How to become a published author

9 October 2014 | by Partridge India

Welcome to this Partridge India guide on how to take the next steps necessary to becoming a published author. So you’ve made it through the actual writing process – excellent. While this is arguable the hardest part, the next few stages can be just as challenging especially for first-time authors. Nonetheless, Partridge India is here to coach you through and provide you with the knowledge and momentum to get that book to publishing stage.

 

The steps we are going to talk you through involve the entire editing process as well as choosing the design and formatting for your book. The objective here is to have all aspects settled before you move on to publication, such that the process goes smoothly and you get that book into your hands – and the hands of others – in the quickest time possible.

 

The Editing Process
The editing process serves the purpose of getting your manuscript in shape for publication. Let’s have a look at the main types of editing:
Proofreading pertains to looking at punctuation, grammar, spelling, and the use of tenses and prepositions. It requires a sharp eye and attention to detail, and is non-conceptual. Because of this, proofreading usually takes place towards the end of the editing process, after any conceptual changes to the story have taken place.

 

Line editing involves a bit more finesse, as it focuses on the word choice and sentence structure. A key part of line editing is examining the “flow” of sentences and the efficiency of the writing style. That is, line editing will be responsible for removing redundancies and repetitions. The objective of line editing is to make the phraseology of the book more readable. As with proofreading, it is non-conceptual.

 

Copy editing is very similar to line editing, and goes a step further in that the copy-editing is aimed at making the writing sound or read better. This can especially apply to changing the choice of words, moving paragraphs, and altering sentence structures throughout the text.

 

Substantive or developmental editing deals with concepts, themes, and other large elements of the story, such as characters and settings. This is very subjective, and for now we will assume that you have decided on these aspects and are moving forward with the general content of your manuscript.

 

Right, so we’ve defined the types of editing. Here’s how and when to apply them:

 

Phase I: Your first step in the editing process is to sit back and start reading your manuscript, ignoring punctuation and other grammatical aspects and paying attention to larger problems or inconsistencies. There may be a paragraph missing, a chapter that has not been finished, etc. This phase is often the most difficult, because you may have to do some more writing!

 

Phase II: Here, you sit with a red pen or the “track changes” function on Word and look for any errors. This is the proofreading stage. While the Spell Check function has expanded to even look for incomplete sentences and duplications of words, please do not put absolute faith in Spell Check as an editor. There are innumerable instances of where this function falls short, and the only way to accomplish a thorough edit is to have the text read with human eyes. Some things to watch out for include:

  • Quotation marks: these may have been forgotten or misplaced
  • Commas used as periods, or vice-versa
  • Sentences missing a word, especially a connecting word like “as” in “such as”
  • Misspelling the characters’ names (Spell Check will not pick this up) or other proper nouns
  • Use of contractions, particularly their/there/they’re and its/it’s

 

Phase III: Having made quite a few changes, your text is now free from the distracting “technical” errors and you can focus more on the text’s readability. This is the line editing stage. Things to look for here are:

Overuse of the same word (usually a verb or adjective)

Sentence fragments: this may depend on your writing style, but make sure that the sentences that are supposed to be technically complete actually are.

Using the wrong character’s name in a scene. Yes, it happens!

 

Phase IV: Now you get to sit back in a more leisurely fashion and read through your manuscript, totally free from mechanical errors. This is the copy editing stage, and you can use your judgement and taste as to what reads well and what doesn’t. In short, it is your chance to be picky, though be careful not to cross the line into perfectionism or else you’ll never publish your book!

 

Phase V: Finally, re-read your manuscript as if you were a reader who has bought the book. Alternatively, ask for an objective opinion (as stated in the next section) before this phase.

 

Asking for an objective opinion
When you feel comfortable with your manuscript, ask a friend to give it a reading. You may want to make sure it is someone who will be objective with you and won’t be afraid of hurting your feelings. Some important feedback to request is:

  • Is the first page engaging?
  • Is there at least one character that is likeable or attracts the reader in some way?
  • Is there a flow to the language?
  • Are any scenes too long?

 

Cover design
The old saying that “You can’t judge a book by its cover” sounds logical, though a book’s cover does often factor into the decision-making of a potential buyer. Like it or not, your cover has to be eye-catching to someone that might see it for less than a second as they scan a bookshelf. Here are six tips that will prove critical in your choice of a cover:

First, look at other covers in your genre. Think about what will make yours stand out.

  • Is your title big and easy to read? Avoid overly stylistic fonts that might make your book look amateurish or are difficult to read.
  • Look at your cover as a thumbnail-sized image. Remember, there’s a good chance that most potential readers will see your book online. When your cover isn’t much bigger than a postage stamp, is it still readable? Effective?
  • Make sure your cover has a focus. Don’t try to incorporate too many story elements into the cover. This can work for movie posters, but seldom works for book covers.
  • Ask friends and readers of your genre for their opinions. You will probably find that most people give you fairly direct feedback on this. Book covers tend to generate rather immediate responses.
  • Finally, unless you’re a professional graphic designer (with experience designing book covers in particular), strongly consider hiring one. As with a good editor, any money spent on a cover design will not be wasted.

 

Formatting
The goal of formatting is to essentially make the text as easy on readers’ eyes as possible. How many times have you picked up a book in a bookstore and decided that the text was too small or that the page just looked like a swamp of words?

  • Fonts: We suggest choosing a font that is very readable and not distracting. While your novel may have a Gothic theme, this does not mean it requires a Gothic font. Your font should help the reader to be comfortable.
  • Spatial formatting: Review the amount of blank page (known as white space) compared to the amount of black text on the page. If your pages contain too much white space, the danger is that readers will become disengaged. Similarly, if the page contains too much black text it will overwhelm readers.
  • Paragraph length: Naturally this is a subjective area, but bear in mind that modern readers generally do not appreciate the lengthy paragraphs found in Gibbon or even Dickens. A maximum of ten sentences per paragraph would be advisable.

 

Partridge

 

 

PettiCourtyard has tied up with Partridge India to bring to its members the best expertise from the field of publishing.

 

 

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