Wednesday 3 August 2011

Why You Should Never Compare Your Manuscript to a Published Book

Ok, well maybe never is a bit strong, but there are several good reasons why you should try not to compare your polished manuscript to a traditionally published novel. Most importantly: It. Will. Drive. You. Crazy.

Of course you should read widely, and reading in your genre can make you aware of certain tropes and issues such as pacing and tone. Reading books by good authors is inspiring, and can fire you up with enthusiasm for your current work in progress. But it can also make you want to throw it in the bin/set fire to it/use it to line your cat's litter tray. Why? Because most books have a team of people behind them, rather than just the author. Unless you have hired a multitude of publishing professionals to go over your manuscript with a fine tooth comb, it's not going to be in the same stratosphere.

Publishing companies hire commissioning editors, copy editors, fact checkers and it's not because they're trenchant socialists eager to give everyone a job. They hire just enough people to ensure that they can produce a quality product that will make consumers part with their cash. These people are necessary, and any self-publishing guide worth its salt will tell you that if you're going to forgo the traditional route you're going to need to hire at least some professional freelancers in to help polish your manuscript.

A team of professionals will point out weak points, repetition, inconsistencies, and points where the plot needs improvement. There's a reason why authors usually thank their editors in the acknowledgements section.That doesn't mean that you don't need to edit, though. Your book should be as polished as possible before you start querying. But if you're plagued with self doubt every time you pick up a good book, you should remember that you're just one person. And maybe you should cut yourself some slack.

10 comments:

  1. I was just talking about this exact topic with a few friends. Non-writers don't always get that it takes a village to raise a book! Great post, Christine.

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  2. This is a good thing to keep in mind during the editing process (aka, the most frustrating time in a book's life). Great post!

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  3. Totally agree! Fact is , it's not good to compare period - about anything. You can always tell a well edited book and good cover design. There's no question that publishers have thsi covered. And so they should have, they've been in the biz long enough.

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  4. Such a great point (and one of the reasons I think self-publishing often compares poorly--this team may not exist, or may be an editing pro of ONE--and i don't think one person necessarily wears all the editing hats well).

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  5. I like this! It's true that a manuscript is a rough form of a book, so you can't compare it to a finished book. Thanks for the reminder!

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  6. This is so true. My brother and I self published a cook book for Fibro and well, he was supposed to proof it for me (after I had looked at it for so long) and he didn't do a good job. The word vegetable is spelt wrong every time I used it. Yup, I was rather upset. I have many books left to sell with that typo in it.

    Heather

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  7. Hey Christine :) I'm sure you're crazy busy enjoying your first foster child. When you get a minute, though, I have an award for you over at my blogspace if you'd like to come over and get it.

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  8. Hey, I have an award from you over at my blog! :)

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  9. I agree! The finished product we read has been through so many edits already.

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