Committed—Self-publishing Part 5: onto the alternate Publishing Path—what to do with the feedback and its costs
With a generally positive, but hardly gushing evaluation, I got at list of recommended services: basically the typical things that happen to a book in a Traditional Publishing house, which follow three basic stages of the editing process from structural, to mechanical, to surface editing.
This full package starts with the Developmental Edit, basically a first to last page reading, with an eye on the target readership to determine if the content is complete and appropriate. The developmental editor addresses big-picture issues such as plot development, point of view, dialogue, characterization, and setting, and who then provides a summary of the main structural issues in the manuscript as well as more specific notes in the manuscript itself as needed. This includes flagging erroneous information, or elements not relevant to the readership, minding the plot and characters to preserve consistency, flagging instances where the material strays from the plotline. It may also offer additional suggestions to improve the work, including light fact checking.
The author receives a summary these comments which cover broad, structural issues at the story, chapter and scene levels: it could mean the addition or removal of whole scenes or characters, perhaps adjustments to the plot line, and possibly suggestions about missed opportunities. In the manuscript itself, the editor addresses issues best shown there, including pointing out contradictions, factual errors or places needing reorganization. Big picture stuff. This editor does not so much edit or revise; rather they advise.
Then it’s up to the writer to act on this, taking what advice he or she wants, rejecting other, and adapting the rest, meaning: rewriting the manuscript. Depending on the book and advice given, this rewrite could be anything from a complete overhaul to minor fixes throughout. Once the writer (or hired hand) rewrites based on the notes from developmental edit, it’s time to resubmit the manuscript for the Content Edit.
Using a different skill set and training, the Content Editor then addresses the manuscript’s details and language. While working to make sure the manuscript meets book industry style standards—the Chicago Manual of Style—this editor also ensures that the developmental issues have been addressed adequately. The editor ensures plotline and character traits are consistent throughout, and flags any parts of the book that are inappropriately placed or puts these inappropriately placed parts of the book in the correct order. Finally, he or she flags minor instances where the material strays from the intended purpose, and highlights any questions that come up for the reader that only the author could answer.
This stage gets down to the sentence level and kind of the work usually imagined when the word edit is heard: correction of errors in syntax, grammar, spelling, and punctuation. In sentences where the intended meaning cannot be discerned, the editor may merely flag it or suggest revisions to the sentence. This editor also checks for consistency of mechanics and internal facts. For phrases and word choice that are inappropriate for the subject matter or readership, the editor suggests alternates. And finally, this edit includes light fact checking where accuracy or continuity of content may be compromised (e.g., research biblical quotes, statistics, or quoted material as needed).
When the manuscript comes back from this second edit, the writer goes at it again, this time at the sentence and word level. Once the writer has finished correcting what errors there may be, answering any questions and taking or rejecting this editor’s suggestions—polishing the manuscript to get it in the best possible shape—the manuscript moves onto the Quality Review.
The Quality Review is the last stop before the manuscript goes in front of the Editorial Review Board to be judged on its quality for the “Editor’s Choice” designation. This editor does not review the entire manuscript—rather, this set of eyes checks what the author has changed since getting the Content Edit. This takes less time, usually 1–2 weeks, depending on the extent of the changes. The editor again follows the Chicago Manual of Style, the stylebook used by traditional publishing houses, throughout the review.
That edit received back, the author is given once last chance with the manuscript to take care of what notes, changes or questions that might have arisen in this last review. Once done, the author returns the finalized manuscript for submission to the Editorial Review Board.
This is a thumbs up-thumbs down read by a member of the board who is trained in publishing industry standards, reading the book as if he or she were an acquisition’s editor at a traditional publishing house. This editor decides if this book is of sufficient quality that a traditional publishing house would consider acquiring it for publication, and writes up a report for the Editorial Review Board. If it’s positive, the book gets recommended to the Editorial Review Board for the “Editor’s Choice” designation, which they take into consideration along with all the other materials the author and the editors have created, including the genre and length.
This board meets when need be, so the wait time is uncertain.
Since the book will be published with or without getting the “Editor’s Choice” designation, the waiting can be filled up with the many preparations for publication, such as updating marketing materials, working on ideas for the cover—any aspect of the book and it’s support other than the body text.
If the book with that good report is accepted by the Editorial Review Board for the “Editor’s Choice” designation, a number of good things happen.
But before any of those good things can happen, someone has to pay all these people to do all the work to get the book to good enough for that kind of report. This being SELF-publishing that means the author. This does not come cheap.
Unless someone is so wealthy that the thousands of additional dollars these services cost—many thousand more for a book as long as A Perfect Blindness—doesn’t matter to them, this forces a gut check: a clear eyed evaluation of the writer’s true commitment and the book’s realistic possibilities of selling enough copies to, at least, break even.
I am not wealthy like that. So, for me, it was time to step back.