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If you have a print document that you’d like to self-publish, you can turn it into a digital file and convert it to an ebook. The first step is to get it into MS Word, and this post shows you one way to do that, using OCR software. If you’ve been following along, you’ll have scanned your print document and saved it as a pdf, and then run it through an optical character recognition (OCR) program and saved it as a Word doc (.doc). The manuscript has been marked up with pencil, and these marks are picked up by the OCR software, sometimes in unexpected ways. To clean up this file, will a spritz of vinegar and water do, or will you need industrial-strength degreaser?
The story I’m working with here is just over 4,000 words, and it won’t be converted to an ebook any time soon. Running FileCleaner cleaned up most of the junk in my story file—it’s now in a format I can continue to edit without too many distractions. At times, Word can be frustrating to work in—with extra page breaks and hidden formatting, it will do things you don’t want it to. When you’ve finished revising and editing your document, you’ll need to do some more cleanup.
A few weeks ago I suggested that you could turn your essays, stories and other documents—stuff you might have lying around in a drawer—into ebooks. Tip: Be sure to scan all pages into a single document, or you’ll be stuck (as I was) with multiple separate files that have to be compiled later.
Paring down your prose is immensely satisfying—it makes images and turns of phrase come alive, and it helps clarify your meaning, too. Finding ways to trim what you’ve written is drudgery, but macros can help you by automating part of this process.
These macros locate and highlight potential offenders—words that clutter your writing and cloud your meaning.
So, you’ve run the macro and all the possible culprits are magically revealed on the screen before you. Telling words are different than needless words and -ly words—they provide a broader diagnosis. Telling words appear most often in narrative passages, in which writers are trying to fill in story gaps or provide background information.
Most writers actively suppress their inner editor during a draft, and plenty of writing advice also recommends writing a first draft quickly and paying little attention to details like word choice. You can also run a writing macro when you’ve completed two or three chapters, to point out some of your writing habits. Finally, many of the words targeted by these macros are needed, but maybe they are not needed as often as you think! In a previous post, we discussed how you can work with beta readers to enhance the self-editing process.
Let’s suppose that you’ve gotten feedback from your beta readers and made any necessary adjustments to your manuscript. In this article, we’ll talk about your first contact with an editor — and what happens to your manuscript when it lands in an editor’s inbox. Your first step in connecting with an editor is to find the right editor for you and the book you’ve written. One of our clients told us that he combed through 60 profiles before he decided to hire us to work on his book.
After you’ve found an editor who you think will be a good fit for you, you’ll need to make initial contact. If we can see the middle, where many authors’ writing energy tends to flag (and understandably so), we’ll get a better sense of how much time it will truly take to help you with your book. If you’re writing a nonfiction book, include a table of contents (TOC) with your 10-page sample. When your book sample lands in your editor’s inbox, he or she will assess the “level” of editing that’s needed.
Also called developmental, structural or substantive editing, this kind of editing involves moving large chunks of text around and possibly cutting some sections as well.
This happens more often than you’d think: An editor receives a large fiction manuscript for copyediting. Needless to say, big picture editing can be very expensive if you need to address a book’s structure after it has been completely written.The cheapest way to address big-picture items is to get help structuring your book before you write it.
If you like to structure your book before you write it, send your editor a detailed outline, or a detailed 10-page plot summary to see if he or she can spot any potential holes. If you’ve written your book, but you’d like feedback on your structure, you can still send it to an editor.
Also called stylistic or line editing, this kind of editing involves recasting sentences for clarity and flow.
Suppose you’ve finished your manuscript, and everything is where it’s supposed to be for best effect. Effective writing has a rhythm and pulse, and with practice, good writers learn to develop an ear for these qualities.
Also called copyediting, this kind of editing addresses grammar, usage and consistency issues. What’s more, sometimes these errors are introduced by the author himself during the revision phase.
Also called proofreading, this kind of editing addresses typos, repeated words (the the), spelling, punctuation and formatting issues (how things look on a page) as they occur in your book’s final environment.
Typically, a manuscript will travel more or less through all four levels of editing before it’s deemed polished and ready for the reader. If you’re brilliant at outlining a book in a clear and logical way, or if you’re a master at crafting the perfect plot or story arc, you won’t necessarily need a big-picture edit.
At the very least, every manuscript will benefit from a sentence-level edit, or a copyedit.
