I’ve listened to conversations on both the Scout Kboards thread and our closed Facebook page, and there are a lot of levels of experience represented there from newbies to multi-published authors. When I was a newbie author, I didn’t know what I didn’t know, and I was truly grateful to learn all that I could.
My first book went through a traditional publishing production process, so I learned a lot the first time through. My Kindle Press book, Shelter My Heart, is my ninth published work if I count my Caught Up in Raine box set. When I submitted my Scout book, it was completely production ready, meaning full copyedit and proofread—just a button push away from publication. So you could say I was surprised when my edits came back. They fell into two categories:
Some definitions for you…
House Style – Every publisher uses what’s called a “house style.” That’s defined as the writing manual guide they use, in this case, Chicago Manual of Style and definitions as found in the Merriam-Webster dictionary, as opposed to say, the Oxford English dictionary. What this did was change “half-brother” to “half brother” in my entire manuscript.
Substantive changes – These are changes that impact plot, characterization, etc., and span from changing a few sentences to rewriting half your novel.
Since I just finished and submitted my edits, I figured I’d share what I did and give some “best practice tips” on pre-production editing.
So what to do with those edits? You have the option of accepting them or rejecting them. I’d strongly caution you against ignoring them. If you do, please don’t whine later about knocks to your editing. Granted, there are trolls out there who will target KP books regardless, but this is your chance to fix any last minute things that are broken. Think of it as a gift rather than a chore. You’ve worked hard to get here don’t let impatience to get to market rob you of quality. Quality trumps fast to market every time.
The process that has worked for me:
Set your ego aside. It’s almost expected that getting editorial letters will make you feel uncomfortable, or even freak you out and even anger you. Almost every writer feels some level of affront under criticism. But we are not the best judge of our own work, we’re too close to it. Better judges are those with a practiced eye who don’t know us and have professional expertise that exceeds ours. Consider it the learning opportunity that it is.
Read your edits through—twice—and then sleep on them. This will give you some perspective, and allow your unconscious mind to mull over what you read.
Keep TRACK CHANGES on until you are done editing, and attack the easy changes first.
House-style or grammar changes:
For substantive changes that require adding, changing, deleting sentences to scenes: Sometimes you can achieve the change in a few sentences or a paragraph. My belief is that none of the books selected for this program will require substantial rewrites. Otherwise, they wouldn’t have been selected. So consider what is being said, and ask yourself:
“Does this resonate with me?”
“Will it make it for a stronger story?”
“Is this something readers will complain about in reviews if I keep it as is?”
“Have my beta readers mentioned the same issues?”
There were four substantive changes recommended for my book, three of which made sense. I made those. They all strengthened the characterization and sharpened / clarified the character motivations. The one I chose not to make involved collapsing two chapters, instead I pruned in other areas where the same impact was achieved.
There's more than one way to skin a cat. The editor may suggest a change that causes a story ripple or an unraveling somewhere else. Sometimes there is a way to tweak your story that achieves the same objective with a different plot change. Choose the solution that works best for your story.
Beware the ripple effect. Changing something in one place may, and often does, impact something else in the story. Be sure to mark all the places that you need to re-read to smooth over continuity issues.
Preliminary read-through. After you’ve finished, and all the changes you want to keep are highlighted in track changes, read through your changes again. This is especially important for flushing out awkward sentence structures created by the editor’ changes. This is where new errors are introduced into the MS.
Another professional set of eyes. I understand many people don’t have the extra money to get someone to check their post-edit changes, but I choose to do this since I had some rewriting and wanted to stay true to house style.
Full re-read of the manuscript. I can hear you grumbling from here. Trust me, if you skip this step, chances are you’ll go to publication with continuity issues or more typos. This was huge for me in picking up issues and redundancies created by the changes as well as getting rid of anomalies.
Front and Back Matter. Don’t forget to add these.
Preformatting your Word document. Not necessary and not something everyone can do, but I format my own books and run it through Jutoh to turn it into an eBook format to flush out the wacky things MS WORD sometimes does inside the document code once it's converted to eBook format. This way, I got to fix anything that created a conversion issue and took the decision out of the KP formatter’s hands.
My edits took two weeks all-in, but the time investment felt worth it. That’s it, and good luck!
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