Originally published at: https://ackerlygreen.com/2020/04/17/how-we-edit-our-indie-editorial-process/
Preface: This has changed dramatically since COVID-19, but I want to create some relatively evergreen posts that tackle questions we get asked most often.
If you pre-ordered The Book of Briars, then you’ve been receiving parts of the book as a supporting narrative unfolds on our forum. And you might’ve also seen posts from readers who’ve found mistakes or misspellings in the advance reader copy, or you may have even found an error on your own.
Having my readers (graciously and thankfully) point out misspellings and grammatical errors that seem so prominent and noticeable when brought to my attention was hard for me at the beginning of Ackerly Green, (and has gotten a little easier, but not much) because it can trigger my imposter syndrome, and worries me that my oversight makes my work and company seem sloppy and amateur. Recently, I brought this up with my editors, and what I learned was pretty eye-opening.
You may or may not know that I have a developmental editor and a copyright editor who does some proofing as well. Given the unique beast that is the Briarverse, I need people who are focusing on different things. Not only the quality of the individual work but also how it fits within the scope of the existing (and future) literary world. I reached out to my copyeditor, who previously worked in New York City for several of the “big five” publishing houses. I wanted to know if it was unusual to find the number of errors my readers were finding in The Book of Briars, partly because I wanted a little reassurance, and partly because I wanted to know if there was room to shore up my editorial process.
She told me that it’s very common to find errors in an “ARC,” but the reason that these kinds of mistakes are rarely found in traditionally published final books is that they often go through a year of editing. That’s six or seven complete passes with proofers, and that’s after copy editing. That is a lot of editing and A LOT of money. I have two extraordinary editors, but I can’t expect them to do a year’s worth of work for a fraction of the money that they’d make with a traditional publisher.
Having learned that, I spent some time thinking about and reworking my editorial process. I thought I’d run it by you, so you have a better understanding of an “indie” editorial process.
I write my initial drafts in Ulysses, a markdown writing app, but then export them to Word to begin editing.
In a perfect world, I would first submit an initial draft to my developmental editor, Conor, who would give extensive notes about characters, narrative, and how well the current draft fits into the broader scope of the Briarverse.
I would address those notes, and if schedule and finances permit, send back any chapters that needed extensive work to get his final thoughts.
From there, I would send a (hopefully) polished manuscript to Bethany, my copyeditor, to help with spelling, syntax, formatting, and a little character/narrative work, to the extent that it makes sense in and outside of the connected world of books.
I would then address those notes, which there are usually a lot because Bethany is lovely, funny, and awesome, but doesn’t suffer fools gladly. When she says she likes something in the draft, it’s basically a religious experience for me.
Once Bethany’s notes are addressed, Catherine will read the draft (she’s probably already read it once, when I send it to Conor) and check for what we called in my theater days “last looks.” Just making sure we didn’t miss anything glaring because, at this point in the process, I’ve gone “draft blind.”
Once Catherine’s made any notes and runs it through Grammarly premium (not sponsored), I address the draft changes, then export the document into a program called Vellum, where I format the book for publishing myself.
Now, in traditional publishing, that draft could’ve gone back to Bethany four or five more times. I would LOVE to do that, but often I don’t have the time to do that, and I certainly don’t have the financial means to do that. The current editorial process already costs me $3-5k per book.
You’re also a part of the editorial process. Some of you have received Advance Reader Copies in the past. Even this beta, sectional release of The Book of Briars has allowed us to fix issues thanks to readers graciously looking out for errors in the near-complete manuscripts. I’m grateful to all of you for helping me do the “last looks” in the advance reader copies while I work toward affording a broader editorial process. Thank you for not judging me too harshly for my missed punctuation, embarrassing misspellings, and improper verb tenses. We really do work hard to catch them all. The editorial process is a big, tricky beast, and I appreciate your patience and kindness!