This is the third article in a series on the different stages of writing a business book. I decided to write this series after realizing that there are a lot of misconceptions and myths out there about how books get made, and I wanted to demystify the process for you. If you’re just jumping into the series now, take a look at Part 1, which is an introduction to the series, and then Part 2, which is all about the writing process.
Writing is Only the Beginning
Once a book is written, it’s hardly done. There is a lot that has to happen behind the scenes before it can be released to the public and sold. One of the most important parts of the entire process (maybe even more important than the initial writing, believe it or not) is editing. As Ernest Hemingway famously wrote in his 1964 memoir, A Moveable Feast, “The only kind of writing is rewriting.”
I don’t know a single writer or author that doesn’t agree with that statement.
Different Types of Editing
Not all editing is created equal. A short article may only need an experienced copy editor to take a look and correct things like grammar, spelling, and sentence structure. A book is a whole different animal. Because there is so much more material in a book, extra attention needs to be paid to the coherence of the manuscript as a whole. It’s not enough for each page or each chapter to make sense on its own; it all needs to flow together.
In order to ensure that your book is not only free from any technical writing errors, but that it also is interesting, compelling, and cohesive, you’ll want to work with someone who has developmental editing experience, particularly with non-fiction books. If you had help from a ghostwriter during the writing phase, that person should also be a great resource for developmental editing. Most ghostwriters have a handful of editors they regularly work with.
I know that the cost of hiring people to help you with your book can add up, and it’s extremely tempting to think that some of these steps can be skipped. For some reason, editing seems to be the one people most often want to cut corners on. I can’t even count how many times a business owner has told me they would either edit their book themselves or have their administrative assistant take a quick glance at it to check for mistakes. Not smart!
I cannot stress enough how important a good editor is. If saving money is truly your goal, then it’s better to have the initial writing be poor-to-average than to skimp on editing. A good editor can make so-so writing great. A poor editor (or simply an inexperienced one) might miss obvious errors in even a well-written manuscript, making it a disappointing product in the end.
Put your best foot forward. Invest the time and money in solid editing. You’ll be glad you did.
Now That You Have the Right Words, They Need to Look Nice, Too
When you read a book, do you ever stop to think about how the words are actually laid out on the page? Probably not often. However, if there was too much space between paragraphs, or if the margins were unusually large, or if the font was too small, or if there were any number of other bizarre formatting issues (believe me, there’s some weird stuff out there), you’d notice the layout, and not in a good way.
That is exactly what you don’t want. You want your readers to effortlessly breeze through your book without having to give the layout a second, or even a first, thought. It’s a simple idea, and it may seem like a no-brainer, but it’s not easy to do.
Microsoft Word is Not a Layout Program!
I wish I could say that formatting an e-book (or even a book for print) is as easy and straightforward as typing up a Word document, saving it as a PDF, and uploading it to Kindle Direct Publishing. Let me be clear: You can do exactly that. The problem is that when a customer downloads the book to their Kindle, it will be practically unreadable.
That’s because Microsoft Word was never meant to be used for this purpose.
E-book files (.mobi, and .epub) are full of all kinds of invisible code that allows them to scroll seamlessly, to adapt to changes the user wants to make (like font style or size), and to be read on different devices, all of which have different sized screens. Microsoft Word documents are also full of invisible code. When the two are put together, it turns into a giant mess of competing code, and it creates a miserable and frustrating reading experience.
Book layout is much better left to programs that are designed for that purpose, like Adobe InDesign. InDesign has a lot of features, and the learning curve is steep, but once you get past the learning process, it’s far simpler than trying to jury-rig a Microsoft Word document to behave properly once it’s been turned into an e-book file.
Not everyone has time to sit down and learn the ins and outs of InDesign, and not everyone has the budget to put towards book layout software. That’s okay! There are book design experts out there who would love to put your book into a clean and functional layout for you so that it will easily adapt to any e-book or print format, and so that readers will enjoy the book without having to deal with any irritating format problems.
Like editing, this is a piece of the puzzle that is worth spending your money on. Get it off your plate so you don’t have to worry about it, and get it done by a professional so you know it’s done correctly.
No Need to Do It Alone
If there’s one underlying theme I hope I’ve driven home with this series so far, it’s that writing a book should be a team effort. Not even the most famous and successful authors do it alone, so there’s no reason for you to, either. Publishing companies like Maven have people in-house who are experts in each step of the process—they can help you with everything from beginning to end, or they can jump in at any point and help you with the one piece you need help with.
If you are looking for an editor or book designer, contact Maven, and we’ll get you set up right away. We’d also love to talk to you even if you’ve only gotten as far as having a vague idea to “maybe write a business book someday”—we’d love to get you started on the right foot and make sure you’re set up for success from the beginning.