Editing is essential so that you can share your message clearly to your readers. In today’s training, I share 5 editing mistakes to avoid when writing a nonfiction book.
Click here to leave an iTunes review and subscribe to the show. Read my step-by-step tutorial and find out all the details here. If you have a specific question, I’d love to hear from you! Leave me a message here.
Editing Mistakes to Avoid
To be honest, editing is definitely not my favorite part of publishing, but it is so essential. In fact I don’t recommend anyone publishing a book without it being edited.
These are some editing tips that I was reminded of by my editor, Deb Hall, on my recent book project. Thank you Deb for those reminders.
So let’s find out what these mistakes are and how you can avoid them. When you have an editor make sure you don’t miss anything.
Mistake #1: Using Images without References
In my recent book project, I had a specific image that is very important to my book and my editor, Deb, reminded me, “Shelley, make sure to not forget that you need to have a reference for this image.”
So I thought, “Oh my goodness, I don’t know if I even remember where I got that image.” I had a couple that I’d gotten years and years ago for a PowerPoint presentation. And this is a specific image that I really needed to use in the book to make a point.
So I tried to look it up on the sites I thought it was from but I could not find the image. Then all the sudden I remembered I could use a reverse image search. So I went onto the site TinEye.com, uploaded my image, and sure enough it was from the website I had thought and I do have permission to use it in my book. Now I can properly reference my image.
You always want to make sure that you’re using images that you have the ability to use and that you can give a reference for in your endnotes.
Mistake #2: Using Song Lyrics without Permission
Song lyrics are covered by copyright law. I’ve included additional information about copyright in Author Audience Academy in the Publish Module and I also include information on how to reference scriptures, song lyrics, poems, etc.
In this book, I used one line from a song, so my editor reminded me, “Shelley, do you have permission to use these lyrics? I would recommend that instead of quoting the lyrics you talk about what was in the song, or see if you can rework this a little bit, just so you can avoid the hassle of getting permission.”
Then I realized that the song was “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, strength.” It’s straight from scripture! So instead of quoting the song I wrote, “we were singing a song based on this scripture,” and then I used the quote from the scripture.
This is part of the fair use law, and you are able to use small things from copyrighted materials in your book, but be very careful. If possible really try to avoid including quoted song lyrics in your book.
Mistake #3: Inconsistency in Your Formatting
One thing editors are really good at is being able to make sure there is consistency in the formatting of your book. I would recommend that you want to use an editor that uses the Chicago Manual of Style.
Editors will know the ins and outs of how your book should be formatted according to the Chicago Manual of Style. That’s the reason why you pay them so much; so that you don’t have to learn all that and they can take care of those things for you.
Deb Hall is helping me as my editor for my book Broken Crayons Still Color. One thing she’s helping with is in the consistencies of how I quote scriptures. I have at least one scripture in every chapter, so we’re making sure that they are all consistent.
I have a certain flow for every chapter that has different headings and she noticed inconsistencies with how I was formatting the prayers and some of my headings and is really good at catching these inconsistencies.
Editors tend to use what’s called a style sheet. That’s something that she puts together for me so she can keep track of what we’ve decided on for the different formatting, because sometimes it’s just a matter of your preference and how you want to set things up.
But what you want to avoid is having inconsistencies in how you format those same types of things throughout your book. That’s why a style sheet is very important.
Earlier this year I went to speak at a Christian editing conference and these are editors. I used in speaking to authors but it was really insightful. I went to some of the sessions, I learned a lot, and I was given permission by one of the editors to include her nonfiction editing checklist in Author Audience Academy.
So if you’re an Author Audience Academy member you go into the Publish Module and you’ll see a lesson, Four Steps for Self-Editing Your Book. In that lesson you can download the nonfiction editing checklist as well as the style sheet. I also have links to blog posts and tutorials about how to use a style sheet, and more information for you there.
A couple other inconsistencies she found was the way that I capitalize different words. For me, I tend to capitalize any references to God, yet sometimes I miss those references.
