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Reaching Out: Etiquette and Sharing Your Novel

You’ve done it! You’ve written a novel and now all that’s left is to publish it! But suddenly that “all that’s left” begins to look like more effort than writing the novel itself. Time to share your book.

Whether it’s an editor or a beta reader, they make it their job to go through your novel. It sounds scary, but they’re a human being, just as much as the writer is. They aren’t forensically digging through your story to tear it apart, they genuinely want to make it better and to enjoy it! Because they’re human, too, they’ll need your support just as much as you need theirs to clarify your ideas.

Yes, you probably do have to pay them. This seems obvious but there’ll always be that one author who thinks their book is so good, anyone would love to read it. As someone who has edited for free, it’s great to be trusted with an author’s word-baby. But, and it’s a biggie, unless a person comes to you and asks if you want them to read or edit your novel, you can’t assume your manuscript will mean that much to them.

Quality over quantity. The more beta readers you can send your publication to, the better. Make sure you’re also asking them specific questions for every chapter read to get a better impression of their opinions rather than ‘It’s good’. Every person will say something different, but it’s vital that people who do not know you read your work. We all speak in our own way, and while your best friend will understand every complex thing you say, someone who knows less about you will spot any strange patterns in a heartbeat, and they won’t be able to just skip over it. For editors, well, a cheaper less experienced editor is probably more likely to miss something than an old pro. And no, old pros will not do your work on the cheap if someone else will pay them what they’re asking for.

The only way you can save money on the edit is to make your novel as perfect as possible. That’s it. Lots of editors are paid for each word, so you’ll just have to give them as little to edit as possible. You can go over your work yourself; you know it best, after all. You can also use beta-readers first. A beta-reader will review your work, which can help you tighten up your writing style and any plot-holes beforehand.

Lastly, please please please respect your editor or reader. These are my personal rules when sharing your work, and it makes things so much easier for everyone. First, research stylistic and literary rules and do a personal edit – no one wants to see obvious and avoidable mistakes in the first line. Next, send your manuscript chapter by chapter if you’re asked for a digital copy. Make a folder of all the chapters that they can access, rather than sending them one document so huge their computer lags. Thirdly, decide on a platform through which you can communicate; they may have regular conversations with you if they need your opinion on the exact presentation or meaning of a scene. Fourthly, and most importantly, change how you view your editor. They are not a word processor or a demon destroying your work, just a person with the job of pruning it for the things you might’ve missed.

Metaphorically, they don’t want to give your book a whole new wardrobe. They’re just checking that your book’s clothes don’t have holes in them.

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