Regardless of what your manuscript needs, working with an editor can help you improve your writing — particularly if you approach the process with a willingness to learn about your writing quirks (we all have them). Ebook and print bundling has been available at the point of sale for some time via Amazon’s Kindle MatchBook, but a recently launched app from BitLit now makes it possible to get a free or low-priced ebook copy of the print books you already own. BitLit’s target users are hybrid readers—its tagline is “the feel of a book and convenience of an ebook.” They’ve done their homework and determined that only about 4 percent of American readers are digital-only. So far, BitLit has partnered with more than 120 publishers and has 20,000 titles in its catalogue. I first heard of BitLit last fall when I read Porter Anderson’s interview in The Bookseller with Peter Hudson, BitLit’s founder. I received an epub version of Wayne Grady’s The Great Lakes—it was the first title I came upon that I owned a print copy of.
Rich Adin, who blogs at An American Editor, commented recently that if it were always available, he would always buy the bundle. For teachers: Every class has a range of learners with a range of preferences, and you should be able to offer your students both formats.
For higher ed students: The ability to scan a digital text for keywords is a boon for research and essay writing.
For anyone who might have to move: One day you will probably downsize—possibly from a few thousand square feet to a few hundred.
If you’re planning to self-publish or if you’re thinking about it, you’re likely aware that you — and your book — will benefit if you work with an editor.
But beyond the fact that editors catch typos and fix rogue grammar mistakes, why should authors care about editing? For this reason, authors need to know the secrets to writing in a way that grips their readers — that keeps them in flow for as long as possible.
In ebooks, a properly designed table of contents can always be accessed from the table of contents menu on an e-reader from anywhere in the ebook. Your writing and style choices should be clear, predictable, and consistent, and at their very best, completely transparent.
In my last post, I talked about the popularity of short fiction and the many forms it can take.
Writing short offers as many—if not more—opportunities for nonfiction authors as it does for fiction authors. Short nonfiction can take many forms—some are commercial, some are business or professional tools, and some are simply smart ways to organize the documents, both paper and digital, that accumulate over the years.

How-to: A more traditional kind of nonfiction book, but pared down to the bare essentials for time-starved readers.
Summary book: Do you have a full-length book that could be summarized to highlight its key ideas? Course and classroom materials: Teachers and professors have been posting lecture notes and assignments on their websites for some time—this is convenient for students and it improves the learning experience.
Dissertations, monographs, essays: Work you’ve previously published but which you either don’t have a digital copy of or which you’d like to revise or update. Academic papers, reports, speeches, lectures, talks: Conference papers, white papers, might include previously unpublished books and papers and might exist already as a pdf or Word doc. Nonfiction readers want information delivered quickly, and they have little patience for wading through weedy prose. If you’re going to adapt existing material from a website or blog into an ebook, it will probably need more than a copyedit. You don’t have to look far to realize that short is the current trend in writing and publishing — especially for digital. There’s a wealth of information available about writing short fiction and where to publish it. Description: Honor the tradition of editing and "encourage" others to keep their hands off your hot drink of choice! Sometimes, what’s hidden behind the scene in Word is the cause of the junk you can see—things like garbled text and wonky formatting.
After trying a few ways to clean this up—including selecting the text and applying Normal style to it—I ended up having to repair it manually by deleting the picture and re-keying the sentence that’s squished together. In a future post, I’ll show you what I’ve done to prepare a document for ebook formatting—and I’ll show you the mistakes I’ve made, as well. You also may have unpublished or previously published books, now out of print, that you want to self-publish as ebooks (be certain you own the rights).
One way is to re-key the text manually (not really an option if you have a book-length work) or you can use optical character recognition (OCR) software, which converts a scanned document into a digital file.
As you can see, the Word file is littered with debris and some ugly bits, but you’re well on your way to having an editable, searchable file, suitable for formatting as an ebook.
In her post a couple of weeks ago, Corina mentioned three macros that are especially helpful to writers: NeedlessWords, TellingWords, and -ly Words. Words like that, which, to, in order, really, very, barely—in short, many prepositions, adverbs and adjectives—that stand in the way of what you?’re trying to say. They’re not strictly needed, but they might function in ways that aren’t obvious—by adding texture to the narrative voice, for example. A cluster of these words is a symptom that you might be doing a lot of telling, and eliminating them one by one won’t solve your problem.
The telling words macro can act as a red flag: if you see too many telling words, ask yourself if the narrative has become boring or flat. Writing macros come in handy at the end of this stage, and point to areas that will need more attention. Rhythm, pacing, tone, voice—these aspects of your writing make it distinctive and interesting, and you don’t want to strip that away for the sake of efficiency.
Self-editing, or revision, as we call it, is the furthest you can take your manuscript on your own, with feedback from others, but without professional editing help.
Because most authors understand the importance of starting well, and as a result, the first chapter of a book often gets a great deal more attention from the author than a chapter in the middle.
