9: What happens when you've finished writing?
In this episode we’re looking at the different roles in publishing, who does what and how each will help you produce a product you can be proud of.
Join Sue and Dave as they discuss what an author can expect during the process of writing and publishing a book and what happens when you’ve finished writing.
Whether you self-publish, publish independently or use a traditional publishing model, this eye-opening episode explains why every writer needs an editor and how a professional editorial, production and marketing team behind you will help make sure your book does the best job possible for you.
with thanks to Dave Harries of CommunicateTV: www.communicatetv.co.uk
Dave Harries: [00:00:00] Welcome to the Right Book Project, a Right Book Company radio production. My name is Dave Harries. I’m here with my co-presenter, Sue Richardson, to explore the whys and wherefores of book publishing and how writing a book can enhance your business and personal profile. Sue is a publishing expert who’s been in the book business for many years and has written her own book – The Authority Guide to Publishing your Business Book. This podcast is all about you and your journey to writing a book. So, please get involved by joining our Facebook group, The Right Book Project, or tweet @therightbookco. You’ll find notes, links, recordings and transcripts of these podcasts on therightbookcompany.com. Now, on today’s podcast we’re going to explore the writing and publishing process. So, that’s what to expect when you write a book; who does what and when. So, Sue, that’s quite a broad topic, isn’t it? What to expect when you write a book. But I know fundamentally we’re going to talk quite a lot about the process of writing and editing, and that sort of thing. How important is editing when you’re writing a book? Let’s start there.
Sue Richardson: [00:01:06] Well, I think it’s a very important part of the process and obviously there’s the editing that the writer does themselves. And then there’s the editing that somebody else might do. And it’s always useful I think, for all authors to remember, we tend to think of authorship as being a solitary exercise, don’t we? And in a way, of course it is because you’re generating the content based on your ideas and taking that forward. But actually, the editing process is probably as important as the writing process. So, if we start off by thinking about the editing bit that the writer does, everyone will be different. Because many authors may find it helpful to, if you like, download their thoughts, their ideas, the stuff that they want to say and then go back at a different time to edit their own work; to tidy it up; to neaten it; to make it work for the reader.
Dave Harries: [00:02:08] I heard an interesting talk on the radio a day or two ago and they were talking about…there was an author being interviewed, and he was saying, I think it was a he, he was saying that he’d rewritten the first 8,000 words of his book, 250 times. I nearly fell off my chair when I heard that, I was driving actually, so I nearly crashed the car, because I thought: 250 times! I mean that…yeah! You know, and he said that it’d taken him two years to write the book, or something like that. And I wish I could remember who the author was, so we could get him on the show, I’d like to ask him about that. But I mean obviously that business of rewriting, I mean perhaps he’s particularly a perfectionist or something, but he was talking about, you know, getting the voice right and getting it to, not just sound right in his head, but he said that he actually read it out loud to himself, to make sure that it sounded right when it kind of was released into the universe as it were. That’s quite interesting, isn’t it?
Sue Richardson: [00:03:08] That is interesting and that reminds me actually of a conversation that I had recently with an author; Tom Evans, who wrote The Authority Guide to Practical Mindfulness. And he was saying to me that when he did his audiobook version of the book, that he then went back and wanted to edit the print version because it had made him realise that there were things that he thought would work better. And so, isn’t it interesting that, I mean maybe that for some authors that’s going to be a really useful way of kind of externalising the book so that you almost hear it back; if you hear it back to yourself that you can then go back and tweak and edit and you can imagine what it’s going to sound like for the reader in their heads when they read it.
Dave Harries: [00:04:02] Yeah, I think that is a very interesting point, isn’t it, to make? But let’s talk a little bit before…I do want to talk a little bit more about the editing process. But before we do that, talk to me a little bit about the sort of support that particularly perhaps a first-time author might want to seek out, might possibly expect when they’re first writing a book. And I suppose maybe that depends on the route they’re choosing to get published. Because writing, of course, is only the first stage, you’ve then got to get your book published. So, if you could…I know we’ve talked about this in previous episodes, would you mind quickly recapping what the sort of publishing options are? And then we can talk about the support that is available for those options.
