scene, a few people offered to beta read my book. As soon as I get my local copies back from editing and make changes, I’ll be using them. Who am I using locally? Well, of course my family, though I know not to rely 100% on that. I’m also going to be giving it out to professionals in the area that I have connected with throughout the years. They are friends, but they certainly have no problem being blunt. Two are former Marines, one has a doctorate in theology (my book needs God on its side), and others are marketing and finance professionals. I’ll feel pretty confident that most of the errors will have been found by then.

I mentioned above another benefit to the editing process. As long as this is part of the agreement, editors are great testers. Tell your editing crew to look for typical spelling, grammar, and flow errors. But also tell them to give you advice. Here are some questions I am sending along with my book –

  1. What intrigued you about novel?
  2. What disappointed you about the novel?
  3. Did anything surprise you?
  4. Who was your favorite character and why?
  5. Is there anything you would have cut? Added?
  6. Anything else I need to know?

I’ll think of a few more, but you get the point. By the time your book is ready to publish, it should have run the gauntlet. One of the biggest complaints about self-published authors is our lack of a gatekeeper. Well, it’s time to pony up and make our own gate. The only way to really change the minds of others and to gain a much larger readership in the indie scene is to make our work better than published work. It can be done, but first we have to get past ourselves.