On-line EditorsSeptember 20, 2015 at 3:44 pm | Posted in Books, Internet, Online services, Software, Web Apps | 9 Comments
Tags: ebooks, editing, writing
Writing a book or other long form project isn’t just the writing. It’s also the editing, the publishing and the marketing. Few who start a book project ever produce a complete manuscript. And fewer of those get through the next hurdles. There’s a good reason why many never get it out there.
In these days of self-publishing and ebooks, many more have the chance to get their works published in some form. But without a publisher, too many are skipping some of the steps. Too many titles have gotten into distribution channels without decent editing. That brings down the whole market.
While word processing software has spell and grammar checking built in, this is not “editing”. It only handles some basic kinds of typos.
Traditional publishers will take a manuscript through 4 or more rounds of editing specialists. But you at least want a Substantive Editor to look at the structure, flow, and the coherence of the work and a Copy Editor to take a closer look at word use and proofread the niggly details. You may also need fact checking.
Recently, more advanced editing software has become available that can help with copy editing. You have to go through each suggested edit to make sure it’s valid, but it can cover a lot of the worst mistakes before you have real eyes on the work. That can make the copy editor’s job much easier.
Most of these tools are web services with a subscription model – you pay annually for access via the web. Sometimes, the tools have Word or other add-ins that bring the interface into your software. Some work only with Word.
A few also offer plagiarism services that check if you’ve copied off outside sources. In other words – a really bad idea. Checking has become easy and cheap so always quote your sources. It can also flag if you have potential sections where you might run into similarity problems later. Plus, the tool may help source your quotes.
I looked at various articles and reviews. Many pointed to a batch of similarly priced tools.
Grammarly often topped the pack but there was sometimes overt advertising influence. Personal reviews were more mixed and there were a lot of reports of unresolved over-billing or being billed for the free trial. Plagiarism checking is included.
WhiteSmoke seemed decent but the setup wasn’t as useful for me. Their web site looks to be infected, so I’m not linking them. One reviewer linked instead to another supplier, suggesting a long term problem.
CorrectEnglish looked decent. But all of these tools are over $100. That can become competitive with a copy editors rates if your primary need is one work.
Then I found a couple of writers blogs like Karen’s that suggested others. Further research showed all where positive about them.
The key one: ProWritingAid – you can actually use their on-line tool for free for a batch of smaller works but you have to manually make the suggested edits in your work. I ran a recently posted article though it and was surprised how many mistakes it found. Doh! For $35 a year, you can do longer works and edit right in the text, then transfer the updates back. If you use Word or Google Docs, they have an add-in to edit right in the doc. WordPress too. For $5 more you get plagiarism checking.
They also have a decent blog talking about the industry, even inviting comparisons with similar products. And their Twitter feed is full related links, author articles, etc. They’re clearly into it.
Karen’s link above also mentioned the free (in beta) EditMinion. It only does small parts but does catch slightly different things. She suggested you use this first, then ProWritingAid.
She also mentioned a great tool if you’re writing non-fiction. WritingHouse gives you a free tool for assembling a Bibliography in the right format with all the little details.
Note that you have to resist the urge to get into fancy formatting of your work prematurely. That can get butchered by the editing process. Formatting comes after you have a polished draft. Plus the style of formatting will depend on your eventual publishing medium. Default word processing format is usually for 8.5 x 11″ paper. That’s useful for a PDF at best. Book formatting is quite distinct and digital ebooks and web publishing are each their own worlds. A carefully formatted print PDF looks terrible on an ebook reader, for example. Ebooks have to be able to flow into their viewing container.
When you get to this point, I’ve found the book Zero Cost Self Publishing by Stephen Norton useful. It’s a step-by-step how-to for print and the primary ebook distributors. And then there is the exploding world market for ebooks in other languages. Why stick with N. America when you can be a best-seller in China?
Long form writing, whatever the final output, is quite the process. We can all use a little help at different parts of the journey.