Editing schedule

How far ahead should you schedule your edit?

One of the top reasons authors give for self-publishing is the speed with which they can bring their books to publication. Gone are the endless publishing house production cycles that can keep books in limbo for years on end. Control is back in your hands.

That’s the good news. The bad news is virtually the same: Control is in your hands. The processes and responsibilities that make traditional publishing take so long don’t change simply because you take them on yourself. While you’ll be able to move through the publication process more nimbly without having to wait on a behemoth publishing company to thunder through its paces, now it’s up to you to make sure everything gets done in an affordable, professional, and timely manner.

Editing pitfalls and speed traps

Many authors get hung up right at the start on editing and revision. How long could it take to read through the manuscript a time or three to look for typos? Let’s walk through some of the common pitfalls and speed traps.

Allow plenty of time for revisions. Is your manuscript actually ready for editing? Nothing makes an editor sadder than slogging through an edit on a manuscript that isn’t ready for editing yet.

Editing isn’t designed to do your heavy lifting for you. It’s up to you to bring your A game to the editing table. Before your manuscript is ready for editing, you should have worked through several drafts, explored workshopping or critiques, and obtained at least a couple of beta reads from neutral parties. Here’s the editing and revision process many of my clients follow. Look how many little rosy revision boxes pop up between the steps. Those are all opportunities to make course corrections.

Select and schedule an editor early. It takes time to identify, screen, and select an editor who’ll be a good fit for you and your manuscript. While you could luck out and find an editor who has an unexpected scheduling lull—it happens to all of us—experienced editors tend to have built up a demanding roster of clients and referrals and are likely to be booked at least several months in advance.

This can be especially true for editors who work with self-publishing clients. Working directly with publishers tends to be more of a “can you take this job now?” deal. But editors who work with multiple authors whose series production schedules stretch over several years will see their calendars gallop ahead with astounding momentum.

High demand doesn’t mean you can’t use or afford these editors too, but it does mean you’ll have to plan ahead. Six months before your edit would not be too soon to begin start looking for the kind of editor you’d love to work with, and you’ll want to have a schedule lined up at least several months in advance. Bonus: There’s nothing like a looming editing deadline to motivate you to whiz through your last round of revisions.

Did I mention allowing time for revisions? Unless your copyedit was as gentle as the hand of a mother powdering her newborn babe’s behind, you’re in for some hard work after a professional edit. I recommend at least one month to make revisions on a developmental edit; this could go much longer if you have major restructuring to do. And a routine line edit can produce thousands of tracked changes and comments in your manuscript. You’ll want to review all of them.

Be realistic with yourself about how long this could take. If you’re a slow, methodical writer who considers and tinkers with every idea along the way, there’s no reason to think you’ll breeze through your revisions in a matter of days. Editors are used to adjusting schedules for revision delays, but it’s a complex game of scheduling Jenga at best. Do your best to stick to your schedule and avoid losing your spot in your editor’s line.

Leave time for the final spit and polish. A long, complex edit may leave you feeling wrung out and blind to any remaining issues in your manuscript. But it’s dangerous to move forward without making sure the revisions have been cleanly made and no new errors have been introduced.

Because your manuscript will no longer be fresh to your editor’s eye, I recommend seeking out fresh eyes for this last check. This is a perfect time to call in those friends who’ve offered to help out; a half dozen volunteer readers can go a long way toward catching typos, repetitions, dropped or out-of-sequence sections, and other revision-based errors.

Or ask your editor to recommend a professional proofreader. Proofreading costs much less than editing, tends to be scheduled and completed much more quickly than editing, and can save you from embarrassing gaffes and harsh reader reviews.

Lisa Poisso, Editor and Book Coach

Understanding how stories work changes everything. I’ll show you how to back up your creative instincts so your ideas hit home. It’s time to accelerate your journey from aspiring writer to emerging author. 

Ready to get serious about your book? Apply to work with me.

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