I want to buy your book but — (Part 2, Editing)

but …

Now — let me backtrack a step. I assume you read my first post in the series, Covers, and re-did your cover ASAP. Now your reader is impressed and has allowed you to show them the next step: the content.

Before we continue there’s logic to the title of this series. It suggests a few things, but it’s not about your potential reader finding your book through a personal recommendation — in that case you don’t need to read this series. Your book works!

This series assumes your potential reader has found you because:

  • they noticed a Facebook/Twitter conversation about your book;
  • they saw your book advertised on a blog/website; or
  • they were randomly perusing the list of books on sale at a store.

They are intrigued. However, they know nothing about the quality of your book. In order to impress your readers, there are a few teeeny little editing issues you must execute well:

Copyright page for THE BOOK THIEF

1. Front Matter — Copyright page

This is a necessary page in any book — fiction, non-fiction or another type of publication. A page with quotes and praises is nice but not necessary, so are other superfluous content.

Some readers may not notice little errors but writers do, and if you stuff it up enough, any reader with an IQ above 85 will realise you’re an amateur.

Immediate thought? If they can’t get this “simple” stuff right, how can I trust them to write a good book?

A professional-looking copyright has these features:

  • Something very similar to Copyright © 2012 by Rebecca Berto (but other variations are okay);
  • First publication of the work such as Published in Australia by Rebecca Berto in (June) 2012;
  • [For fiction] The characters and events in this book are fictitious. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is coincidental and not intended by the author;
  • The location of printing (books)/producing (eBooks) such as This eBook produced by Rebecca Berto Press, Melbourne, Australia;
  • ISBN; and
  • The reservation of rights such as All rights reserved. No parts of this book may be reproduced, scanned, electronically shared or uploaded without the permission of the publisher.

I’m just sayin’. Miss out on this and you’re already losing points for professionalism.

2. Structural/developmental edit [for fiction]

I’ve mentioned this briefly before. I will do it now. And later on.

Your book needs story editing. This means either you hire a professional structural/developmental editor or you use the kindness of writers and readers who will critique and advise you of the following:


  • Characters: need believable motivations for all decisions that affect plot, especially for important events; need to be empathised with and relatable (note I did NOT say likable. This is amateur. Who liked Professor Snape in Harry Potter books 1-5? Not me!); and they need to be 3D by ensuring they have legitimate and related wants (what they think they need), needs (what they actually need to achieve to get their goal) and a story arc where they change and learn something.
  • Plot (moment at climax)

    Plot: you need the three-act structure, meaning you have features such as hook/inciting incident, first plot point, midpoint, second plot point, and climax (read more about this here); and you need to moderate pacing which means high-action scenes are mixed with lower-action scenes and they are all high in conflict that grab the reader more so as they reach the climax.


  • Theme/resolute message: your book needs to be written for a message that backs up the plot; you need a theme, one-sentence explanation, and ideas of what your story is really about (think of this as your characters and plot are chucked into the story to bring this theme/resolute message to “fruition”).

3. Copy/line edit (+ proofread to eliminate errors)

Ideally a copy/line edit will ensure consistency, clarity, and conciseness of sentences, but a proofread should always be done after the copy/line edit to pick up any typos or missed errors.

Marked-up manuscript

This stage differs from the story edit regarding a “DIY”, low-cost approach. A strict observation of grammar and spelling rules is needed and readers don’t have the skills necessary and neither do most writers. Therefore I strongly suggest you hire a copy editor to rectify the following issues:

  • Redundancies: E.g. 1 not the big, strong, tall man but the “hulking man” (choose the best-fitted adjective over many sort-of-fitted words). E.g. 2 not my own book but “my book” (“my” says the book is yours; adding “own” suggests your reader is too dumb to figure out the former explanation).
  • Conciseness: E.g. not this was when it all seemed to end for the little girl who was only naïve, but “it seemed to end for the naïve girl.”
  • Length: E.g. replacing three long sentences each of 25 words to two, twenty-word sentences followed up by a three-word sentence fragment.
  • And other sentence- and grammatical-errors such as: subject-verb agreement; correct forms of verbs; dangling, squinting, and misplaced modifiers, tense, run-on sentences, parallel constructions where intended, coordination and subordination where necessary, etc.


First paragraphs of a book, chapter and after a line break are always hard-up against the margin. [Click Amazon preview for proof and scroll to the first sentence] Here’s this in Twilight, a modern bestseller; and here is this in the classic that inspired Twilight, Pride & Prejudice.


I hope you are enjoying this series. I have an idea for the third — and perhaps final — part in the series, but what do you want to see me blog about in “I want to buy your book but–“? 

