Sunday, March 6, 2011

The Editing Process for an Independent Christian Self-Publisher

The editing process for an independent self-publisher should be considerably different than going with traditional Print-On-Demand publishers. As a self-publisher, you have much more control but it is easy to think that the manuscript is good enough. The traditional publisher should help with grammar, sentence structure and page layout; however, they probably will not help with the flow. Is the book engaging? Does it move from topic to topic without loosing the reader? If there is Scripture mentioned or points of theology, is it presented properly?

While two of my books are self-published, A Topical Treasury of Proverbs was published by Biblical Studies Press (BSP). I have nothing to say against BSP for they were very easy to work with. However, there was a deadline that they set for July 1, 2008 to complete the final manuscript.

In order to keep my commitment to BSP, I had to reduce the number of work days at my regular job from five to three, but more importantly I had to compromise the editing process. The book is a categorization of Proverbs into 100 topics; it would have been appropriate to run the categorization scheme by other people to gather their thoughts. I did not need sentence structure or grammatical editing because it is mostly the Bible; but the basic content did need to be reviewed and it wasn't. I have recently begun a re-writing process that will correct that mistake.

Another type of editing has to do with keeping the reader's attention. I have been recently reading Billy Ng's excellent book entitled Witnessing to Dracula. In his chapter entitled "Pigs Do Fly", notice how Billy uses action packed verbs and other descriptive words as he describes some pigs that got loose on the way to the market:

"I stared unabashedly at the pigs and then at the driver. He did not seem perturbed. His focus was on the traffic lights.

The light finally turned green. All five cars dashed forward like mustangs at the starting line, the little car on steel tracks. With its exhaust spewing out a storm, the little brown car accelerated and shot through the intersection making a wild left turn. As it veered left, the car tires flew off the smooth tram tracks and hit the road hard. The four-inch difference in height between the tram tracks and the road caused the little car to shudder violently. Suddenly, one of the back doors of the small car flew open!

Literally, two pink pigs flew out of the car. My jaw dropped as the pigs slid out from the car."

Notice the action verbs: stared, perturbed, turned, dashed, spewing, accelerated, shot, veered, flew, hit, shudder, and slid. The word flew is used three times. This is excellent literature and Billy Ng should certainly win some type of award for great Christian writing.

A good editor should be able to look at a manuscript not just for proper wording, but for engagement of the reader and reasonableness. As you look into self-publishing, consider the various ways that your manuscript should be tweaked so that it will have all the potential that the Lord is already planting in you.