As an editor, I am asked all the time, “What do I do next?” After I’ve answered this loaded question, a barrage more follow. “Where do I get a cover?” “Can you publish my book for me?” And even, “So, when will my book be published?” A new writer is often confused as to their editor’s role and believe that once their book comes back from a first pass edit, it is 100% perfect and ready to make them their fame and millions. Sadly, this isn’t the case.
Each process has a different and defined skillset. A cover designer doesn’t proofread your book and an editor doesn’t typeset it for publication. An editor edits your book to publication standard. Typesetting and formatting for ebook/paperback and audiobook publication is a different skillset, as is designing a book cover. It is akin to going into a baker and asking for a roast dinner. This is a checklist guide for you to follow each step in the correct order from opening a blank document to seeing your book in print and available to buy.
Step 1: Write Your Book
The first step to holding your book in your hands and putting it out there for the world to buy is the writing process. Hire a log cabin by a tranquil lake. Drag out the typewriter from the cupboard under the stairs and away you go. 80,000, words later you have your first draft.
Step 2: Self-Edit Your Manuscript
This is the single most important part of the process. By the time your book is published, you should have edited it so many times that you never want to read it again – but you have to, to ensure that it has printed correctly. And chances are, you will find errors that you didn’t catch, and – certainly in printed format – that error is out there for the life of the book. Edit a book to within an inch of its life. And then edit it some more.
Step 3: Put Your Manuscript out to Beta-Readers
Beta readers are a handy weapon to have in your arsenal. There are many reading groups on Facebook offering beta readers. Never pay for a beta. They are getting a sneak preview of your book for free. Put your book out to at least 6 beta readers to get their feedback.
Step 4: Self-Edit Based on Beta-Reader Feedback
Edit again. Don’t just make localised additions or subtractions, as per beta’s advice. Take the opportunity to do another full book edit. Listen to your betas, these are people that read a lot of books, they know what works and what doesn’t.
Step 5: Submit to Editor – First-Pass Edit
The great misconception is that you submit your book to an editor, and that’s it – job done. Most writers – especially new or first time writers – have a lot of bad habits. The first pass edit is primarily to clear the deadwood, white noise and tumbleweed from your manuscript. An editor clears what doesn’t add anything to the story so that we can see the brilliant words that do. We rearrange sentence structure, look at continuity, correct spelling, punctuation, and grammar. At Best Book Editors we look at every keystroke and turn your manuscript into a cohesive book. We give 3 full edits on first pass, but this is not the final stage of editing. A first-pass edit should get your book over 90% of the way to absolute perfection, but there may be things that need tightening, and you will be still adding to and taking away from your manuscript.
Step 6: Self-Edit Based on Editor Suggestions
When your book comes back from a first pass edit, you edit it again. It is up to you to decide which of your editor’s suggestions to accept and which to reject. You don’t have to accept them all, but remember your editor is a professional; they know what they’re doing, and you should trust their judgement as much as you feel you can.
Step 7: Submit to Editor – Second-Pass Edit
You’ve taken out the empty padding. After a first-pass edit, you will probably have lost up to a third of your book (shocking, right?). You’ve listened to your editor and taken on the suggestions of getting rid of the overwriting to replace it with better description, or new scenes. Your edit after first pass, will have sparked new ideas, so you will have added those. As well as the old material, there will be new words in your manuscript that haven’t had a professional edit, yet. This is why a second-pass edit is important.
Step 8: Self-Edit and Proofread Final Manuscript
Guess what you do next? When your book comes back after a second-pass edit, you edit your manuscript. Again. This is the last mechanical edit you will do to your book, and the most important. The rest are read-through checking edits. Your book is finished. You are rejecting and accepting your editor’s final suggestions. There shouldn’t be much to add at this stage, maybe clearing the last of the deadwood and adding the odd sentence. Some books will need further edits – most don’t. By now you should have a clean, tight, correct manuscript that you can be proud of.
Step 9: Typeset Your Manuscript for Publication Formatting
You can do this yourself and there are many guides on the internet to help you. This one provided by Amazon is very instructive. If you lack the confidence or the time, you can submit your manuscript to a professional typesetting service to do the technical formatting for you. This is a service that Best Book Editors offer, from a professional in the business so that your book in both paperback and eBook formats will load first time every time. Be aware that ebook formatting and paperback formatting for publication are separate processes and use different coding. One size does not fit all. If you plan to publish in both formats, you may need to budget for this separately, however Best Book Editors offer both formats for the same set price.
Step 10: Submit a Brief to Your Cover Designer
Your book is edited. It is typeset and formatted professionally for both ebook and paperback. After all that hard graft, we are getting to the exciting bits. Now you can get your cover created. Best Book Editors can provide a professional book cover for you. If you are printing in paperback, you will need an ISBN number. Amazon provide them for free, or you can buy your own. Before you sign it off, be sure that you are happy with your cover, you are going to be looking at it for a long time. (The cover should always be finalized after your book is typeset; this is because the final spine width on a paperback cover wrap is dependent on the number of formatted pages in your book.)
Step 11: Final Proofread to Ensure There Are No Erroneous Errors
While this is a checking-edit, it is a very important one. You aren’t just looking at your manuscript, you are looking at a book. You should be checking everything, including the technical formatting. The end is nigh.
Step 12: Submit to Publisher / Self-Publish
Get your hand ready for back-patting; you’re almost there. The final step is to upload your book for publication and print. Follow the steps provided by your publisher (KDP, IngramSpark, and so on) to upload your book. And that’s it, you’re done. The last button you click will say Publish. Give yourself that pat on the back, you are now a published author.
And there you have it, our simple self-help guide to self-publishing your book. It is your responsibility to have followed all the steps and made sure that your book is the best book that it can be. It should be free of errors, typos and formatting issues. And like the 18th hole, you are ready to move to the next step. Write another book.
Katherine Black / Susan (Sooz) Simpson
Founder of Best Book Editors
Katherine has held almost every single job imaginable, from painting gnomes to zookeeper. She spent most of her life in the caring profession and has managed both a nursing home and a care agency. But her passion for the written language always brings her home to novel writing.
Born in Tyne-and-Wear, North-East England, she has settled in the beautiful Lake District, Cumbria, with her partner, two dogs, a cat, an iguana and a python (just don’t ask her which of those six things is her favourite!).
She specialises in content creation and social media outreach, and has been a developmental editor for hundreds of clients. She owns and operates bestbookeditors.com where she helps foundling authors polish their skills. However, after being diagnosed with a dramatic brain condition in 2022, she has had to let 23 staff go, and scale back the business. BBE is still very much open, we are just fewer and can’t take as much work on.
Katherine Black is the author of psychological thriller/detective/fantasy adventure novels.