Friday, February 8, 2013

Manuscript Critiques and Indie Authors

Manuscript Critiques 
Yesterday a new item went up in my “Free Stuff” tab: I’m now offering a 40% discount on manuscript critiques. If you’re interested in this critique, please send me an email at with the heading “Spring Manuscript Critique.”

It is my understanding that writers don’t know what this is, or else more writers would be asking for this editing service. Here’s an example of a manuscript critique I did for a previous client. Sometimes editors call these manuscript reviews. This editing service is a critique of your book. Essentially, I read it and take notes. After I finish the book, I write up pages of feedback specifically tailored to your book. My manuscript critiques differ from some other editors in one important area: I not only give feedback on weak areas of your manuscript, I discuss practical and effective ways to improve the book.

My editing style and feedback focuses on the marketability of your book, a.k.a. how appealing it will be to readers. I approach editing from this perspective because agents approach your book from this standpoint, as do in-house editors and anyone else associated with the process. In addition, you have a tough crowd to sell to. Readers are looking to be instantly entertained. Sloppy writing, weak characters, slow beginnings, filler, too little conflict, each of these can doom your chances of success.

Manuscript critiques are so extremely, vitally important because these discuss the biggest problems with your book, the glaring problems that you can’t see because you are too close to your work, and critique partners can’t see because they don’t have the experience or the investment in your book. So take a look at the discount and consider it; I’m practically giving it away!

Indie Authors
Why am I moving from a discussion of manuscript critiques to indie authors? A shockingly large amount of indie authors don’t invest in their books before they publish them.

You might be nodding your head because you’ve come across these books, over and over again. I know I have. They’re littered with one and two star reviews in case the garish cover didn’t already make you hesitate. I recently read a great article on this topic here, and I want to reinforce this article’s points.

1. Receive Professional Editing
Traditionally published books go through rounds and rounds of professional edits. Between literary agencies and publishing houses, a writer can at least expect three rounds of professional edits, and that’s rounding down. However, I often hear of writers receiving far more rounds than that. Sometimes agents go back and forth with a writer for over a year before the agent will feel the book is ready for editors. Publishing houses then have several in-house editors that make or suggest edits to the novel.

This means that if you are an indie writer, your book will be competing against a book that, at the very least has had three rounds of professional editing. I’ll be the first to say that I don’t think one round of editing is enough for a writer, but multiple rounds of professional editing is too pricey and just not an option for most writers. I will say that in my own career I’ve never read an unpublished book that hasn’t needed major edits. Period. And this especially goes for those of you writers who think your book doesn’t need any editing. You are the writers most at risk.

A big reason indie authors don’t edit their book before they publish is that they can’t afford editing. They want to make money on the book first so that the money can go towards editing their next book. The problem is that a book full of errors will not catch on; it’ll never leave the ground. Instead, you’ll have a group of readers who will no longer trust your ability as a writer because of the dizzying number of mistakes in your book.

But don’t think that turning to traditional publishing will solve your problems either. It’s harder than ever to get traditionally published, and there are a lot of publishing companies that have writers pay for edits out of their own pockets.

Ways to Solve This
Find an editor. Get references, ask for a sample edit. Not every editor is right for every writer, and there are a lot of them who are not very good. Make sure they are upfront with the cost, time, and product. Money shouldn’t be your primary issue; finding a competent editor should be. However, I know realistically money these days is hard to come by, which is why I offer ways for writers to receive discounted editing services (under my “Free Stuff” tab), and I’m guessing there are other editors out there doing the same thing.

Here’s a great link for some things you should do when looking for an editor. Then, if you have good rapport with that editor and you trust them, go for it.

2. Pay for a Professional Cover Designer
Just like those books littered with grammatical mistakes, there are books that you wouldn’t dare buy because the cover screams “amateur.” The point of indie publishing is not to save money; it’s to be successful without going through the traditional gatekeepers (although these gatekeepers do serve an important function). But, if you want to be successful as an indie author, you should definitely consider investing in a professional cover.

Just like professional editing, if you are planning on self-publishing you’ll want to pay for a professional cover designer. Even if you are familiar with graphic design you’ll want to seek out a graphic designer with experience designing book covers. Yes, this can cost several hundred to over a thousand dollars, but it’s also the first impression readers will have of your novel. Just look at this example of an excellent self-published book cover (and if you’re looking for a book designer, you might check out this website). The point is for writers to have no idea that your book was self published.

3. Market Your Book
Congratulations, you’ve published your novel all on your own. The work is only just beginning. For you see, now you own a small business, and it is your job to make sure that your product (a.k.a. your book) is as visible as possible. This means you need to market your book and you need to research the most effective ways to market a book.

Why the extensive research? Well, because the market is shifting faster than the time it takes to master and leverage the appropriate marketing techniques. For instance, I’ve heard in the past that blogs and social media platforms (such as Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn) will help gain visibility for your book, and in 2010, Amanda Hocking was able to go from agentless to multi-million dollar success story by utilizing these social media sites. However, I’ve recently heard statistics that insist these make no significant difference in book sales.

Do your homework and stay on the edge of the industry. The changes are occurring rapidly and as a business person, it’s your job to make sure you can take advantage of these opportunities as soon as they arise.

What this all boils down to is this: writing a book will take time and money. It will test your endurance and it might even try to break your spirit. No one said it would be easy, and I’m here to tell you it’s hard. If you haven’t been humbled by the industry, then you haven’t yet done the research or received enough exposure.


But I’ve always said this was an endurance sport, and if you don’t cut corners and don’t underestimate the challenges you face, there is no reason for you to be unsuccessful. Plenty of people just like you already are.

Happy writing,

Laura Carlson, Editor
American Editing Services

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