Q: * What do you think about the editing needs for a book? *

Don’t want to miss the next installment? Click the “Follow” button (WordPress users) or enter your email address into the sign-up box on the home page to FOLLOW Novel Girl. I appreciate your support. :)

53 thoughts on “I want to buy your book but — (Part 2, Editing)

  1. Pingback: How to choose an editor | Novel Girl

  2. Pingback: How to edit out crap from your manuscript | Novel Girl

  3. So glad I was directed to this blog via Twitter! I am just starting a freelance copy editing/ proofing business and it’s nice to see a well-written, humorous, and personal blog style. I will be back, for sure!

  4. I’ve come across self published authors racing to get their work ‘out there’ to the detriment of their goal of being published. No editing (or very little), lack of continuity, poor character structure etc. etc. only makes the reader disappointed and unwilling to purchase another book by the same author. So being impatient only harms your goal instead of taking that extra 6 months to make your story the best it can be. There is a wealth of information, tips and advice on the internet so really there is no need for these ‘mistakes’ to be populating the internet. Writing is a journey…take time to learn and enjoy it.

    • Yes, you’re right — unfortunately. Writers think they can rush and still produce a good book. Well, rose-coloured glasses will do that to a writer and they’ll only realise how horrible it is after some time away from it. That should be the time the writer re-writes another draft but ePublishing has let the stupid writers out in the publishing world with free reign. They only clog up the quality out there.

      It’s a shame because some self-published books are so good publishers must be crazy not to take them.

  5. Pingback: Plot Thickenings |

  6. Pingback: Twitter Thursday #1 | erlessard

  7. I can’t get over how many books – including those published in New York – are replete with horrendous errors. A good editor is the writer’s best friend. Unfortunately, I know at least one published author who refuses to be edited. And his work suffers. It is important to work with an editor who understands your writing and collaborates with you as the author. We have had one bad editor who completely missed the voice (1st person) of the protagonist. And this editor refused to accept our rejection of the changes. Needless to say, we told the publisher that we would prefer a different editor for the next book. That one was a gem!

    • Although I’m an Editorial Assistant and I do a lottt of proofreading I don’t mind typos. I know how hard it can be to pick up each one. But errors, copy editing and structural errors? Urgh.

      I’m not sure how an author could ever get published with refusing to work with an editor! That’s crazy!

      It’s sad if the editor doesn’t “get” the voice in a novel. An editor is the one who makes the story sound so readable and wonderful. Better luck next time with an editor!

  8. Reference: “Another tip…” Not indenting the first paragraph after a chapter title – that was new to me and something I had not noticed. I scurried to my bookshelves and yes… every single printed book has this feature! I set about re-editing each of my Five EBooks to add this touch of professionalism. The books are sold through Amazon for Kindle, and Smashwords for everything else. On the preview, Amazon have the indent in the first paragraph which must be a feature of their conversion, Smashwords do not. I hope therefore, that you do not judge an EBook by its indent! I submit my books as Word.doc (not docx) If I submit again, do you know how I can get by this annomally?

    • I have good and bad news, Philip.

      Good: I’m glad to hear you reformatted your eBooks.

      Bad: I judge every book equally. If I bought a top and it was ripped, I wouldn’t say, “Oh well” just because a type of store sold it to me. No, I’d want a good top. (That’s why I’m buying one.) The short answer is I judge every self-published book on it’s indentation. If the author doesn’t know how to do this — and it’s industry standard — then why should I give them my money?

      Sorry, that’s the truth. Self-publishers should research as much as possible before publishing!

      Have I scared you off? I hope not. I just hate lying.

      • Scared, Me? Not a chance. I have just checked 87 novels which are on my Kindle. Only 3 start chapters without the indent, but these were published through Smashwords. It is the way Amazon format the books for Kindle … not the fault of the author or self-publisher. I have just downloaded a free novel to my Kindle which you might recognise. The first sentence starts, “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.” As this is sentence is indented, would I be right in guessing it is one you wouldn’t read? The link you have given is to the printed version but the Kindle version on Amazon is indented.

        • Pride and Prejudice is a classic. It’s properly edited and formatted. The first paragraph is always indented. Look at a paperback. I guarantee you with my life. :D EBooks look different on ereaders.

  9. Excellent post. Another downfall for beginning novel writers is dialogue. I can’t get beyond bad dialogue and incorrect punctuation and the use of adverbs and other descriptors to describe how something is said instead of using the standard “he said/she said.”

    “I think I’ll write a blog about that,” she snorted abruptly.

  10. Wow. So much of this seems so obvious that it is a shame to have to even post it.

    I have recently noticed a lot of self-published books without that copywright page. I have backed off and not purchased them, because if they have not taken the time to be professional-looking, that tells me something about what the content will look like.