You’ll want to know an editor’s assessment of the messy middle because it can directly affect how much editing services will cost. A TOC can help your editor to see how you’ve arranged the major topics in your book, and whether you might need help with the book’s structure. During an initial scan of the text, she notices a few trouble spots — for example, the plot is lost in large sections of background information and the characters are difficult to distinguish from one another.The editor knows the novel would be better if she could address these issues, but how?
And this happens more often than you’d think, too: She prints out the difficult sections of the novel. But keep in mind that your editor will need to read an entire book instead of a 10-page plot summary, and this extra time will be reflected in the cost.
What features of your finished book could indicate that it still might need a stylistic edit? It is entirely understandable that an author can lose track of many small details over the course of writing a book. I once asked an author I was working with how it could be that her main character was entering high school that September when she had just had her 11th birthday the previous June. So, if you’re publishing an ebook, your editor will look at your book on an e-reader, or in an e-reading app to see how it looks and operates. But if you struggle with explaining yourself clearly, or crafting realistic dialogue, your editor might recommend a paragraph-level edit.
With a positive and open attitude, you’ll not only get a better book, you’ll save money on your next editing project with what you’ve learned from this one.
As Mary Alice Elcock, BitLit’s content VP explains, hybrid readers want the look and feel of a print book, and the convenience—while travelling, for instance—of an ebook.
Instructions on the site are good for walking you through the process, but here are the basics. When your ownership is verified, BitLit will email you an epub, mobi or pdf file, ready to read.
The hardcover has many illustrations and photographs, and all of them show up nicely in Adobe Digital Editions.
Digital reading offers so many benefits to students, especially those who are English language learners or who have learning disabilities: text-to-speech capabilities, read-aloud features, built-in dictionaries, variable text size, and the option to highlight and compile notes, to name just a few. But that’s just the beginning: computing and data analysis tools are changing both how we study literature and the humanities and how we understand them and make meaning. If you already own a digital copy of your favourite books, it might be easier to part with print down the road. It seems like that would be the logical next step, but Mary Alice Elcock at BitLit says the research doesn’t support this theory.
Well for one thing, it’s impossible to get near the subject of self-publishing in the blogosphere without someone telling you to hire an editor. You want to give them a good reading experience and leave a good impression by meeting their expectations. Readers are more likely to finish your book if they read it “in flow.” There is no longer such thing as 100 percent distraction-free reading. They need to know how to pace a story to avoid lulls, and establish POV in a manner that allows readers to track seamlessly with characters.
Readers like all the essential parts of a book to be there, such as correctly styled headings to guide them through large swaths of text, or images, tables, and charts to illustrate or explain difficult concepts. Editors know which features are essential in ebooks, and which features belong in print books, or work better elsewhere.
Readers like things to be where they expect them to be and to act as they expect them to act. The ebook is a convenient container for many of the nonfiction pieces people have been writing for years and scattering about on blogs, in pdfs, on websites … and in drawers. If you have a concept or process that you believe might benefit others, why not polish it and put it between ebook covers? If you’ve blogged at length about a topic, you may well have the expertise to put it into a book. Readers are increasingly fascinated by the minutia of their favourite author’s writing process (and life!). Note that if you want to adapt these for publication and sale, you’ll need to spend some time and effort on revisions. Whether or not you intend to publish these on Amazon or another platform, converting these documents to ebooks helps get this material organized. If you’re converting unpublished or previously published academic work into an ebook, chances are it needs to be revised and updated. Do your readers a favour, and guide them through your book with a linked TOC and meaningful chapter titles, headings and subheadings. As bestselling author Hugh Howey has observed, “It’s about the reader, stupid” and this is as true for nonfiction as it is for fiction.
For self-published authors, there’s pressure to write faster, and obviously shorter lends itself well to this process.

Here’s a breakdown of some of the typical forms of short fiction and a suggested word count. This article at TheReviewReview is a good place to begin if you’d like to try your hand at micro-fiction.
What are you doing in the last window of the editor one — writing with a pen on a touchscreen, to make a correction?
Editors use Word for a few reasons, and efficient cleanup and editing are high on that list. Also, the pencil marks that haven’t been converted to text remain in the document as pictures, and will have to be deleted. If you’re going to revise or edit the text, clean it up enough to continue working on it, and save the heavy-duty cleanup for later. Because my document is short, this wasn’t a problem, but in a longer document it could present a significant inconvenience. I love them because they provide a rudimentary data visualization of your personal writing ticks: they show (don’t tell!) you exactly where your bad habits reside. If you have 20 minutes to spare, this free 20-minute macro course will have you up and running with macros in no time.
Here’s a preview of what your decision-making process might look like for the three macros I’ve mentioned.
