When it comes to being an indie author I’m pretty lucky. Indie authors generally have to send a fully formatted and edited book to the publisher. They also have to supply their own cover art. If an indie author wants to compete with the traditional publishers who have their own in-house editors and artists, they are going to have to find their own editor and pay for those services. Unfortunately, a lot of indie authors forego these two most important steps in the process to save money, and it shows. This is where I’m lucky. I want to introduce you to my editor.
Denise actually lives in Ames, so that is convenient. She is a native of Story City, IA and an Iowa State University graduate. She holds a BA and an MA in English. For a time she worked as an editor for ISU Press. She then went to Engineering Animation, Inc., as a technical writer, then to Quester IT as Manager of Content Development, and then to Phasient Learning Technologies where she served as a Director of Content Development and retired as VP of operations. Quite a good resume for a guy like me to snag up. The luckiest thing about it though is that Denise is my wife. If you want to keep publishing costs down, marry your editor. I will add that Denise’s sister is a graphic designer for a grocery chain, and also my designer for the covers of all of my books. So you might say, when it comes to in house editors and artists, the big boys got nothing on me.
I asked Denise to talk a bit about our editing process:
For us, editing begins as Rollie is outlining the story in his head, often before he even sits down at the computer to write. He talks about what Max and Skip and the gang are doing, and we talk through ideas of how that might go. So I know the story from the outset.
By the time Rollie publishes one of his books, I have read it at least three times. I start the substantive edit before he finishes his second draft, reading two or three chapters at a time to catch inconsistencies in the storyline, discrepancies with characters and places, any flow issues and grammatical errors that catch my eye. I follow the Chicago Manual of Style and keep a style sheet for consistency both within and across the books. We discuss things like flow and character development, and I might suggest alternate wording or even changes to scenes if it feels necessary. I perform this edit on the computer, right in the chapter files. Small edits I just make, while larger things I either flag for discussion or we hash out as I go. We don’t always agree.
Once the substantive edit is complete and all the changes accepted, I compile the separate chapters into the template to make the book. It took us a while to find a process that works best, but by Where the Hell is Angie? I feel like we have a system that catches most problems. For the first copyedit, I print out the book and we read it side by side at the dining room table: I read each page, marking each change on the page and flagging the page with a post-it flag, then Rollie reads the page and tries to catch anything I miss. When we get through the entire book, I enter the changes in the document and Rollie uploads the book to the printer and orders a proof.
When the proof arrives, we do a final proofread together. For Case of the lonelyfarmer.com, we happened to be on a road trip at this stage, and we discovered that me reading the book aloud to Rollie caught errors that my eyes alone didn’t catch. So now we take a vacation at the proofread stage so we can take advantage of long stretches of time together. (Does this practice also make the trip tax deductible? I must remember to ask Eric, our tax preparer!) For this stage, I again make edits in the book and flag pages with post-it flags. By this point, we hope to find only typos and misplaced commas, but this time we found a spot where the two bikers (you’ll have to read Angie to see who I mean) eat lunch twice on the same day, a few chapters apart. Oops!
Max, Skip, Monica, Milton and the rest are old friends by now. I look forward to each new book so we can catch up.