Thank goodness for editors

Build Your Community of Support – this concept is so important when getting ready to share your ideas, we dedicated a whole chapter in Present Yourself to it. If you’re writing a book, a key part of that support will be your editors.

You may already know that there are several different types of editors. When you’re self-publishing, it’s up to you to figure out who you need and when you need them. Then, it’s up to you to find them.

One of the reasons we decided to self-publish and crowdfund was so that we could be intentional about who we brought on board to work on the book. We wanted a lot of perspectives and eyes on the manuscript and we wanted the team behind our book to reflect our larger community at Women Talk Design.

While it’s possible (and recommended by some) to have a single editor take you through the full editing process from developmental to proofread, we decided to have a different person at each stage. This has its benefits (lots of perspectives!) and also its challenges (a lot of people to find and starting from scratch with each person).

Types of Editors

Here’s a list of the types of editors and readers we’re working with for the Present Yourself book: 

Beta Readers

Early readers are not editors but they are an important part of the editing process! They can help you understand if you’re meeting the goals of your book. Even if you’re working with a publisher, finding readers will most likely be on you. Lucky for us, we’ve had hundreds of women and nonbinary folks participate in the Present Yourself program and give us A LOT of feedback over the years, which informed how we approached the book and what we included. We’re also engaging a few community members to read the manuscript and provide feedback, let us know if anything is missing, and highlight any red flags. 

Sensitivity Reader

While we prioritized bringing on editors with different identities and perspectives to read the book, we also decided to engage a sensitivity reader. This person reads the manuscript through the lens of their identity and lived experiences to call out anything that might be concerning. 

Developmental Editor

Our developmental editor was instrumental in shaping the book. Remember Danielle’s post about “a shitty first draft”? Our developmental editor is the one we sent it to! Like beta readers, our developmental editor helped evaluate whether or not the book was meeting the goals we set out. She also answered a dozen of our questions, including: “Is there enough of x?”, “Does y make sense”, “How do you think we should approach z?” She told us what we did well and offered valuable suggestions for the format of the book, pieces we could cut, and where we should expand. We’ve since learned how important it is to have multiple rounds with a developmental editor. Due to our time constraints and our desire to work with several different people, we didn’t do this, but we would recommend budgeting in time for it! 

Line Editor

Our line editor is (currently!) reading our manuscript for voice and tone consistency and bridging the editing gap between developmental and copy. If you have a good editor, they’ll also play the role of helping talk you down from the very common “I CAN’T DO THIS…CAN I DO THIS??” freak out that you may face as a writer. Shout out to our line editor!! 

Copy Editor

Our copy editor will do the last big round of editing. She’ll evaluate the manuscript for spelling, grammar, and punctuation and will also fact check our work. We can provide more insight into our experience once we reach this phase! 

Proofreader

We’re working on having a few proofreaders review the final manuscript before it goes to print! This will be another opportunity to catch any mistakes before you and other readers who buy our book find them for us. 

NOTE: there are A LOT of great articles and resources out there that talk about the roles of editors, how to find them, what they cost, etc. We encourage you to seek those out if you’re publishing a book, but also we wanted to share our experience in case it’s helpful! 

Lessons Learned

As with each part of the process of crowdfunding, writing and self-publishing a book, we’ve made a few mistakes (despite having received very helpful recommendations from others!) and have learned a lot along the way. If you’re putting together your own editing team, here’s our advice:

Start with a Timeline

One of the great things about self-publishing is that you get to set your own timeline. The trick is, you actually have to create that timeline. We did this at a high level, but admittedly skipped the step of mapping out the full, detailed process to see where that actually got us to in terms of a completion date. When we finally did, we realized we were short on time. Don’t just account for the edit itself (anywhere from 1-4 weeks depending on the stage) but also account for the time you’ll need to incorporate those edits and send the manuscript back for another round in earlier stages (developmental and line editing). 

The launch of the book isn’t necessarily right when the book is done being edited. Ideally, it’s scheduled for a few months after so that you have time to finish the layout, set up pre-orders, send early reader copies, get reviews, etc.

Be Specific in Your Ask

While some editors we spoke to came to our initial call with a list of questions, for the most part, they looked to us to guide the conversation. What did we need? What was our timeline? How did we want edits delivered? At one point we ran into the situation where we wanted to know how quickly an editor could complete a stage, but we also weren’t sure when we’d have a ready manuscript for them. Not helpful. Instead, start with a timeline and frame your asks around it: “If I give you the manuscript on X date, would you be able to complete it by Y?”

Ask for Recommendations

There are a lot of editors out there–it can be hard to know who to choose! Ultimately, we were very fortunate to find our editors through recommendations and introductions. We got great advice from Kat Vellos’s Designer-to-Author course. Community member Tutti Taygerly recommended Tessera Editorial, where we found our Sensitivity Reader. Katel LeDû was also instrumental in helping us connect with stellar editors that she’s worked with in the past. (THANK YOU!!)

As we’ve mentioned over and over again, there is no one right way to do anything. Self-publishing a book has so many pieces that need to come together. If you’re in the process of writing your own, you have a lot of options! We hope that sharing our experiences and the lessons and advice that we’ve learned along the way can give you a place to start on your own journey.

We know our community is full of authors! If any of you have experience in publishing, whether you’ve put out 10 books or you’re just starting your first one, we want to hear about it! Email us at contact@womentalkdesign.com to share your advice, especially around working with editors, and we’ll re-share it with the larger community in a future update.

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