So it’s nice to have an extra set of eyes to catch any inconsistencies that you may have missed.
Mistake #4: Having Chapters that are Varying in Length
It’s not a hard and fast rule and it’s really something that’s a personal preference. Typically though, what editors are looking for, and what you want to try to do when you’re writing your book, is to have consistent lengths for each chapter.
I had a chapter that was significantly shorter than my other chapters and Deb wrote me back saying, “Shelley what you might want to do is there are these concepts that you could elaborate on, it could help your reader understand this point. Also, it would make it to a length that is closer to your other chapters.”
I knew that, but I wasn’t even thinking about it when I was writing. So now, that’s something that I’m keeping in mind as I finish the rest of my book.
In my particular instance I’m using a beta group and I’m finishing one chapter every week, sending it to Deb, and then Deb sends it back and I accept the edits, make changes, and send it to my beta group. It’s a little bit different than what normally happens but I’m just working with the flow chapter by chapter.
So this is something to think about as you’re writing. Are your chapters approximately in the same length compared to each other? That’s something you want to try to do if possible.
Mistake #5: Leaving Out Key Information
The fifth mistake that you want to avoid is leaving out key information that will help with the flow of your book.
Typically, with nonfiction, you’re going to have information that you’re sharing, teaching, encouraging, etc. For my particular book project there is a basic theme. It’s called Broken Crayons Still Color and it’s a theme of dealing with some of the hurts and pains in our life. No matter what has been done to you, and no matter what you have done, God is able to take your mess and turn it into a masterpiece. That’s my main theme of my book. So I want to make sure that I remember to tie back in that theme as is appropriate.
There was a chapter that I recently got back from Deb and she said, “Shelley, this is a great chapter, I love the story you shared in it. I do want you to consider maybe expanding a little more at the end of the chapter how this relates to your overall theme.”
The chapter was about body image and naturally, I’d been ministering, teaching, and talking about body image and how it relates to a lot of painful things like eating disorders. I’ve actually been teaching that for years, but I didn’t even think about bringing out that connection with body image and eating disorders until she mentioned it to me.
Sometimes we need to have an outside view because we are too close to our manuscript to see the gaping holes.
In my book, I also have a section on the application to the reader’s life. I always like to include application when possible in nonfiction books.
It’s not just about you or the teaching in your book, but it’s about the readers applying what they’re learning. If it’s a Christian living or bible study type book, you can actually give them application steps. So I have some application steps, reflection questions and a coloring page they can color as they are going through the reflection questions.
There was one chapter that Deb sent back to me and she said, “It was kind of an abrupt ending from your story into then the application to their lives.”
It was a pretty deep topic in that particular chapter. I think it was the chapter where I talked about the sexual abuse that happened to me while I was in middle school. So I thought, “Oh, yeah, the flow wasn’t really there as far as from my story and my testimony into the application part.”
So I was able to update it and add more information and have it flow better.
Invest in an Editor
The biggest takeaway I want you to take from this training is to invest in an editor. Do what you need to save and skimp, and to invest in a really good editor for your book. It will make a world of difference and it will help your manuscript to shine.
Editors will catch so many things that may slip past you or other proof readers. I love having proof readers, I have a ton of beta readers, but they are not going to catch certain things that an editor will.
Our publishing company has over 50 books, I’ve published over 40 and these are rookie mistakes I should not be making, but when you’re in the midst of an intense book project and meeting deadlines it’s really nice to know that there is an editor that is able to work with you.
So definitely check out Deb Hall if you’re interested, and her website is TheWriteInsight.com.
You can also see my recommendations over at my website TrainingAuthors.com here: www.trainingauthors.com/recommended-outsourcers-for-authors
If you found this helpful, please share it with other authors so they can know how to make their manuscript shine. You can share the Youtube video, the podcast or even this blog post to help other authors.
Watch the Video Below:
Have Comments or Questions?
Share them in the comments below.