How to Write Your First Non-Fiction Book: Part Three
In this final article of the series we're going to take a look at editing and proofreading. They're critically important because they mark the difference between professional work that can bring in profit for years and years and the 99% that sell under 100 copies. In order to compete with the bestselling books in your genre, your book must look and feel as if it were published by a major publisher.
As such, what follows are three keys to each.
Books that readers love tend to read easy. In other words, the sentences flow from one to the next. This is a direct result of extensive editing, which is no more than reading your writing over and over again and making adjustments until it feels smooth, strong, and rhythmic.
Anything that may be misunderstood - even a tiny bit - must be eliminated or corrected until it makes sense by any objective standard. Simplify everything without watering down your message. Be cautious with adverbs and adjectives, which most often just make your writing bloated and amateurish.
For every chapter, stay focused on your objective. If there is anything that doesn't directly answer or support the narrow purpose of your chapter title, then get rid of it. Otherwise, you'll frustrate the reader and encourage poor Amazon reviews, which are crucial to your sales.
By reading your manuscript aloud, you catch word usage errors that Word and Grammarly often miss. It's also smart to read contractions as two words (it is instead of it's). This ensures you catch and correct common errors - like their vs. they're - that make you look like a hack.
When proofreading aloud, exaggerate your pronunciation. This will alert you to anything that doesn't sound right, which is a sign there is a mistake. You may also want to read each paragraph or sentence in reverse order, which further highlights words that are misused or shouldn't be there.
Good proofreading is about putting in the time, no more and no less. I probably read each new book 20-30 times before publishing. To make it seem fresh, however, it's smart to give yourself enough time before your deadline to proofread every day or so over the course of a couple weeks or more.
Should You Hire Someone?
I think it's a big mistake to hire someone to do the editing for you. The reason is because you very likely will lose your voice. You'll lose that secret something that makes you, YOU. Remember, your authenticity is what's going to make you successful. If you round these edges too much, then your book won't resonate.
If you can afford a good proofreader who will do nothing more than catch clear mistakes and typos, then I think this is a good idea. You can become so familiar with your work that it can be hard to notice every little error. However, the proofreader you hire must do their work after you've done your own proofreading.
A second set of eyes can really help. But it can't be done just by anybody. Proofreading is a skill, so be sure to hire a pro. I'm lucky because my sister happens to be a top-notch proofreader. Still, I hire her only after I've done my own extensive work.
By pouring as much determination and commitment into editing and proofreading as you did into writing your book, you ensure a professional product that has the best chance of becoming a bestseller. You only have to write your book one time. So do it right.
And leave nothing to chance.