After completing the final draft of a manuscript for my fifth book, I wanted a reality check. I hired a professional editor and learned something important about self-publishing. No matter how capable you are as a writer and proofreader, you can’t accomplish your best writing entirely by yourself.
My initial editing process was hardly ineffective. My latest book is a memoir of my sailing adventures from the 1980s and 90s. I rounded up a capable crew that included people who were there, people who were college writing instructors and people who were simply avid readers. I sent them one chapter (1500-2500 words) per week for almost a year (so as not to burden anyone with a huge job to do gratis), and offered to edit their material in return. I got useful feedback about everything from seamanship to grammar along with their general reader reactions. The collaborative process also forced me to polish each chapter before I sent it out; I usually spent a few hours rewriting before posting the week’s installment on Google Docs and sharing it with my group. That unquestionably improved the book. Continue reading →