“A picture tells a thousand words”, or so the saying goes, which is why…
One of the unfair stigmas surrounding self-publishing is that the work produced is “amatuer-ish” and unprofessional. Having your work edited by a trained expert will get your manuscript looking sharp, and help lift it to a market ready standard. Stephanie McConchie is an editor who works with indie authors to do just that.
What do you do?
I am Stephanie McConchie, a freelance editor and proofreader with a Diploma in Proofreading and Editing (Excellence) from the New Zealand Institute of Business Studies and an associate member of the Institute of Professional Editors Ltd (IPED). I work with self-publishing authors on both fiction and non-fiction books over a wide range of genres including biographies and memoirs.
Editing and proofreading are the polishing processes of writing. I review manuscripts and check for clarity, consistency, flow, grammar, spelling and punctuation and overall readability, while at the same time maintaining the author’s voice. I recognise that writers put a huge amount of time, effort and emotion into their writing, so my aim is not to change what they’ve written but to work closely with them to produce a polished version of their own words. This is especially important when working with biographies and memoirs. When friends and family read a biography or a memoir, I believe they should be able to hear the author’s voice in their head as if the author is reading to them.
Every author wants to be proud of the work they publish. Editing and proofreading is a crucial step to ensuring that.
I recognise that writers put a huge amount of time, effort and emotion into their writing, so my aim is not to change what they’ve written but to work closely with them to produce a polished version of their own words.
What’s involved with your process with an author?
My process with authors begins with establishing what their requirements are; if they want an edit (which includes proofreading) or just a proofread, then I need to work out how long I think their project will take to complete. I provide an estimate as opposed to a fixed quote because you never know exactly what condition all the pages in a manuscript are in until you read them, so there may be sections that require more work than others. To determine that I’ll do a sample edit of ten to fifteen pages of their work, taken from the middle of the manuscript. I take it from the middle, rather than the beginning, because the first few chapters tend to be the ones that have had the most work done on them in terms of re-writes and are cleaner than pages further on in the manuscript.
I complete the first round of edits on the whole manuscript then send a digital copy to the author for them to accept or reject my edits and consider any suggestions I have. I always work with track changes in Word but for authors who don’t feel confident with the process of accepting/rejecting edits in track changes, I will also include an editing schedule to make the process easier.
Once the author has gone through the first edited draft and responded to my edits, we will repeat the process of going through the manuscript, making any changes and then returning the manuscript to the author for their approval. I maintain close contact with authors throughout the process. Depending on each project the number of passes required varies and for some projects it may only be three, the third being a final proofread to pick up any missed errors. If I come across something that I feel needs attention but is outside the purview of proofreading, I will bring it to the author’s attention.
How long does the process take?
That’s a very good question. How long is a piece of string? Every project is different and the time each one takes depends on the condition of the manuscript. Two manuscripts containing the same word count are not automatically going to take the same amount of time to edit or proofread, which is why I do a sample edit first.
What can authors do to improve their writing?
Apart from taking a course in writing, which is a great place to start, my advice is to read and read widely. Read books on how to write but also read books in the genre you write in. Notice how the author treats plot development, dialogue, punctuation, characterisation. And lastly, keep a thesaurus and a dictionary beside you and use them often.
Why do you think self-publishing is important?
There are so many talented writers who would never have had the opportunity to publish their books without self-publishing. Self-publishing allows authors to publish their books on their terms. They can write about whatever they want, in their own unique style and have direct access to all the people they need to help them publish their book to a high standard like an editor, proofreader and cover designer. They make all the decisions around publishing their book and the profits come directly back to them. They get to live their dream of being a published author and that is immensely important. I love being a part of that.
There are so many talented writers who would never have had the opportunity to publish their books without self-publishing.
Favourite book or quote?
My favourite quote isn’t about writing, it’s about life. It’s been said by different people, in different ways, so it’s hard to put a particular name to it. This is my preference; ‘IT IS NOT OUR ABILITIES THAT DEFINE US, BUT THE CHOICES WE MAKE.’