Sue Richardson: [00:04:44] Yes, of course. Well obviously, every publisher is going to have a slightly different approach. But generally speaking, you would have an editor who you would work with, if you work with a publisher. Clearly, if you decide to take the self-publishing route, then that’s up to you, what you do, what level you choose to work with someone. But I would say that every writer needs an editor. And needs an editor at whatever level that might be. So, obviously a traditional publisher is going to, if they accept your book, they’re going to put [in] all the right people into the team that’s going to produce your book. And that could be an editor who helps you to a different level. And you know some publishers will work with you to make sure that the book is absolutely right. Indeed, I would say, here at The Right Book Company, that’s really important for us, because we want to make sure that the book is right for you. And so, having that support and that help along the way, I think, many authors find really useful, especially if they’re doing a book for their business. To make sure that that book is right; to kind of have a bit of a handholding exercise to make sure that when it gets to manuscript, to final draft stage, that it’s the book that you really need and deserve for your business. So, that’s really important. And I think it’s really important if you work with a publisher to always make sure that, if that’s what you need, that that’s part of the process. It has to be said, that with a traditional publisher, it is possibly true, you know, we were talking about this earlier on, that a commissioning editor now…really a commissioning editor’s job is to get you on board, and then move on and find the next book. And it may be that they’re not there for you in that way. And if you feel you need that support, it’s probably a good idea to go and find yourself an editor to work with, to help you to get there.
Dave Harries: [00:06:51] And that’s possible, is it? I mean, there are freelance editors that you can pay to help you?
Sue Richardson: [00:06:53] Absolutely. Many, many, very, very skilled people out there working as freelancers now, probably come out of publishing houses, where they used to do a lot more in-house than they do now, and, you know, delighted to help you and work with you on your book. So, you know, without any doubt, it’s always an option for you, even if it’s not part of…it’s always a good idea to ask the question. If you get a publishing deal with a traditional publisher, [it’s a] great idea to just have that conversation and find out what level of support and editing you can expect, what’s there. They will, of course, be giving you feedback on the book. They want the right book as well. They need the book that they’ve commissioned you to write. So, you know, if it isn’t quite right, they’re going to come back and tell you. But if you need that to be part of the process of getting the book written, then it’s good to ask the question. And if they say: well, it’s probably a little bit outside of what we can offer or what we can do, then go and find yourself an editor to work with. And so, however you publish: whether that’s you publish independently, you fund your own publishing, or you work with a traditional publisher, it’s just something to think about. How much support do you need at that stage to help you get the book written? The other thing to think about at this stage of course, is this, in a sense a bit of a kind of hybrid role, which is kind of book coach/editor. So, maybe someone who can do a little bit more than just looking at the content and giving you feedback. Maybe you might find it useful to have someone who will call you every couple of weeks and ask you how it’s going and hold you accountable to how much. So, you know, that kind of a coach who will take you through the whole process. Many people find that quite useful as well. And maybe a coach who’s also looking at the work, a coach/editor is a great person for an author to work with.
Dave Harries: [00:09:03] So, what I’m getting very strongly from here, Sue, is that the term ‘editor’ covers a vast sort of panoply of different jobs. And it’s going to depend a lot on decisions that you make, having written the book, or while you’re writing the book, the sort of support you’re likely to be able to expect from the company that you get into bed with, as it were, to publish your book. But I’m very interested that you said that every writer needs an editor. Is that literally true? That you can’t write a book unless you…obviously you can write a book without an editor, but it’s very likely not to be as good a product as you would like, if you don’t have some professional help. Is that fair to say?
