Tactical Tuesday: Advice for Self Editing

The editing process does not stop when an author is satisfied with his manuscript. When preparing to submit a piece for consideration by a publisher, great care should be taken to ensure that the submission guidelines are followed very closely.

Some items to check include the following:

Word Count: Each publisher has a very good reason for its maximum word count. No matter how well written a novel, submitting a 100,000 word story to a publisher whose maximum word count is 80,000 means one of two things: 1) the author cannot follow instructions; or 2) the author does not care for the rules. Either way, the author does not make a good impression.

What Genre Does the Publisher Print? Pelican Book Group has three imprints, White Rose Publishing, Harbourlight Books, and Watershed Books. Each imprint has specifics about the genres represented by those imprints. An author should not only check the submission guidelines carefully. He should also have an idea of the style the publisher seeks. This requires reading the books printed by that publisher.

Are There Situations the Publisher Will Not Allow in Its Novels: Each publisher has an idea of what will offend its readers. Some of these issues vary from publisher to publisher, so it is always a prudent idea for an author to look carefully at the "Thou shalt nots" in the publishing guidelines before submitting.

The Nitty Gritty: Careful attention to grammar and punctuation is often overlooked in a query letter or a proposal when these items are generally the editor's first impression of the author.

Recently, a New York Times bestselling author told me that she does not worry about punctuation and grammar. She leaves those up to her editor. An author with a proven record of millions of copies sold might be able to get away with this, but no matter how well known, how successful a writer, a knowledge of punctuation and grammar exhibited in a submission is often a factor in acceptance. A well-polished manuscript's correct punctuation and grammar are sometimes overlooked because with those errors out of the way, the story will get the most attention. Rest assured, though, that a manuscript filled with grammatical errors and incorrect punctuation, will always garner the editor's attention. And as an aside, I'm currently reading a book by the bestselling author mentioned above, and the lack of attention to grammar and punctuation shows the editor's lack of attention to detail, and this reflects poorly upon the author.

When preparing your manuscript for submission, don't forget to self-edit the proposal down to the smallest detail.

Happy editing.


  1. Thank you for this reminder, Fay.

  2. When preparing a manuscript, please have someone else who is highly qualified edit your book! As an author we get so used to what we have written that we do not catch our own errors. I have received several self -published book recently, one by this company, and I could not believe the grammatical/ spelling mess, let alone the poor syntax. The authors get hysterical when you share the honest truth with them gently. They don't want to improve, just don't attack their "baby."

  3. Good advice. Some people are perfectionists, while others have to rely on someone else to read and edit their work (and they should never submit without it). I, too, know it offends some people to point out their errors, even lovingly. Personally, I like to carefully edit my own first, and then let someone critique it.

  4. J&K Wilhelm: I do not believe that every author needs a professional editor. One who has a grasp of punctuation and grammar can clean up a manuscript, and critique partners are always a very big help with the larger elements of storytelling. However, if an author has a story and is not familiar or has no interest in the grammatical side of the craft, they should invest in an established editing service.
    I do want to also state that Pelican Book Group is not a vanity press. We do not aid writers in self-publishing, and we have a fantastic group of editors working with our authors.

  5. Great thoughts Fay! Some of us are blessed to have wonderful people who help us eit...edit our work :)