Are You Ready to Self-Publish? Evaluating Your Manuscript

illustration-of-books-pvBy Cecilia Lewis

Any writer near the end of the editing process is probably familiar with the anxiety that comes from preparing to publish your work. Is it ready yet? Is it really good enough? How can you tell?

Fortunately, there are steps you can take to make sure that your draft is truly ready. So before you hit the “Publish” button, consider whether you’ve completed the following: 

  1. You’ve studied your craft

Writing, like any craft, requires practice and study in order to produce quality work. By “quality,” I mean technically solid writing that tells a story, engages the reader’s emotions, and allows the reader to connect with the characters. This is not a judgment of prose style or literary merit, but of quality storytelling and craft. You can learn to recognize good writing by reading, critiquing, studying craft, and editing your work. If you’ve been doing this, you should be able to analyze a book on a much deeper level than simply whether you liked it or not. Of course, writing is incredibly subjective, but you should have at least a basic understanding of your craft.

  1. You’ve edited beyond spelling and grammar

Editing your book doesn’t just mean a spelling and grammar check. Before you publish, you should revise for story structure, characterization, emotion, language, voice, style, etc. Even if you write clean first drafts, these elements can always be improved at some level. Don’t publish before you revise thoroughly.

  1. You’ve checked for errors and inconsistencies

If you think you’ve finished editing your MS, read through it again. Check for grammar, spelling, and typos, of course, but also check for chronological and story inconsistencies. Sometimes things get changed during the editing process, and you have to make sure that there aren’t any outright errors resulting from those changes.

  1. You’ve had someone else read your book

At this point, you should have received feedback from critique partners and/or beta readers and revised your work accordingly. I also strongly recommend that anyone considering self-publishing consider hiring a freelance editor. I am admittedly biased here, because I offer freelance editing services, but I believe there’s no substitute for having your work edited by a professional. There’s only so much that you, as the author, can see objectively, and a professional can offer insight that critique partners often can’t. But regardless of whether you decide to hire a pro, make sure that someone you trust has given you feedback before you publish.

  1. You’ve checked your formatting and typesetting

You’ll want to make sure that your MS is properly formatted for conversion to ebook, of course, and you’ll also want to make sure that there aren’t any formatting errors or inconsistencies before you publish. Having a clean, polished ebook will make your work look professional, and checking your typesetting beforehand will save you trouble later.

  1. You’ve made this book the best it can be

You’ve revised. You’ve shown your work to others, and revised again. You’ve proofread and checked for errors. You can’t think of a single thing that you would change in the manuscript. This is a good sign that you’re ready to publish!

What do you think? How do you tell if your MS is ready? Let me know in the comments!

Still not sure if your MS is ready? Consider my Manuscript Evaluation service! I’ll provide a professional critique of your book to help you determine its readiness. And if you’re looking for a more thorough edit or simply a proofread, check out my other services.

This post is part of my Self-Publishing series. For more info about self-publishing, check out the other posts in the series here, and follow the blog to see future posts!

Related Links:

-The Importance of a Good Proofreader

-The Pros and Cons of Self-Publishing

-When to Hire a Freelance Editor

-The Importance of a Good Copyeditor

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2 thoughts on “Are You Ready to Self-Publish? Evaluating Your Manuscript

  1. D.I. Ozier says:

    Editing is an important part of making sure any book is polished and professional. However, many self-published authors balk at hiring professional editing services because of the cost. Finding a beta reader in a local writer’s group or online critique circle can be a low-cost option, and can help you find errors that are hurting the overall structure of your narrative.

    Also, it’s important to keep in mind that while developmental editing (where the editor combs through your work and helps you with plot, characterization, and other more stylistic things), a qualified copy editor (who looks for grammatical issues) is less expensive. Those who find that they don’t need a developmental editor should still hire a qualified copy editor who can help them iron out their manuscript.

    Like

    • ceciliajlewis says:

      Great points! I always encourage writers to seek out critique partners or beta readers regardless of whether they choose to hire an editor, as the feedback can be invaluable. However, there is a difference between those critiques and a professional developmental edit, which is why I encourage writers to do both if at all possible.
      Yes, there are often multiple professional services to choose from. Many editors offer lower-cost options; I have an evaluation service that is less intensive than my developmental edit but can still help writers evaluate their work for a lower cost. A good critique group or beta reader might be able to help the writer determine which editorial service would be most beneficial and cost-effective for their work.

      Liked by 1 person

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