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The editing and revision process for self-publishers

Lisa Poisso is an editor and works directly with authors, whether you plan to publish independently or submit to an agent or publisher. Lisa is a fiction editor and book writing coach working with independent authors and new authors seeking representation. Lisa helps emerging authors tune their manuscripts to publishing industry standards and craft commercial fiction that resonates with readers. Find her at Lisa Poisso, follow her on Twitter at @LisaPoisso, or like her on Facebook. This guest post originally appeared on Lisa’s site.

New authors often assume that self-publishing a book means doing everything themselves. Nothing could be further from the truth, and that all becomes evident during editing and revision. Successful self-published authors know the value of putting together their own team of editorial professionals. Every step in the revision process represents another chance to achieve a professional-quality product that can compete in today’s publishing market.

Is every step on the editorial revisions flowchart here essential? Of course not. But the more eyes you can get on your book before it’s published, the greater the likelihood that someone will spot another way to improve it and the more likely you are to create a book you will be proud of.

Many editors and authors loop in these processes at different points in the process. You should adapt the process to fit your own needs.


Let’s look briefly at each step of editing and revisions and what benefits each holds for your book. Remember that sandwiched in between each of these stages—see the pinkish boxes?—should be a healthy dose of author revision.

1) Complete manuscript

The milestone you thought would be the biggest moment of your publishing journey (other than actual publication) is only the first step in the editorial process.

2) A fresh eye

Before you can effectively revise your manuscript, you need time away from it. Aim for at least a few weeks, preferably longer. Your goal is to come back to your manuscript with an entirely fresh outlook.

3) Self-revision

If you’ve heard that editing is the hardest part of writing a novel, you heard right. Don’t do yourself the disservice of skimming over your first draft to fix a few commas and then calling it done. The most successful authors I work with go through at least three to four drafts before they consider their manuscript ready for another person’s eyes. Try this author’s seven-draft plan. I like Chuck Wendig’s salty advice on how to edit the unmerciful suck out of your story; if you prefer a more sober description, try the Writer’s Digest version instead.

4) Alpha reading

Your alpha readers are the first outside eyes on your manuscript. Most authors use less than a handful of alpha readers. Whether your alpha readers are personal or professional contacts, you should trust them to have your best interests at heart and be gentle yet forthright with realistic feedback. All you’re looking for at this stage is reassurance that the story hangs together overall. Avoid readers who want to focus on details like spelling, punctuation, and grammar at this stage; you’re looking for big-picture impressions.

5) Peer critique

Once your alpha readers have given you a green light, it’s time to ask your fellow writers to read your book. I’ve written an entire article on how to find critique partners and writing groups. Although many authors skip this step, finding and correcting story issues before you seek professional editing will affect how much time and money your edit will require. At the same time, beware the temptation to get stuck in an endless critique feedback loop. Find the right critique partner or group, get input, implement what makes sense, and keep moving forward.

6) Content edit

It’s finally time for a professional editor. If this is your first time taking a manuscript this far toward publication, consult with your editor about what type of editing is right for you. If you are a new author working on a limited budget, I recommend prioritizing a content edit (also known as a developmental edit). Without solid story structure at the heart of your book, no amount of polish will transform your book into a page-turner. I often recommend a plot checkup, New Author Review, or manuscript evaluation for authors who are still on the fence about the strength of their writing or storytelling techniques.

7) Beta reading

Now that your story is solid, it’s time to see what readers think. Your beta readers can help you spot remaining story issues, typos, and other errors before you get to the final stages of editing.

8) Line edit

Here’s where an editor can really help your writing shine. My line edits cover the mechanics of your writing (spelling, punctuation, grammar—what’s often referred to as a copy edit) as well as its spirit (clarity and style).

9) Proofreading

The amount of editing (by your editor) and revision (by you) that goes into a line edit or copy edit often astounds first-time authors. Whittle down the chance of typos and errors that didn’t get caught in the main crunch with proofreading, whether you choose to hire a pro or farm it out.

10) Formatting and layout

This is simple enough to handle yourself, but templates or professional assistance start at affordable rates.

11) Advance Reader Copies (ARCs)

While you’re doing the final corrections on your layout, you can send ARCs to readers and reviewers in order to score some advance publicity and reviews.

12) Publication

You’re there! But the beauty of self-publishing is that publication isn’t a finite point. You can make periodic revisions whenever you find typos and other issues (and even after all of this, you inevitably will).

What we’ve learned from writers on CompletelyNovel – a ‘read-this first’ for self publishers

Anna LewisThis is a guest post from Anna Lewis, who co-founded the book technology company CompletelyNovel with Oli Brooks in 2008. Since then, they have created CompletelyNovel.com, a community powered book-publishing platform bringing modern publishing tools to an online network of readers, writers and publishers. You can follow Anna on Twitter via @anna_cn and @completelynovel.


There is endless advice that goes out to self-published authors about building their brand, identifying their audience and how to promote their work. This is all vital in the success of a book, but writers shouldn’t let it detract from other parts of the self-publishing process – namely, the technical and project management (let’s be honest, slightly more boring) side of things.

Working with self-publishers on CompletelyNovel has been massively inspiring. Every day we see new writers produce something that they have often been waiting many years to see in print. The advent of new tools on the internet has opened up so many doors. But, like anything, it throws up new challenges as well. So here are some dos and don’ts for aspiring self-publishers and their mentors to mull over, learned through watching the experiences of others.

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BookMachine Weekly BookWrap: publishing stories from around the web

On the digital front this week, there were Nine truths about e-book publishing, 5 Career Tips to Survive Publishing’s Digital Shift?, and there was good news for comic fans as Aquafadas Offers Self-Publishers Digital Publishing Tools for graphic novels.

But with the cascade of new epublishing tools, it’s best to remember the  Tortured Language – Discerning Ebook Rights in Ancient Publishing Contracts.

Meanwhile, could editors become brands in themselves, acting as a recommendation engine for readers?

There was also talk of Books, Reading, and Pinterest, The Value of Making Reading Hard, and the role of  The Publisher as Curator.

This week’s big bout was Amazon vs. Big Publishing: 800 lbs vs. 798 lbs.?

And if all that wasn’t enough reading for you, here’s some more of the Best Links for Writers and Publishers, and Your Guide to Literary Tumblrs.

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