Maximizing the Value of Professional Editing Services

You could spend thousands of dollars in 2024 trying to make your book better. Would it be a good investment? Maybe. Professional editing, writing, and publishing services can make a huge difference, but only if you go in with the right mindset, knowledge, and strategy. Today, we’re going to talk about the most important ways to maximize your investment on your book in 2024.

Back in August, I made a video where I went through all the expenses that anyone has to go through to publish a book. If you’re publishing with a traditional press and want to know where they’re spending the money that isn’t going into your pocket, or if you’re self-publishing and need to figure out how much it will cost to get your book out, that video will be helpful.

A lot of the things that the traditional press is spending money on are happening in-house for them. They’re working with contractors that they have worked with dozens, if not hundreds, of times before. You, as a self-publishing author, are not going to have the benefit of all that experience or consolidation of services. You are winging it, effectively.

Explore Services, Packages or Bundles

The first thing you need to think about when going into this process is what services you need to explore and if you can get a package or bundle. I find that people heading into the publishing industry often see those packages as scams.

When I’m talking about a package, I’m talking about the same thing that exists in all kinds of industries. If I get a haircut at one salon, my hair colored at another salon, and my nails done at another salon, it will cost me way more overall than if I got all that work done at one place. The same thing is true with insurance as well as publishing.

For those writing a nonfiction book, a memoir or story-based leadership book, and are doing a traditional book deal, you need a book proposal. All nonfiction, regardless of what it is, is sold on proposal.

The process goes like this. Your agent, when you get one, will take your book proposal to a publisher. It’s a marketing document that gives information on who you believe your audience is, how you will help the press reach that audience, an overview and a general sense of the book’s goals, and who you are as an author. Then it’s going to have a few sample chapters.

A smart investment is to bring someone on who professionally writes book proposals. They’ll know what the industry is looking for and they’ll help you find the most effective angle. If you try to DIY, it takes so much more time and you may or may not get a result.

When you hire a professional, you’re not only getting someone who can write the proposal, but also help you figure out the outline of the book. The shape of your book, the flow, the pacing, all of that stuff has to be in the proposal, which you can then use to write your book.

With a professional company, you’ll also get sample chapters. For Page & Podium, we typically pick out the first three chapters. That’s three chapters that you can have professionally written. Or you can write it yourself and receive all the support. My best advice is to find someone to help you with the proposal before you even start the book.

For self-publishing folks, I often find that these folks know they need an editor but are unsure which type. The two I want to talk about are copy editors and developmental editors. If you are a self-published author, you must get a copy editor. Cold-eye copy editors, who are not familiar with your book, are going to tighten up your language, find continuity errors, and point out issues. They’ll highlight where readers will stumble over your words and are the last step before you get your book proofread.

Another thing you’ll need, if you are self-publishing, is a designer. If you have bullet points or need little gray boxes, you’ll probably need a layout designer. If you have a standard memoir, you can “probably” do the layout yourself. There’s an excellent and affordable program called Vellum I would recommend looking into.

Cover design? Do not DIY your cover design. Don’t do it. Readers will be able to spot that you DIY from a million miles away. Design is a place you really want to be thoughtful about. Custom art can be pricey, probably in the $4,000 or $5,000 range at minimum by the time you get everything done.

If you want to save time and money and get the best results, you can coordinate your cover design through a company that also does metadata. Metadata is essentially the keywords that are listed in the back end of your online retailers, like Amazon. It’s your BISAC categories, your descriptive copy, author bio, that kind of thing. If you want support on your metadata, lumping that in with cover design is a great way to maximize the value on your investment.

Think Through the Timing of These Services

My second tip. Think about when you need some of these services we just talked about. The best example of this is developmental versus copy editing. Remember, copy editing is tightening up writing, correcting continuity errors, and so on. Developmental editing is about the shape of your story, the order of events and the bigger picture.

Developmental editing is not going to be individual track changes or the close-level stuff a copy editor is doing. Developmental editing usually comes with a letter that’s going to explain all the things that you want to address, which should be done before getting into copy editing.

Timing here matters very much. Too many times, I’ve seen a manuscript copy edited that was never developmentally edited. They have not shared it with a single person until they send it to the copy editor. One of two things generally happens in this case. The copy editor will reach out and say, “This actually needs a developmental edit. Do you want me to do that instead?” if they are somebody that offers both services. Or they’re going to go ahead and do the copy editing because that’s what you hired them for.

