As indie publishing1 matures, the need for new editing approaches has become apparent, with some freelance editors changing their protocols to accommodate indie authors looking for affordable editing and copyediting.
In traditional publishing, the standard process has always involved several steps, with the ms. (manuscript) being returned to the author for revision and corrections between steps; this is one reason a trad pubbed book takes between a year and two from acceptance to release. These stages are typically:
Edit (general); line edit; copyedit; proofread. There may even be a major developmental edit before the general edit.
Since each of these steps requires a careful and complete read of the ms. as well as annotation, the traditional process quickly becomes expensive: a line or copyedit on a novel will easily take forty to fifty hours or more. It’s therefore obvious that the traditional sequence of editing tasks, costing upwards of $5,000 at a minimum, will be beyond the means of all but a very few indie authors and small presses.
And yet, most indie authors of even moderate experience are aware that the success of their book may well depend on it being properly edited and proofread: the days of just completing a novel and uploading it to Amazon full of errors and inconsistencies are (thankfully) long gone. For those who still do it, their book is likely to get awful reviews, if it gets any, and sink like a stone.
Before discussing solutions, let’s make sure we define our terms, because there’s a lot of confusion on what the various stages of editing are:
- General Editing. Will address macro issues of the draft ms. like plot and character arcs, poor plot logic, passages and scenes that aren’t working well, stylistic issues, etc. Sometimes referred to as substantive or developmental editing, a general edit is similar to a critique in that it reviews the ms. as a whole; unlike a critique, this edit provides more specific and detailed recommendations, and offers solutions to the problems identified.
- Line Editing. A more detailed and intensive edit whose aim is to improve the flow, pacing, polish, and overall readability of the work. Line editing addresses, among much else, dialogue, style, grammar, tense, and syntax issues. Will typically include suggestions and examples for revising and rewording sentences paragraphs that need improvement.
- Copyediting: The pre-final pass through a ms., copyediting looks at the fine detail, including punctuation, consistency, capitalization, formatting, and anything missed at the line editing stage. The copyeditor is also responsible for fact-checking.
- Proofreading: strictly limited to checking spelling, punctuation, capitalization, grammar, verb tense, and consistency in formatting. Proofreading is usually the final step before a document goes to print.
That’s the process in traditional publishing, and it’s still the way things are done in the big houses, although even they’re starting to cut corners for new and even some midlist authors whose books aren’t expected to become big hits.
As a freelancer, I’ve worked to come up with a solution that offers the best possible value for the indie author on a tight budget. My goal here is to catch and correct as much as possible on a single pass through the ms. as well as providing some remedy for new errors that might be introduced (it happens) when the author implements some of the suggested fixes turned up by my edit.
I call this one-pass edit the Single Edit Solution, and it comprises full line editing plus copyediting (see definitions above) as well as some limited general editing/developmental guidance where needed; examples of this would be a character behaving inconsistently, logical errors, flat scenes, continuity issues, etc. In the case of novels, I include a provision for post-edit checking of up to 2,000 words of rewritten material at no additional cost. This last is aimed at solving the problem of new errors being introduced post-edit.
“I’m delighted at each opportunity to work with Dario Ciriello, who vastly improves my story and writing with every editing pass. He works with warmth and compassion to boot, supporting me as a writer and a person as we puzzle out thorny writing issues that would otherwise be demoralizing to tackle on my own. Dario has edited three of my novels so far, and I look forward to a long-term working relationship together.”
– William Hertling, author of the highly-acclaimed 2016 tech thriller “Kill Process” and the hit “Avogadro Corp.” series of SF/tech thrillers. http://www.williamhertling.com
1 For this purposes of this article, I’m using the term “indie” to include self-published authors
Check out my guest post, “Breathe! The Copyeditor has your Back” at Fiction University