Sue Richardson: [00:09:45] I think it is fair to say. It’s then about the level of editing that you need. I have worked with authors who’ve not needed substantial editing at all. You know, they don’t need in depth, they don’t need much intervention in the work itself. That they are excellent writers; that they know their stuff; they know exactly what they want to do; they’ve thought it all out very clearly; they’ve got a great structure for the book; they know exactly who their target audience is. All of those things, all the boxes ticked. Even then every book needs copy-editing. So, it may be a superb book, but no matter how good a writer you are, there will always be things that an editor can improve. So, there’s kind of different levels of editing. So, if we look at the sort of the editor who might literally be there just to kind of support you, to make sure that the content in the book is the right content, perhaps help you with the structure, if you need that. But if you don’t need that, and definitely there are people who can write a book without that person involved. Although It’s always helpful to have somebody to check in with, I think. It’s always helpful to have somebody to read the book. But you can do that with peers, you know, you can get peer review, if you like, on your book, it depends on what you’re writing, of course. But whatever, even if you’ve got this fabulous book, every decent publisher would then take it through a copy-editing process. And that would be literally just making sure that the writing is absolutely as clear as it can be; that the spelling is right; the punctuation is right; that there are no errors; that everything follows through okay; that you’re not repeating yourself too much. You know, the things that perhaps, when an author writes a book they get very, very wrapped up in it, very close to it. Whoever you are, you need somebody then to go through with fresh eyes and be the first person to be reading it and looking at it as the reader will be. You know, and then picking up on anything that just might be not perfect. And either correcting it themselves or coming back to you with a query and saying: is this what you meant, or can we clarify this piece or whatever?
Dave Harries: [00:12:14] And that copy-editing, that’s different from proofreading is it? Proofreading is a separate stage?
Sue Richardson: [00:12:19] It is. They are both qualified professionals, both a copy-editor and a proofreader. Some people as qualified professional editors will do both, but they won’t generally do it on the same book. So, the way the process works is copy-editing takes place at manuscript stage, and that’s when any errors are ironed out; any queries are ironed out; any real kind of major tidying up and needs to be done, is done at that stage. And a copy-editor will generally, there are different ways of working, but they will generally show the changes being tracked, so that an author or the publisher can just quickly and easily check through, make sure that those are the right things. A lot of it’s about consistency, as well. Consistency of use of language and that kind of thing, so that it just really looks like a well, professionally put-together manuscript. And that happens before the typesetting stage. So, all those things are ironed out. The typesetting then happens. We still call it typesetting, even though that’s kind of a slightly archaic term in many ways, because it’s all of course, done using professional publishing software. And that’s all done, and then you have what effectively come out as page proofs from that process. Then you have a proofreader who does the next stage of the edit. And that will be literally checking that everything’s worked following the typesetting. So, they may pick up the odd error that’s been missed; they may pick up…where you have a little bit of going backwards and forwards between the author and the copy-editor perhaps, there may be things that have crept in that are wrong, so the proofreader is the backstop; the proofreader is the final pair of eyes. And again, another fresh pair of eyes, not the same person as the copy-editor will be absolutely able to see if there’s any further tiny little errors in the book that need sorting. And they then correct those and it’s ready to go.
Dave Harries: [00:14:34] One thing that occurs to me in all of this, all this sort of collaboration, it’s interesting, isn’t it? Because the task of authorship has always struck me as quite a lonely thing, you know, at the end of the day you’ve got to sit down and write this stuff. And there’s no way around that, you know, unless you use a ghost-writer or something. But you’ve basically got to sit down and do it, probably in a room on your own somewhere for many hours. And then you’re suddenly into this, what you might call, the collaboration stage, where suddenly you’re part of a team. So, you’re kind of playing which is a very different sort of role. And I wonder, is there ever a sort of conflict that arises there, in your experience? Because you’re the…you might be understandably quite precious about your manuscript; you’ve spent many hours and slaved over it; you’ve sweated blood, as it were, to create this thing and then somebody comes along and says: well yeah, but you can’t have that. And that’s, well frankly that’s rubbish, and you’ve got to put this in. And that editing process, I imagine particularly not used to it, might be quite painful. Does that happen?
Sue Richardson: [00:15:39] Yeah. There’s no doubt about it, I think it can be a little bit painful. And I think that a skilled editor finds ways of putting it to the authors that they work with, that this is about making the book as absolutely as best, as good as it can be. And doing a great job for you. It’s not about saying: you’re wrong here; this is incorrect or you’re doing this badly. It’s about: this is your work, let’s make sure that you are showing what you do and what you know in the best possible light. If an author can just, if authors can just open up to the fact that actually what they see in the process of writing and the process that they go through, it can be quite an internal process. And that actually, the editor’s job is to make sure that that works for the reader. [At] the end of the day, there is no point in writing a book that isn’t going to land in the right way with a reader, and an editor will often be the person that sees that. But I think a skilled editor will be gentle and kind, and will do it in such a way that hopefully they don’t hurt the feelings of the author too much. But it is also perhaps a good idea for an author just to try to remember that their motives are absolutely, they have the intention is good, and the intention is to get the best possible book out at the other end.
