Expert Interview: Editing for Engagement
Welcome back to how to write and publish your e-book. We just got done talking about how to edit and format your book, and I wanted to bring in a real expert on editing. Someone who could kind of give us the ins and outs of what it takes to produce something that's not just alright, but something that's really really great. And there is no one better I can think of to speak to that than the person who edited my last two books, both Quiet Power Strategy and The Observation Engine, than Amy Scott. Amy Scott is the founder of Nomad Editorial, and she is a brilliant editor/copy editor, and just all around awesome person for helping turn books into really amazing products. So let's go ahead and bring Amy up. Amy, welcome to Creative Live.
Thanks Tara, it's great to be here.
Awesome, I am so glad that you're here. So let's start off by talking about editing your book yourself. And I know that you have some words of caution about that, but for people who are kind of working fast and dirty...
, what are some tips that you would have?
Right, well yeah. And I know that you already mentioned Grammarly. I think that's a great tool to start with, as well as the classic spelling and grammar check that you have in Pages or in Word. Obviously these mechanical programs don't catch everything, but it's definitely a good place to start. After that, I would say anything you can do to get a fresh perspective. So the first thing you might do is just take a break. You know, if you've been looking at the screen for three days, take a break, sleep on it, come back tomorrow refreshed and with a new perspective. You can also print it out and/or read it out loud to yourself. These are great ways to catch typos, you might find words that are missing, things that just don't make sense. And after that, I would actually slow down, and take an even closer look by looking almost at a sentence-by-sentence or paragraph-by-paragraph level, and looking at is this really what I want to say? And imagine what question somebody might have as they're reading this. Are they going to understand what you're saying? Are you getting the main point across in each piece of the text, and is there something there that you either need to expand on or clarify? Maybe you have to take something out completely, because it's not helping move things forward.
Go ahead, did you have another one?
I do, I have two more.
One is to avoid vague language. I can't tell you how many times I'm querying an author because they're using, in particular like it, or that, or this, and I have to say, uh, I don't know what you're talking about. Which thing that you just mentioned are you referring to? So it might be so obvious to you, but there's so much room for interpretation and I always say, you know, You don't want the reader to have to work to figure it out. You want it to be really easy, and an enjoyable experience to read. And then the last thing is just about consistency. This is one of the things I look at more than anything else when I'm editing, and you can certainly do it yourself in looking at things that are your choices, and making conscious choices throughout the book. So are you using a serial comma or not? Do you want to spell out numbers or use numerals? Do you want to capitalize certain terms? All of these things, the hierarchy of headings, are these things clear and did you actually make a decision throughout the book to handle things a certain way?
Yeah, I loved that when you first sent my very first draft back of Quiet Power Strategy. You're like, here's our style guide for this. I've never had a style guide before. I mean, consistency is something I always think of, but you would definitely identify things that I was doing or was doing inconsistently that we needed to make real conscious decisions about, like I'm very bad at sometimes using an ampersand for no good reason, right? Are you gonna use it or are you not gonna use it? And so I love that tip. Alright, let's talk about working with a friend. Because I think a lot of people who are watching this are going to end up buddying up with a friend and saying, hey, let's swap. What advice do you have for that?
Yeah, I think this can also be good, again, as an outside perspective, it's a fresh perspective, and any way that you can get that is great. There's things that you're just not gonna be able to catch yourself. Or things that will always make sense to you, no matter how many times you look at it, you don't realize it's confusing to other people. And I think also this idea of buddying up and doing it for each other is a great idea, because one thing I hear a lot is that someone will ask a friend or relative to help them out, but they're not taking a deadline seriously. You know, it's not a priority for them. They're just not getting around to it. So if you're working with someone else who is on the same path, and has a similar goal, then you can hold each other accountable and actually stick to a deadline, keep things moving forward. So some of the things I would say here are the same in terms of, you know, you want them to be looking for things that are distracting, confusing, inconsistent, repetitive, and then it's up to you whether you wanna ask them to pay attention to anything specific, you know, if there's a certain chapter that you've really been struggling with, or you know you tend to be really (audio cuts out), you can ask them to look out for those things and flag them. Or, you could just not give them any guidance like that, and see what they come up with and what they find on their own that's an issue. So those can both be good approaches.
Fantastic. Alright, so let's get down to what you actually do, which is editing professionally. So why would we want to hire a professional editor?
Well, there are a couple of reasons. I think that, you know, again, like I said, working with a friend or someone like that, they might not have the priority and the deadlines to actually get things done, when you need them done. So hiring a professional, who takes deadlines seriously, is a huge help. Also, professional editors are very well-versed in grammar and punctuation, and all of these things that you don't want to have to worry about. So you can give that to somebody like me.
Things we think we know that we actually have no idea about.
Exactly. And yeah, do you want to look all those things up? Or do you wanna just hand it off to somebody else?
Yeah, absolutely. Alright, so what are some of your tips for working with an editor? Because I think that can be kind of a daunting process.
Sure, and do you have a second? I wanted to share a couple tips on where to find an editor.
Yeah, let's do that first.
