Professional EDITING: It’s essential to your marketing success!
Yep, I’m a professional editor, and as such, I’ve always advocated that authors hire the best editor they can afford. But in this advice, I have more than my own self-interest at heart. Here’s the thing: it’s estimated that a person browsing a brick-and-mortar bookstore (a building where piles of books are available for sale to people who drive there in cars) will spend about 8 seconds looking at the front cover of a book they pull off a shelf and 14 seconds on the back cover. Provided the cover is enough to stimulate their interest, what’s the next step? They OPEN the book! And READ the words. So if your words are garbled, your grammar poor, or your text mistake-riddled, that person’s probably going to plop the book back on the shelf and keep browsing.
A good cover will get someone to open the book,
but the words are what sell it.
Now let’s extrapolate to the eBookstore. In ePublishing, the buyer often sees only a thumbnail of the cover before they’re taken straight to the sample chapter. In this case, there’s no 22-second marketing plug from the cover. The entire onus is on the words themselves. And if the words themselves aren’t polished and professional, people will stop reading and won’t buy your book.
What’s worse, they won’t recommend it – and may write a bad review about it.
I recently downloaded a free book called Dying to Get Published byJudy Fitzwater. This is the opening paragraph:
The jail cell was cold. Cold and gray and ugly. Jennifer ran her hands through her long, taffy-brown hair and sank wistfully against the wall. The chill reached through her sweater and embraced her shoulders. She shot straight up on the backless bench and shivered. She felt as though something were crawling down her back, something with many legs, but she knew it was her imagination. She prayed it was her imagination.
I’m not kidding – I haven’t altered a word. In her attempt to be descriptive, this author WAY overused the adjectives and adverbs. My first thought was, “Ohhh, nooo. It’s going to be that kind of a book.” Nevertheless, I decided to give it a chance and kept reading for a bit. Then I came to these sentences:
Your dad is a famous astronaut. He’s on the first manned flight to mars and won’t be back for three years.
Seriously. If Ms. Fitzwater couldn’t do me the service of even proofreading her book – let alone editing it – I definitely don’t owe her the service of reading it.
But it’s a FREE book, what do you expect? I can hear the arguments now. So let me ask you a question: What is the entire point of giving away books for free?
Promoting the author’s work, right? The goal, therefore, is to create enough interest so that people will buy their other books, recommend them to friends, and write positive reviews. How is that possible if the author didn’t make the free book as good as one he or she charges for? Dying to Get Published is a terrible book. If it’s in any way autobiographical, I can tell the author right now, a good place to start is with some quality editing!
For most bad books, it might end there; in this author’s case, I happened to have her book on hand to use as an example to you, my author friends.
Point of caution: DON’T DO THIS TO YOUR READERS!
Why does editing matter? Because it can turn a hum-drum manuscript into a book people will not only want to read, but want to recommend. And some of the best marketing for an author is word-of-mouth marketing.
Here’s how I might have rewritten the opening paragraph of Dying to Get Published:
Jennifer slumped against the wall of the ugly, gray jail cell. The chill reached through her sweater, embracing her shoulders as she combed her hands through her hair. Suddenly, she felt the shivery sensation of a many-legged critter crawling down her back. Jennifer bolted upright, knowing the bug was just her imagination – praying it was her imagination.
Notice we went from 72 words to 57 words – that’s a conservation of 15 words, and it’s much more fluid and easier to read.
Here’s a breakdown:
- What’s the point of repeating the word cold? Unless the coldness is important to the story (it’s not), this is utterly unnecessary.
- Next – it’s the first paragraph; we have plenty of time to get to the long, taffy-brown description of the hair. Is it germane to the meaning of the opening paragraph? If not, lose it.
- The backless bench? It’s a jail cell – most people have an idea of what a jail cell looks like. Unless this one’s special, no need to oversell the austerity of the scene.
- Save the bulk of the words for the interesting aspect of the opening: the perhaps imaginary bugs crawling down Jennifer’s back.
Whether it’s fiction or nonfiction – you’ll do your readers AND your sales a favor by spending what you can afford on a professional editor.
We welcome and encourage your thoughtful, courteous comments below.
Visit our website to view/download your free eBook, The First-Time Author’s Guide to Hiring the Right Editor for YOU. If you’d like more information about our editing services, email us or call us today for your complimentary 30-minute consultation! 602.518.5376