Dave Harries: [00:17:20] So, a good editor needs to be a good diplomat too, as well as being skilled at their job. And as the author, particularly if you’re inexperienced at this, you just have to prepare yourself, that you’re part of a team, you’re all pulling in the same direction hopefully and at the end of the day, it’s going to be a better product for that process.
Sue Richardson: [00:17:40] I think so, without any doubt. I’ve only once ever worked with an author, and that was in the days when occasionally I would take on the odd fiction writer, which I don’t do anymore, but I read the manuscript after it had been through several editing processes and personally I didn’t think it was ready to publish. And I went back to the author, this was many, many years ago, I went back to the author and I just said: I’m really sorry, but I think it could be better. And it’s not about it being a bad book, it’s potentially a very good book indeed. It just needs a bit more work. And that author was not happy with my comments and said: I don’t care. I’m paying for it to be published, publish it as it is. And I did, and I went on to really regret that decision. You know, I think I should have stuck to my guns and said: do you know what, I don’t think…because that book didn’t do as well as it could have done. And I think that it’s really important that authors remember that we’re creating a product here. There is no…yes, I can understand why people are a bit precious about their own creation, the thing that they’ve made, [that] they want it to be. But a good editor will retain that author’s voice, will make sure that it’s their book still. They’re not going to take away anything, they’re just going to make it absolutely the best that it can be.
Dave Harries: [00:19:11] We were chatting before we started recording about some people I’d heard being interviewed, some writers, who, and I think they were journalists actually, so not strictly speaking the same thing, but certainly journalists have to deal with editors all the time because a good newspaper is very heavily edited. And they said without hesitation, without reservation, all of them said that their work was improved by the experience of the editing. And in some cases, improved massively. And for that, they were very grateful, because, although at the time, they might have felt a bit precious about it and particularly again when they were inexperienced journalists, in the long run what was published was so much better because of the editor. And they all felt that, that was a unanimous opinion, they all said it. And some of them had gone on to be editors themselves. That was interesting for me. You know, that none of them resented it in the end, even if they might have done a little bit at the time. And is that… do you think that’s, they’re journalists, I appreciate that’s not the same as book publishing, but you think the same principles apply?
Sue Richardson: [00:20:18] Oh, absolutely. I think if you talk to the big star authors, they will all turn round and say that their editors have been a huge part of the development of their career. And yes, no doubt particularly to start with, that can be a slightly painful process. But once you open up to the fact that you’re in this together and that you’re working together to get the best book out the other end, I think that many authors will acknowledge that their editors have been a huge part of that.
Dave Harries: [00:20:48] The title of this episode of the podcast is the writing and publishing process and we’ve talked a great deal about editing. We haven’t talked much about writing other than the fact that you can get some support and help with that. And I know we have talked a bit about that in previous episodes as well. But I wonder if we could talk about the sort of final stage. Once, let’s assume that the book’s written and it has been copy-edited and it has been typeset and proofread, and then of course, you come to publication. And there are various routes to that, depending on which sort of type of publisher you’ve chosen. But what should the author expect then in terms of their input to that final process, if you like, of actually trying to flog the book?
Sue Richardson: [00:21:35] It’s not, over by any means, once the book has been written and I think increasingly the author’s role at that stage then starts to become around getting the book out there; talking about their book; tweeting about their book; discussing the book. We’ve had so many authors over the years who have found that the book has had the greatest effect for them…the more that an author talks about their book and pushes their book and gets their book out there, and discusses and creates noise around their book, the more likely it is to land. Because you’ve probably got around six months, it depends on your publisher. But you may have six months between the time when you’ve handed over the manuscript and said: right, it’s done. I’ve done that bit. And if you go to sleep at that stage and forget about the book and go on a long holiday, you’re missing a massive opportunity.
Dave Harries: [00:22:37] So, it’s a time thing. Timing is important here. And would the author be expected to kind of do pre-publicity, as it were, before the book’s even on the shelves, to sort of say: look what’s coming up in ,two months’ time?
Sue Richardson: [00:22:50] Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. As much as you can possibly do. As I said, the more that you can do the better.