Yeah, so first would be to just ask anyone you know who's already written a book, or if you're in a writer's group, or in a business group, check in to see if they have any recommendations. Another idea is to look in self-published books that you admire, and see if the editor is mentioned in the book. I know, actually, I've had a couple people contact me because I'm mentioned in Tara's book, so thank you Tara. And then there's also the Editorial Freelancers Association. And that's an organization that professional editors can join, and they have a directory, and that's at the-efa.org, so that can also be a place to search if you're not finding recommendations in other ways.
I love it. Alright, once we've found somebody, what are we gonna do with them?
Yeah, you know, so in this case, I've been thinking about how someone would approach this when they're on the short path, right? They want to get the book done and published quickly. So obviously, the editing process could slow things down if you're going through the process of finding vetting an editor in the moment. So if you could find somebody in advance, that's always a great idea, and then you could give them a heads up on your schedule, maybe they can slot you in for a really quick turnaround, and then I would suggest, well let them know what you're working on. Some editors only work on particular genres, or certain subject matter, so that's something else to look at. They might only do certain kinds of editing. So that's something else to look at. And then in this case, with the tight time frame, I would suggest getting as close as you can to a final draft on your own or with your buddy, and then hire someone to do a very light edit or a proofread. And so this way, the turnaround is faster, the cost is lower, and there's less for you to review and fix after they're done, and then you can be off to the next step. So, and I heard you talking about all of the different tools for doing the publishing and all of that. So I usually work in Word. I would say most editors probably work in word. Occasionally in Pages, or they can export from Pages. So that's something to keep in mind, is to either send it to the editor when it's still in Word, and then they will do track changes and send it back to you, or if you feel really confident that it's clean, and you wanna have someone just do a final final check, you could send them a pdf to proofread and just do that last check to make sure there's no embarrassing mistakes.
Yes, absolutely. Alright, I would love, if it's okay with you, to turn it over to the audience and find out if we've got any audience questions?
Guys, you have questions for Amy? Lacey?
I'm curious to know, what are some of the biggest things you see? So you're suggesting that people do a proofread, which is a lighter edit when they're on a short time span, but I'm curious, what are some of the big consistency and formatting and coherency problems that you tend to see for the whole book that you might be looking for on our own?
Yeah, so I mentioned a couple of them already, looking at whether you're spelling out numbers or not, for example if you're using the number three, or if you're writing out the word three, things like that. And also looking at the hierarchy and the formatting of headings, and it sounds like Pressbooks or some of these tools can help with that as well. But think about an outline, and you know, you have certain headings that go under other headings, and that's something to look at too. Sometimes I get a manuscript with all the headings exactly the same, but I can tell that they're meant to be nested underneath each other, so that's something else to look at, is what fits with other pieces. And even just spelling, you know, like you might decide to hyphenate a word, or all one word, or something like that, and if you make that decision, go through the book and make sure you're using it the same way every time. Obviously you can't do that with every word, but if there's certain words that come up a lot in your book, like decision-making, or something like that, decide are you gonna hyphenate that word or not, and do a search to check that it's the same always.
Because I love this question. What about those common conceptual problems that you run into over and over again with books. You know earlier we talked about asking yourself the question, are you explaining concepts in a way that is appropriate for the ideal reader? Are there other things that we should look at in terms of that?
Yeah, there are a couple things. Like I said, anything that might be misconstrued, or could have two meanings and the reader is gonna have to do some work to figure out what you meant. That's definitely worth looking at. There are also times when I'll see somebody bring up a topic, and then just drop it, basically, and move on to something else. I'm like, well wait a minute. You know, can you say more about that? So a lot of what I am querying people on is either, can you expand on this, this sounds important, or you've gone on about this for five paragraphs, why don't we cut some of it, you know?
Yeah, I love it. Any other questions for Amy? Britt.
One of the questions that I have is in working with a professional editor such as yourself, how much do you look at content, and help someone like me say, this is a really great concept, or this is a really great book, or offer notes as far as, this seems like it's for a more advanced audience, or a more beginner audience. Because sometimes I feel like when I'm writing, I'm writing about what I'm nerding out on, and living so deeply within, that I'm not really sure where to start, and I'm not getting the feedback from the inside about, is this really a good book? Is this good content? So I'm curious, as a professional editor, what you might say about that.
Yeah, you know, to an extent, it depends on what they've asked me to provide feedback on. I won't get really into providing that kind of feedback. Say, if someone comes to me with a final proofread, I'm not gonna bring that up, 'cause it's kinda too late, right? So if there could be a point where you just don't wanna know. But if someone's coming to me earlier in the process, and asking for that kind of feedback or they say, this is my ideal reader, can you keep an eye out for whether this seems like it's on track for them, I'd definitely pay attention to that. And that's something to think about too in finding an editor. If you want somebody who may potentially be part of your target audience, or maybe somebody who either is or isn't familiar with your topic, both of those can be helpful depending on what kind of person you're writing the book for.
Okay, thank you.
That is so fantastic. Amy, thank you for everything that you've shared. Tell us where we can find you online, and maybe where we can hire you to edit our books. So you can find me at nomadeditorial.com, and there's more information there about my services, and of course, contact information there as well.
Perfect. Amy Scott, thank you so very very much. This was incredibly helpful.