Editing the eBook Revolution by Hetty May

Editing the eBook Revolution
by  Hetty May

Writers using the traditional method of seeking a publisher for their book have many people to go through before their book reaches the shelves of the book store (remember them)? Even after the manuscript and a contract signed, the book must still go though editing, revising and proofreading. Alas, one of the complaints about the number of 99 cent eBooks arriving in the market is the lack of professionals services used to make the book marketable and, in some cases, even readable.

Many eBook authors take the simple route and handle the whole process by themselves. Unfortunately, it is becoming easier to spot the self publishers that have used professional services and those who have eliminated the extra costs.

Self publishers will find that literary agents don’t appear to be open to new clients because publishers have limited their client lists to the top successful authors and are not offering advances to new authors following the eBook revolution of the past two years. Why should new authors stress over spending 2-3 years trying to find an agent who will take 15% of their royalties which might only be 10-15% of the book sale price anyway when Kindle and friends offer 70% and you can be in print inside 24 hours?

Services the self publisher might miss

But if you're going the self-publishing route, you may miss out on the following services offered by the big publishing houses.


The proofreader is the fine tuner. She proofs the latest edition of the manuscript. It is so easy to become almost blind to seeing mistakes in a manuscript because you have read it so many times; you fill in the gaps your eyes don’t see. Only a fresh pair of eyes can be truly successful at this task.

The proofreader is the very last person who sees the text before it goes to print. After the proofreader, no-one else gets a chance to change anything.

Copy editor

There are many freelancers who operate this type of business over the internet, but their prices vary considerably. Their role is to seek out mistakes with spelling, grammar and punctuation.

Authors will decide which is their main market because the way, for example, the British and the Americans speak is quite different. The writing must match the market or watch sales fail. Conveniently, movies (or films) have started to amalgamate the two sets of English usage and more British and Americans are used to more of the other’s language conventions.

Copy editors will also fact check to see that Abraham Lincoln was born on February 12th 1809, if that piece of information is quoted. They will also check that words are used with their right meaning. Catching the use of 'there' when 'their' was right, may save later embarrassment.

Copy editors have one of the most difficult tasks as they need to look over the manuscript both line by line and sentence by sentence, without taking any more of the manuscript into account when going piece by piece. Just eliminating one misplaced comma will save grumbles later on from the reader. Mistakes like that give the whole of the eBook self publishing industry a bad name.

Developmental editor

Working through consecutive drafts with the writer, the developmental editor might suggest changing the structure of a manuscript to ensure the readability and accuracy of the document.

Substantive editor

This is the editor the writer may loathe, but in the long term, love after successful sales. This editor helps to improve the writing by looking at the story elements, the plot, the characters, the way in which the characters speak. This editor might also make suggestions – giving notes – that may suggest a change of the order of the scenes, the settings and the overall pace of the author’s work.

Essentially the substantive editor is looking to help make the book a better read and therefore, better to sell after many Amazon five star reviews.

Most writers will know that the real writing only begins after the first draft is complete. Some writers will edit as they go along, chapter by chapter, but essentially you can only look over an entire project and decide how to improve it after it is complete.

It’s worth thinking what you can afford to spend to improve your book, but using the services of at least a copy editor will go a long way to improving your masterpiece.
When Hetty May first started her writing career, the notion of eBooks and Amazon was just a glimmer on the horizon. These days, she is an amateur interior designer and professional freelancer.


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