Last month, I addressed the three essential elements in determining whether traditional or self-publishing is the best path for you: direction, focus, and commitment. This month, I want to address the three essential elements, the must-haves, before publication, whether traditional or self-, in print or e-books: copyeditor, proofreader, and cover designer.
Must-Have #1: Copyeditor
Earlier this year, I wrote an article lamenting about my disappointment with the first e-book I downloaded on the Kindle I received for Christmas. A word was missing in the very first sentence, and misspellings, faulty capitalization, and erroneous, even missing punctuation peppered the rest of the e-book. As a reader and a consumer, I felt cheated, wishing I had saved both my time and money. But this experience taught me that along with the plethora of publishing opportunities now available to authors comes the responsibility to provide a quality product.
Even if you are a gifted writer who has also inherited the editing gene, the importance of having your manuscript professionally edited cannot be stressed enough. All of us have blind spots to our errors and often do not realize that our written message fails to convey our intended one. Professional copyeditors will ferret out and correct your literary faux pas, thus saving you face with your readers and gaining their esteem. Also, a professional copyeditor will be proficient in the style manuals and other reference materials that adhere to current publishing standards.
Must-Have #2: Proofreader
Even the most meticulous, eagle-eyed copyeditor is not infallible, so acquiring another pair of professional eyes—a proofreader—after the editing process is another wise investment. Copyediting and proofreading go hand in hand, but they are not interchangeable. Copyediting scrutinizes everything in a manuscript: grammar, syntax, punctuation, spelling, capitalization, transitions, content, tone, style, structure, clarity, citations, and potentially libelous or defamatory material. The proofreader looks for strictly mechanical errors, such as misspellings, erroneous grammar, and missing or erroneous punctuation, spacing, and capitalization that may have been overlooked in the editing process. Since the manuscript has been professionally edited, the issues at this point should be minor. However, skipping the proofreader is still not an option. In the long run, you will be grateful that you didn’t.
Must-Have #3: Cover Designer
Your print or e-book cover is your only chance to make a good first impression, and we all know how important that is. With literally thousands of books vying for readers’ attention, a classy, eye-catching, professional-looking cover will make your book stand out from all the others, and a professional cover designer will be skilled in doing just that. And by all means, proofread the finished cover. You won’t get a second chance to make a good first impression!
So there you have it. The publishing must-haves, in order of priority: copyeditor, proofreader, and cover designer. Hiring these three professionals will be costly in both time and money. But in the end, when you’re holding your pristine, polished, professional-looking baby in your hands, you’ll realize it was worth every cent and second.