Step One: Beta Reads to Developmental Edits
Congratulations on finishing your book! That’s a huge feat, one that many people don’t accomplish. What do you do next?
First, revise as much as you can, both on your own and with the help of a critique group. Be sure at least one (ideally three or so) person reads it all the way through. Even if you are lucky enough to have found a critique group already, they’ve probably only heard your book one scene at a time, so they won’t see some plot holes or pacing issues. Make sure that at least one of your readers reads or writes in your genre. If you’re asking non-writers to read for you, it may help them give you useful feedback if you give them some questions to answer. Anything you’re unsure about or that came up during critique group. If you don’t know what to ask, it can be as simple as asking for three things the reader loved and three things the reader thinks you should work on. This level of reading is a beta read. (If you need to find a free beta reader, Goodreads and Facebook both have groups that do this. You may need to trade a read, but that’s not a bad deal.)
When you have revised as much as you can on your own and with your group, then it’s time to hire a professional editor. The first step of editing is a developmental edit (DE). Developmental edits are usually the most expensive step in editing. I would love to do a full DE for you, but I understand budgets. To save money, you can use software like ProWriting Aid (PWA) or AutoCrit and/or EditOutLoud before hiring an editor. You still need feedback from other people, though, but you may be able to hire me for fewer services than those in a full DE. I am always happy to talk on the phone or a video call to pin down your budget and what services I can provide within that budget. I’m listing three basic levels of service at this stage in your writing, but during our call, you and I can tweak what I include for you. Any one of these services can be invaluable to you to get you to the next level of your writing.
Beta Read: I will read your story and give you a short report on what you can work on; I will limit feedback to no more than four items. I have found that more than that overwhelms most authors and they kind of freeze and don’t proceed, which is not what we want. I won’t mark up your manuscript or make comments in it. I may not even read it on my computer—I may read it on an eReader. I often have sales on beta reads. When not on sale, they are $5/1000 words.
Manuscript Evaluation: This is the service I recommend the most often. I will read your manuscript, and I may make comments in it so I can point out exactly what I am telling you. This service does not include any kind of copyediting. I will provide a report to you that reviews what you are already doing well and what you should work on. I limit what you should work on to no more than four items. As stated in the paragraph above, more than four items to work on seems to freeze most authors. Plus, I have found that while you are working on the (up to) four items, you often fix other things I noticed but did not mention.
Developmental Edit: I will read your manuscript, making comments throughout. I will also build a story map for you, which will illustrate on a spreadsheet or table the plot of the book. I may fill some cells with color to show you a pattern or a problem. This is the story map Liz Lee references in her testimonial on my landing page. I will also write you a more detailed report than for the MS Evaluation. The report, the comments in the manuscript, and the story map all work together to help you make an even better story than what you’ve already written. DEs take at least five weeks. A note on Developmental Edits. You cannot price shop on these without carefully comparing what each editor does. I have colleagues who go into more detail than I do (for example, including every named character in the report). Others of us stick to a report that is less detailed (but still in-depth). You need to know yourself to know how detailed a report you think you want to work from.