I’m not a writer, but everyone keeps telling me I need to write a book. If I do, I know I’ll need a lot of help. How do I know if I need ghostwriting or editing?

First, defining the terms will probably be helpful: ghostwriting means that you’re hiring a writer to write your book for you, based on interviews, audio transcripts, and/or any other related material that could relate to the book’s topic. Editing means that you have written a full draft of a manuscript, and it needs some level of organizational, fluency of phrasing, or mechanical correction before it is ready to be published. This could include anything from deep reorganization and content suggestions (developmental editing) to a simple error check (proofreading). (See the next FAQ for more information on the different types of editing.) The main consideration is whether you have a completed manuscript draft or not: if you do, your manuscript will very likely qualify for editing rather than ghostwriting – even if significant revisions are necessary.

To learn more about having Amanda ghostwrite your book, contact her literary agent Michael Harriot, Folio Literary Management, at michael@foliolit.com.

But even if you don’t have a manuscript draft yet, ghostwriting is not your only option. One very effective service for new authors is writing coaching. Writing coaching begins with what we call a book plan, where we ask the author a series of detailed questions to yield a strong foundation for book writing, peace of mind that the book will truly serve their readers, and a detailed table of contents to guide their draft writing. After the book plan is complete, authors produce their chapters one at a time according to the book plan and send each chapter to us for detailed comments and feedback, usually combined with an hour-long phone call per chapter to guide the development of their writing skills. We can help you as much or as little as you’d like to meet your personal writing goals. For more information about how writing coaching fits within the larger process of author coaching, see our Services page, or e-mail Amanda at amanda@split-seed.com.

 

I found out from my publisher that I need to submit a fully edited and proofread manuscript for publication. How do I know what levels of editing I really need?

The best place to start when thinking about the levels of editing your manuscript really needs is the typical editorial process at traditional publishers. Most of us have little patience for typos or obvious mistakes in published books. This is because most of us have been raised reading traditionally published books, which follow a multi-step, team approach to manuscript editing. Your readers will also judge your book according to these standards. It’s crucial for authors arranging for their own editing to understand the editorial process used by most traditional houses, because it is this process that has yielded the virtually error-free books we expect as readers. If you don’t follow this process, it’s unrealistic to expect your book to compare favorably in quality to traditionally published books. Here is the typical editorial model in traditional publishing:

1. The manuscript submission process. Most people forget this very crucial first step to editing: publishers who front the bill for editing don’t spend time editing poorly developed or poorly written books. (If the author has a book concept that the publisher believes will sell, but the author is not able to write the book according to professional standards, the publisher’s offer may be contingent on the author hiring a professional writer to produce a suitable manuscript.)  Traditional publishers typically have a tremendously competitive submission process, resulting in only the best of the best to be published (according their standards).

2. The manuscript review or editorial review. The manuscript is reviewed and edited by an executive editor or managing editor in charge of your book project. This would be the person you would call your “editor,” as you have talked with them personally at length about your book project and they understand your vision. Their job is to make sure your book meets the quality standards of the publisher, and their review points out any deeper revisions your manuscript will need before it goes to the copyeditor, from missing content to organization to uneven tone or writing style.

3. Author revisions. The comments from the manuscript review guide the author’s revision process, and the author completes any content, organizational, line editing, or fact checking revisions as recommended by their editor.

4. Copyediting. After the editor and author are satisfied with the manuscript at this level, the manuscript is passed along to a staff or freelance copyeditor. The copyeditor corrects all grammar, style consistency issues, punctuation, typos, etc. according to the publisher’s style guide. Then the managing editor reviews it and sends it back to the author for review and approval before sending to the typesetter/designer.

5. Typesetting and interior book design. This is not an editing phase, but here the manuscript is put in final layout, usually in Adobe InDesign, to yield the galleys, or proofs.

6. Proofreading. The proofs are sent to a staff or freelance proofreader, to catch any remaining errors according to the house style guide. Simultaneously (or sometimes after the proofreader has corrected the proofs) the proofs are also sent to the author for final approval before printing.