Dave Harries: [00:22:58] And how much help will they get with that marketing? If I can call…it is marketing, isn’t it? How much help will they get with that from the professionals that they’re working with? I mean, or will they be expected to kind of do it off their own bat, as it were?
Sue Richardson: [00:23:11] Again, it’ll depend on who they’re working with. Absolutely. And the support that they get from their publisher is enormous, but if for some reason they find that there isn’t enormous amount of support, then just get on and do it yourself. It’s your book and you’re the best, best person to be promoting it. So, yes .You know, we’ve had a book published recently – The Numbers Business, Della Hudson – she’s just been incredible. She’s got three massive speaking gigs at big conferences. Her book…this was all sorted before the book even came out in September. She’s had a huge, her career, if you like, she sold her accountancy business a year ago, or a bit more than a year ago, and she’s just moved into the speaking world like nobody’s business. And most of that has been done by her going out, talking about the fact that she’s got a book coming out. And she’s just done that all by herself.
Dave Harries: [00:24:13] And she’s clearly got the confidence to do that, and perhaps the connections, I don’t know. But I wonder if that isn’t going to be the case for every author. Because some authors are, you know as we said before, they spent a lot of time on their own doing their writing and stuff like that. And maybe getting out there, and speaking and going to these big events, might not be the most comfortable situation for every author, and they might need some help and encouragement. And they might just simply not do it, if left to their own devices, however important that obviously is. So, presumably there is a role for the publisher then to say: come on, we’ve got to do this stuff. This is going to make the difference.
Sue Richardson: [00:24:55] Yeah, I think generally encouragement from the publisher is always a good thing. But also, I think if you know it’s not your forte. And I do, actually I have to say, that I think that there are many, many people who find that a book is…if they’ve actually created the book; they’ve got the ideas and the passion and the wherewithal to put that book together and get it done, then it’s actually much easier to present that product, even if you’re actually quite shy about promoting yourself. So, I’ve seen many people who find marketing themselves as experts in their field really difficult, but when they’ve got a book they fly. I would say that Della, actually the way, is one of those. Although she’s pretty good, she’s always been pretty good on social media. But the book has given her a product that she can go and wave in front of people’s noses. And that is enormously helpful. So, in itself, it’s a useful thing. But get support, get help. Again, it’s like if you struggle with the process of getting the book written, or you know you need some feedback or some support, get an editor. If you struggle with the process of marketing and promoting your book, go and get yourself a book marketing expert to support you and help you with that part of the process and hold your hands through it. Yes, you will be the best person to promote and market your book yourself, but you can get help with that. You know, whether that’s…you know, maybe you’ve decided that you want a really big PR campaign around your book and your business. Go and find somebody who can help you with that. Maybe you just need somebody to sit down with, we do this all the time at The Right Book Company, sit down with our authors, have a session that helps them to create a marketing plan for their book. And it’s so much easier to do stuff once you’ve got that plan in place. You know what to do; you know when to do it; you just got to do it. And get the support, if it’s not really your strong suit.
Dave Harries: [00:27:11] I think the lesson from this podcast, Sue, or certainly the lesson that I’m getting anyway, is that yes, writing a book is a solitary thing, but everything else about it is a team effort. And if you’re going be successful and your book’s going to be successful, you have to accept that, embrace it and use the professionals that are available to help you.
Sue Richardson: [00:27:29] Absolutely. At the end of the day, a book is a product. You’ve created it. You know, it may be your original idea that’s gone into making that book happen. But you are never going to be able…what product to you know that doesn’t need a team of individuals with different skill sets to actually make it happen and sell it and get it out into the world, to have an effect in the world? There is no product like that. So, why should a book be any different?
Dave Harries: [00:28:02] Well, that’s all we have time for this week. So, my great thanks to my co-presenter, Sue Richardson, for supplying us with all this fantastic wisdom. If you’d like to comment on anything you’ve heard, or if you have specific questions you’d like answered or even an idea for a future show, please join our Facebook group, The Right Book Project. Or go to therightbookcompany.com. You can also go over to iTunes to subscribe, download and even leave a review or give us a star rating. We’d love it if you’d do that. We’ll be back in two weeks with our next episode. So, please join us then. And in the meantime, keep writing.