Polish up your manuscript for publication: the five step process

So, you’ve finished writing your novel. Now what? Perhaps you ask your friends and family to read it. And there’s nothing wrong that. But if your friends are anything like mine, they’re probably not professionals. Some of them may not even read, let alone read for pleasure. Whilst they may have some valuable feedback, I have now come to believe that they should never be the ones you look to for advice. 

So where does one go?

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Thank God for the internet and the sharing economy. There are a variety of platforms that you can use. I’ve personally used Fiverr, Upwork and Reedsy. I’ll do a review of those platforms some other time, but for today I’ll focus on what you can do to polish up your manuscript.

1. Hire beta-readers

Beta-readers are not editors. They read your work and give you feedback on the plot, characters, your writing style and their overall impressions of your story. Most beta-readers are writers themselves so they’ll be able to pick up on the more technical aspects of your writing that your friends and family won’t. They’ll notice plot holes, inconsistencies and can let you know if a scene is too short or too long.

I personally worked with four beta-readers and not all the same time. The whole process took around 4 months. I would get feedback, then edit, then send it off to another beta-reader and repeat the process. Different beta-readers will have different opinions based on their own strengths. Some are better with guiding you through the creative process, whilst others will focus on the content, style and structure. 

Under no circumstances should you skip this step.

P.S. Pick someone who’s interested in your genre and the topic you’re writing about.

2. Hire a developmental editor (optional)

Based on the feedback from your beta-readers, you can decide whether or not to hire a developmental editor. If your manuscript lacks focus, structure and is a bit all over the place, a developmental editor will be able to help you tidy up your manuscript for an intended audience.

I struggled a lot with this the first time I wrote a novel because of the whole multi-protagonist plot business. Whether or not you decide to hire a developmental editor really depends on what genre you’re writing in, how many characters your book has and the topic you’re dealing with. If your beta-readers found your story difficult to follow, then readers will, too. 

For my current novel, I stuck to a much simpler plot structure so I skipped this step.  

3. Hire a copy editor

A copy editor is someone who’ll go through your manuscript line by line and give you suggestions to improve the accuracy and readability of your manuscript. They’ll also find all those tiny errors, inconsistencies, and unnecessary repetitions. This is a slightly long and tedious process that’ll probably take a couple of rounds of back and forth. 

I can’t say I particularly enjoyed this part of the process, but this is what will make the manuscript ready for an audience. How long this takes depends on your editor’s ability as well as how much time you need to make those edits.

It took me around a month. 

4. Hire a proof reader (optional)

OKAY… So I’m a bit 50/50 on this step. If your copy editor has done a good job, your manuscript should be ready to go. If you want to be on the safe side, you can hire one last person to go through it and make sure that it’s free of all errors.

If you want to skip this step, I suggest you read your manuscript out loud. That’ll help you pick up on any remaining irritating little errors.

5. Hire someone to format it for Kindle and Epub

If you’re tech-savvy (which I’m not), you can probably do it yourself. But why bother when you can get someone much more experienced and seasoned than you to do it for you?

There are few things as annoying as a badly formatted book… Especially if it’s well written.

I personally wouldn’t scrimp on this.

Concluding remarks

There you go!

A five-step process to polish up your manuscript. As for finding the right people to work with, that’s all trial and error. I can’t honestly say I agreed with all the feedback or suggestions I got, but what I will say is that every person who came into contact with my manuscript did give me that certain something to take my manuscript to the next level.

The bottom line is: you can’t do it all alone. 

Get help.

Professional help. 

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Author: Dipa

Founder of Mith Books

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