Some publishers use more editing steps than this (first pass pages, etc.), but this is the most basic process followed by virtually every traditional house to produce a manuscript that is as error free as possible. (Of course, no person or process is perfect – sometimes the process has to be rushed to make a deadline, for instance – and probably every one of us has found errors in a traditionally published book.) Editors and publishers are only human, just like authors, and usually work under tremendous pressure.

We follow this same multi-step, team approach in our editing for authors who need to hire their own editorial support before publishing. We strive to provide the same kind of support and quality you would receive at a traditional house (always beginning with a manuscript review or a book plan), but we also offer the opportunity to pick and choose the manuscript editing levels you want to fit your goals, timeline, and budget (and provide personal advice to help you decide in light of all the parameters). However, we need to emphasize this again: if your book manuscript needs anything more than the most straightforward proofreading (after the book is designed and in final layout), it is unrealistic to expect one editing pass, no matter how thorough, to produce the level of quality most readers expect. At the very least, the design process often unintentionally introduces formatting errors that the designer will not know were not the author’s intent. Most independent publishers do not provide proofreading in house, and they will NOT tell you if there are errors in your manuscript. Unfortunately, by the time of the final proof review, the author has usually become so busy with book marketing activities and/or is so tired of reviewing the manuscript that they will only minimally review the proofs, believing they had already spent enough time on editing. This usually results in the kinds of very minor but obvious errors that readers notice instantly (double periods, a verb in the “ing” form instead of the “ed” form, etc.), which can (perhaps unfairly) make or break your reputation as an author. So although we always try to work within the author’s parameters, we also know that any less than two editing passes beyond the manuscript review is unlikely to meet industry and reader standards for a high-quality manuscript, and provide a transparent reading experience that will build personal connections with your readers.

 

I enjoyed working with you during my writing coaching process. But I’m self-publishing, and a SplitSeed team editor will be copyediting my manuscript. What does this really mean, and how can I be sure of the quality?

Personal connections are very important to us as well, so we understand completely. We use a team approach to editing because we believe it provides the highest quality result for authors. Amanda will still be your personal contact throughout your entire project and will be completely responsible for the quality of your manuscript. The good news is that with a team approach, you get two editors for the price of one. Our editorial associates are trusted colleagues we respect, and they are all experienced in the level of editing they complete for us. But they’re not just good editors and writers. We handpicked each of our associates because of their personal integrity and commitment to authors’ best interests. So they will be just as committed to helping you create a manuscript that truly connects with your readers as we are, and Amanda will personally review the work done before she returns it to you, ensuring that it was done as well as or better than she could have done personally.

Of course, the team approach is certainly not unique to us – it’s the same model used by traditional publishers. Almost every manuscript, unless it is exceptionally flawless, needs more than one level of editing to make the manuscript error free in their readers’ eyes. (Although we strive to be perfect and remove every single error in a single editing round, alas, editors are human, too.) Also, it’s best for these different editing stages to be done by different editors who work together as a team with the same vision and standards, with oversight by a managing editor who also does quality control.

The reason is that the more familiar an author or editor is with a manuscript, the less obvious simple errors become – and those are exactly the errors that will stand out most to a new editor (or reader). If an editor works extensively on the deeper levels of organization and phrasing, and then edits again for grammar, that grammar edit will be less accurate than a fresh editor who comes to the project to focus solely on the final polish. Why? That new editor is unencumbered by optimal wording and organization concerns; they are freed to focus on grammar and straight errors alone and are therefore more accurate at this level.

Many authors believe that the more familiar an editor is with their work, the better a job they will do at copyediting and proofreading, but the opposite is actually true.  Time and time again we have been approached by authors who had invested heavily in editing and were shocked to find a significant number of errors remaining after the editor was done. Their editor likely did a wonderful job turning very rough writing into a fluent manuscript, but that final grammar and error review to make the manuscript truly ready to publish needed to be done by another editor with fresh eyes. Likely the manuscript looked quite clean to the editor at that stage. This is why an editing team is so important if authors want a manuscript that will compare favorably to those produced by traditional houses.

If you have any questions about your manuscript editing or writing process, don’t hesitate to ask. We never want you feeling in the dark or uncertain about what’s going on.

Stay tuned for more FAQs!