    • I know what you mean about he “obvious” factor. At least now it’s said.

      Perhaps the influx of unprofessional self-pubbed books is because everyone suddenly thinks they can write a book and publish it straight away. No rejections. No tedious re-writes. Etc. It’s a shame.

  11. The bonus tip was something I hadn’t noticed. Thanks for that. I’ve always pressed for high standards, but I do think we need to be careful that we aren’t harder on Indies than on trad publishers. I spend $100 to have one short story (6,000 words) edited by an editor with 25 years of experience. I also had that same story beta read by a woman currently employed as an editor, yet when I submitted it to someone else for review, they said that the story needed to be edited before it was published. Um?? What is a girl to do? Clearly, not all editors agree. I couldn’t afford to have the story edited again.

    Then there are different style guides. A beta reader (an award winning US author) recently went through the ms I was working on and changed all the Aussie spelling and punctuation to US. But the story is set in Sydney, so clearly US spelling would be culturally wrong. I changed it back, and apart from using double quotation marks, I’m following the Aussie style guide. I’m also preparing myself for flack over that because apparently some US readers can’t handle UK spelling (see the article I’ve linked to below). I will be making a clear note that I am using that style guide, but that might not stop ignorant readers thinking it’s wrong.


    • The first paragraphs hard-up against the margin seem so obvious now, right? I went through the same epiphany.

      Regarding the editing of your story I think the reviewer was talking about a readers’ POV. perhaps you had the story copy/line edited but it still had structural issues, which is what readers are most disappointed about when a book doesn’t “work”.

      • Nup. Both editors checked it for structural defects, but yes I expect that was what the reviewer was referring to and there will always be differences of opinion in that area, particularly in what is enough, too little or too much information. I’m of the ‘don’t overload the reader/ leave something up to their imagination’ camp and so was that editor. In fact she had me cut some info out because it slowed the story down, but the reviewer didn’t seem to think there was enough info in there. I think we need to be clear on what are technical problems and what are personal opinions, but that isn’t easy. In the end we just do the best job we can.

        • I’m sad to hear your editor worked on structural issues and there were still things that the reviewer thought needed re-working. I’ll do a post on this: stylistic “hates” vs. technical errors.

          Thanks for commenting on my post. I appreciate it.

    • I’ll be honest. I have a very hard time with formatting and wording that isn’t American (I know some British lingo and those things don’t bother me, but other things go over my head). When I see the different style, I often can’t focus on the story and eventually give up. If you look at traditional publishers, they will revise books to be styled for the country they will be sold in. They do this by selling foreign rights to a publishing company in each location the book will be printed. That company will do the appropriate formatting and editing so it conforms to their local standards.

      For instance, Americans don’t use ‘single’ quotes and they’re very hard for us because they’re used for so many other things such as possessive. Instead we use “double” quotes for dialog. It makes the dialog stand out more instead of getting lost in the narrative. There is nothing wrong with Brits and Ausies using single since they are used to it, but if you want your book to be successful in the states you need it to conform to US standards.

      Unfortunately, indies don’t have the time and resources to do all of that. Yet, you can’t be mad at American readers for not liking the style of your book if you are looking to sell it to them. If your goal is to only target readers in your own country, then only target them. It won’t matter what anyone in another location thinks. I’m just saying publishers figured out long ago that books have to be formatted to fit the audience they are being sold to. I do like that you plan to put a warning up. At least then readers can be aware and know ahead of time the book may not work for them.

      • I’ve heard Americans have a hard time conforming to other nationalities’ styles. Aussies and Brits can accept the single quotes usage but Americans can’t seem to. LOL.

        You have a good point about formatting. It’s a good idea, if you can, to create a US vs. UK usage of styles in books. More reader-friendly. :)

  12. I’ve been waiting on this post. Hehe. Once again you’ve proven that you can let people know how wrong they are without being cruel. One thing I would like to point out, though, is that ISBN’s should be included on the copyright page.

    As for editing, well…I always tell people that to write a book you need first write it then edit it, then edit it some more, then rewrite and edit it again. :)

    • Aw, you’ve been waiting for this? Woo hoo!

      Also, um … I did include ISBNs on the list of copyright-page needs. Lookie above …

      Your editing advice is sound. In my case it’s write the novel, suffer a severe case of writer’s block for a month, finish writing the novel and then alternate between re-writes and beta readers for eleven drafts … so far.

  13. Love your points on the copyright page, though I would like to point out that ISBN’s should also be included there.

    Once again we hit on the subject of editing. As I keep saying, “If you are going to write a book you need to first write it, then edit, edit again, write it again and edit again just be safe.”