Without a developmental edit first, a copy editor will likely send back a manuscript with so many big picture changes that you’ll have to get it copy edited again. Once we copy edit something, every single revision has the possibility of adding in new errors. With each new edit, that copy editor is getting less and less effective, and they’re probably still charging you. A good way to get around this is to find a book coach that’s connected to a copy editor.

Another place timing matters is with marketing and publicity. Hiring a publicist, an excellent investment, is often something that will pay for itself. You can hire a publicist or marketing company before or after your book’s released, depending on how it’s selling and what works best for you. This has all kinds of snowball effects for you thinking about a big lead-up. For example, you can get different kinds of media features, interviews, speaking engagements, and all of that sends signals to Amazon or other book companies that your book is great and they’ll want to stock up and promote it.

The problem is most people, especially DIYers, are so overwhelmed through the whole process of writing the book that they usually don’t have energy to think about the next step, let alone think about it during the actual process of writing. But you need to.

If you’re going to hire a company to do this, they are going to need significant lead time. You’re going to want to finish the book so that it’s all ready to go but it’s not listed anywhere yet, or you want to get in touch with a company early on in your writing process. Make sure you’ve done your research and are ready for the six months before your book comes out.

I would say that the easiest and most efficient way to think about this is to hire a coach to lead you from start to finish. A book coach or a program like ours, The Memoir Method, will hold your hand through the whole process, which is important for your ROI.

Think About Mindset

Writing a book is hard. If you’re writing a memoir in particular, you’re likely dealing with an unfamiliar industry, writing challenges, and moving through emotional barriers to tell an effective story. For whatever reason, our culture has told us that we write books by ourselves.

I once worked with a man years ago. He had written a fiction novel and wanted feedback on it. He read through the draft and chapters individually, but not back-to-back. He didn’t do any revisions. He asked his wife to proofread grammar because that was her field. We skipped developmental and copy edits.

He was, understandably, proud of this book that was maybe 120,000 words, an average word count for a novel. The problem was he hadn’t talked about it, so he had no idea how his audience would react or how they would critique the book. He had no idea what help he needed or what his areas of strengths and weaknesses were.

I suggested he go through various editors. I suggested he get help with querying because he was wanting to query agents. Getting feedback was overwhelming to him as he had never received any previously. In his mind, his book was the perfect image. But as he got feedback, he was devastated as he could finally see all the mistakes he was making throughout the book. If someone had told him earlier, he could have fixed it. But he didn’t have anybody. This is the mindset of the individual, self-driven, DIYer author.

Books are for others. Anytime we’re approaching this writing journey thinking about ourselves as this insular author, we are preventing our book from doing the good it needs to do in the world. The only way you’re going to do that good is to get it out of your head, out of your hands, and out to other people or professionals and get feedback from them.

If you’re going to maximize your investment, both in time and money, you have to have a strong author mindset and know why you’re doing this in the first place. You have to let go of your own sense of pride of authorship and come to terms with the fact that a book is a community project. Always.

Be open to feedback from copy editors. That person is reading your book and giving you external feedback in a way that is beyond your own vision of the book. The same is true if you get feedback from friends and family. We’ve got to make sure that we are open-minded and ready to hear the things that can make our work better. The feedback is about our work, not us as the author.

With all these tips, my number one piece of advice is to make sure you have support from start to finish. Reach out to us if we can help. I’m on a mission to make sure everyone has access to the support and tools they need to tell their story well. If you’re finding it hard to do this, you might need a ghostwriter or book coach. If this sounds like you, I have an exciting announcement!

Our Change Maker package is a new package that will give you the ghostwriting and editing support you need to bring your story to life, even if you’re not a writer. While that package is only available to our newsletter subscribers right now, you can head over to our Book Strategy Quiz to stay informed when this is released to the public. You’ll also get a ton of helpful info along the way!

Happy writing!

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Amanda Edgar

Dr. Amanda Nell Edgar is an award-winning author, ghostwriter, and book coach and the founder of Page & Podium Press. Co-author of the forthcoming Summer of 2020: George Floyd and the Resurgence of the Black Lives Matter Movement, Amanda has authored two nationally award-winning books and ghostwritten many more.

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