One of the wonderful things about self publishing is that you are in control of the process. And that includes editing. When your manuscript is published through a traditional publishing house, the editing can change your book in ways that may not align at all with your vision. Working with your editor at Author Support Services is a truly collaborative process, where you get to know your editor in quite an intimate way (yes, we often hear tears and laughter – this book is your baby!).
Our authors and editors catch up together regularly via Zoom to discuss each chapter. This also helps your editor learn how you speak… and therefore write. After all, your editor is paid to make your writing ‘sound like you but better’ as someone once said.
Some things we change are actual errors – spelling mistakes and grammatical errors, those types of things – but a lot of editing is subjective. So the editor may suggest a word change, or moving a sentence forward to the beginning of a paragraph, or deleting a word where it is a bit repetitive. In certain levels of editing there may be much bigger changes. And you might think ‘great idea!’ or you might think ‘no, I prefer what I had originally’.
So you want to know what the editor did and be able to choose whether to keep their work. You don’t want to get your document back with all these changes in it that you may or may not like, and not be entirely sure where these changes are.
For this reason, we use a program called Track Changes. It’s part of Word – you may have used it before. It shows you what the editor does to your document and you can choose to accept or delete any change they make.
When your Word document arrives back from your editor covered in Track Changes marks – and you’ve recovered from the delight/shock/overwhelm of all the changes and suggestions – the next step is to review the changes and work out what you want to keep.
Track Changes step by step
This starter’s guide might help you avoid some of the pitfalls I see regularly:
- Go into your Word document and make sure the ‘Review’ panel is open at the top of the page.
- Ensure the setting is on ‘Final: Show Markup’.
- Put your cursor at the beginning of the first line of text in your document.
- Press ‘next’ on the Review panel. This will take you to the next change your editor has made.
- Consider the suggestion, then press ‘Accept’ if you agree with the change or ‘Reject’ if you don’t.
- Use ‘previous’ or ‘next’ to move from one change to another.
- The bubbles on the right side of the page are your editor’s comments directly to you. You can write back to your editor in the bubble if you want – that’s your ‘chat room’.
- If you want to tell your editor something, put your cursor on the word in question and press ‘New Comment’ to create your own comment bubble
- If you can’t see why your editor has changed something (such as when you see a word crossed out and written again looking exactly the same), it’s probably because there was something minor, such as a double space between words that is hard to see unless you’re a pedant. By the time you are a few pages in to your manuscript you will have realised that editors are fairly pedantic by nature. When this happens and you can’t see what’s been changed, you can either press accept and trust that it’s okay, or go up to the task bar and change the setting from ‘Final: Show Markup’ to simply ‘Final’ so you can see the end result if the editor’s change is accepted.
It’s a comprehensive system that makes interactive editing really shine, but I know it takes a bit of getting used to. These instructions are just the basics; you can use Track Changes to do all kinds of funky things.
If you aren’t confident with it or have better ways to fill your day, just address anything in the bubbles then change the setting from ‘Final: Show Markup’ to ‘Final’. Then you will see the manuscript as if all the editor’s changes are accepted. You can also ask your editor to set it like this for you – we are here to help, so just ask!
Remember, it’s always up to you what is changed – you are the author and these are your words! We are here to help make your book the very best it can be.
Editor’s note – This post was originally published in May 2018 and has been updated to keep our information as concise and comprehensive as possible.