And whether a word should be excised also depends on your audience, subject, genre and purpose. What they will do is point out what you should be thinking about—they’ll help you switch off autopilot, and that’s an enormous first step.
It’ll also help an editor to make some DIY recommendations that can reduce editing costs later in the process.
From how a character’s name is spelled to the colour of her eyes to her mother-in-law’s hometown to how that’s spelled, the possibilities for small errors are many.
And they can have this for the same price, or just slightly more, than the cost of a print book.
To find eligible books, you can search by publisher, title, or author, or you can scroll through available titles. Tap the camera icon at the top right of your iPhone screen or the navigation icon on your Android device. There’s an appetite for bundling among consumers, and there are many applications for print and digital bundles. Educators have only begun to tap into the learning opportunities made possible with e-readers.
The dictionaries, notes feature and opportunities for social reading available on e-readers and tablets are changing education and literacy. The publishing industry has established these expectations over time and readers have internalized them. When readers read a book on a tablet or smartphone, they can be summoned off-book at any minute by a text message or a Facebook alert. They also need to know what style decisions to make, so they don’t distract readers from the meaning-making process of reading.
Readers like familiar signposts — such as paragraph indents, or a row of space between paragraphs, to break up the text.
If you like to get a sense of the topics in a book before you read it, you’ll likely consult the table of contents at the front, where you expect it to be. There are other features that need to behave in predictable ways in ebooks, too, and editors know what these features are and how they’re supposed to work.
There are many things that authors inadvertently do to make readers work too hard, and some readers will just give up.
Editing is all about style — the decisions you need to make for the best possible reading experience. Again, I’ll refer you to Corina Koch MacLeod’s Idea to Ebook: How to Write a Quality Book Fast—it’s an example both of a concept developed into an ebook and a guide to how you can do the same. Authors of historical fiction, for instance, might have a set of research notes that could be polished into a book extra, to keep readers interested. Here’s one example: BusinessNews Publishing’s summary edition of Tim Ferriss’ The 4-Hour Workweek. Recent research from Pew shows that 58% of American adults own a smartphone; for the age group 18-29, that number is 83%.
It might also help you to see future potential for older material that can now be repurposed for a contemporary readership.
Before you turn your blog into a book, read Jane Friedman’s article, Please Don’t Blog Your Book: 4 Reasons Why.
If the novelette is new to you, for instance, find out who excels at it and start reading their work. She was a prolific correspondent, and I’m currently digitizing a collection of her letters.
It’s reasonable to contact more than one editor before settling on the one who’s right for you. Yes, scissors, and begins to cut and re-assemble those parts of the story, so that they fall together more naturally and present the story in the arrangement that serves both the story and the reader’s expectations.
Proofreading is the last pair of eyes on your book before it goes live: it’s the last chance to catch an error before a reader finds it and gleefully points it out. In time, that 4 percent who are digital-only will probably increase as readers become more used to digital text and as more books are available only as ebooks. And self-pubs are getting the message and conscientiously seeking editorial services as part of the publishing process. Editors know that readers hate having to stop and figure out who is saying what in dialogue. Editors are stylists who can show you how to make those decisions.Addressing reader expectations can make for a satisfying read and a satisfied reader.
Glossaries, maps, field notes, family trees—all of these can be packaged into something to release when you’re between novels. Watch out for copyright issues: consider this kind of publication only if you own the copyright to the work being summarized. For more tips like this, watch for our forthcoming book, You’ve Got Style: Copyediting for Self-Publishing Authors.
By reviewing editors’ online profiles, you should be able to narrow the field to two or three. In the meantime, readers have many choices about how they’ll read, and the important thing, really, is that they keep on reading. Sometimes authors use style features (italics), or apply style rules (capitalization), in unconventional ways. The academic writing blog Explorations of Style has a three-part series on how to use writing to clarify your thinking.
You can use a grid like this one to help you determine which copyediting issues you can confidently address yourself, and which ones you’d prefer to hire an editor to fix. These features and rules mean something to readers, and when they are used in unexpected ways, it can cause readers to pause and lose reading momentum. Similar advice tells beginning writers to publish some short pieces early, to get themselves out there.There’s also a new place to publish your shorter work.
Especially if you’re writing a shorter piece to self-publish for the first time or to find new readers. Tedious 30-plus-page academic papers full of rambling sentences, random use of punctuation and available only as pdf downloads.
This will be the first thing they’ve ever read by you — and it could be the last, if you rush to publish it.
Experimenting with a new form is a great way to stretch your limits and develop your style. You’re probably familiar with the famous six-word story attributed to Ernest Hemingway: “For sale. Never worn.” Some of the very short forms can be especially challenging — can you keep cutting and cutting and still communicate a meaningful story?

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