  14. I loved this blog. Thanks for sharing. I found this to be very informative, especially the issue of the copyright page. I am in the process of uploading my works to Smashwords, so this blog came at the right now. Thanks again, and keep writing

    • Phew! Awesome timing. Thanks for stopping by Novel Girl, Robert. I love chatting to new followers. You can always come back with more questions for me to address in future parts. :D

  15. Another useful post, Rebecca. I always go red when someone points out the importance of conciseness and length. A while back I posted about my verbosity (http://richardleonard.wordpress.com/2012/04/11/verbosity/). Have a read if you have time. ;)
    On another note regarding copyright, how does it work with pseudonyms. Say, in Australia? USA? Elsewhere? Partial pseudonyms vs completely made up names like Mark Twain or Richard Bachman?
    This might almost be worthy of a separate post, I’m guessing. And perhaps by a lawyer and not a writer. :)

    • fyi, per my agent, copyrights can be done under whichever name you choose, but it is suggested you copyright under your legal name. Only because someone may legally be named that pseudonym and could claim it if they wanted to be a jerk. Not likely for that scenario to happen, obviously, but doing it under your legal name nixes it. Just my two pennies…

      • Sharla, your name is an author’s dream! Is it your birthname? Sharla Lovelace almost seems too good to be true if you were a romance writer. It’s so perfect!

        Back to the topic — yes, I believe always copyright under your legal name. Therefore, there can be no doubts as to whom owns the manuscript.

    • First off, you must know I’m the worst person to talk to about law/accounting/business. I’m a total clutz. I don’t “get” it. My brain gets confused.

      Secondly, thank you for your humour. I’ve never written a post under a few hundred words, so I think you have a talent in saying all that you want in two sentences. ;)

      • Although this says you can publish under a pen name it just makes legal proceedings more difficult to link back to your rights as the author with a different name.

        But it’s completely fine to use a pen name. I duno. I’d want it clear and simple that this is *mine”.

        Check out the copyright page for this JD Robb book (Nora Roberts is the real author, JD Robb is the pen name). See how she uses her real name on the copyright page? http://www.amazon.com/Celebrity-In-Death-J-D-Robb/dp/0399158308/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1339378019&sr=8-1&keywords=j.d.+robb

        • Thanks everyone for your input. It’s all very helpful. Pretty sure in Australia no registration is required. Simply including the copyright message with name and date on the work is enough. But in the blurry-bordered Internet with ebooks, who knows?

        • In the US too, you don’t need to register to have you work protected. If you don’t register, however, all you can do is get people to stop using your work, you can’t sue them.

        • Well I guess the legal mumbo jumbo should be addressed, so here it goes.

          In the US things are straight forward (if using a pen name simply register it as a “fictitious name” and all rights belong to the owner of the fictitious registration.)
          In Australia, Canada, England and South Africa your legal name is required.
          As for the internet with e-books and the large international nature being complicated, not so. International law says that the copyright follows the law of the location in which it is published. So you are protected as if you were dealing with the person next door.

          I went to the UN in New York and got the information from every office that I could cover in a day. They all agree on the international law but, that is about all they agree on.

          • Thank you for your research and time explaining this. The legal details of publishing can be too much for a wee, confused writer like me (and maybe some others). This info will be useful for heaps of the readers :D

        • Thanks again everyone. (Damn these reply buttons, never know where this reply will land.)
          So, FasigWrites, you say “copyright follows the law of the location in which it is published”. Maybe I’m over-analysing this but something is still unclear to me. Say I’m physically in Australia going through the ebook publishing process on Amazon which is hosted in the USA, what is the location in which it is published? Is it Australia because the publishing actions were initiated and controlled in Australia, or the USA because the ebook is made public from a server in America? I can imagine lawyers interpreting that either way.

  16. Good advice Rebecca especially number 4 ! Lol! I would love to hear your thoughts on the very, very important back cover blurb and author bio. Let’s hope that the professional photo or at least a clear, sharp, tasteful photo goes without saying. Lauren

    • Ahh, thanks for your tip, Lauren! I’d like to cover back cover blurb and author bio. Great idea.

      Photos, surprisingly, are the one thing more authors get more right above other crucial aspects (writing, editing, marketing). Hm …

    • I think blurbs are ultra-important. They can also be one of the hardest parts of a book to get right. I’m not Reader’s Digest, condensing 80,000+ words to 2 paragraphs is not an easy task.

      As for bio…well…I just had a friend of mine who also happens to be a fellow author help me rewrite mine and it’s better than it was before. I still think it’s kind of crappy though lol.

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