Edit Your Book for Free
If you are an indie author, you know the importance of editing. Now, if I'm being honest, a few typos are not a big deal. If your manuscript is engaging, customers will give you a pass on the odd grammatical error here or there. But there is a fine line on that. One too many and you will suffer the wrath of the readers in the form of a lack of read-through onto other books in the series, and not willing to take a chance on any new project you attempt. You will quickly become a distant memory with little chance of winning them back.
Editing is a big deal. A very big deal when it comes to retaining readers and growing your fanbase.
But there's just one problem. It costs a small fortune to get it done correctly.
Now don't get me wrong, you can find really good deals on sites like Fivrr.com. The problem is that you really don't know the reputation or qualifications of the person you are looking at. It can be a real shot in the dark. And to go with a reputable one, you can expect to spend $3,000 or more for a book-length manuscript.
What indie author has 3 grand laying around?
So here is a plan that will cost you no money at all, yet get you close enough to perfection for your manuscript to be passable by 95% of your reading audience.
Not a bad success ratio for absolutely free, is it?
Chances are, you already have a fan base. It may be tiny. It may only consist of a few friends who know you. But you have one. And no matter how big or small they are, they can be your biggest asset in your toolbox of tricks.
STEP 1: Write the manuscript completely. The whole book. Go back through it and edit it yourself as many times as it takes to feel comfortable with what you have. When you are finished, move on to step 2.
STEP 2: Post the following on your Facebook page or other social media account...
"Want to help me write a book?
I need Beta Readers for a soon-to-be-released novel entitled "insert title here."
Applicants must be avid readers so as to catch typos. Bonus if you are an English teacher or have a history of editing.
Applicants must have Microsoft Word.
Applicants must be willing to conduct a phone interview.
If chosen, you will get to read the entire book in advance and receive an Ebook copy at the end."
Now, the phone interview is imperative. If they aren't willing to pick up the phone and talk to you, even though you might be a complete stranger, then don't mess with them. Communication is key, here. You need to know that you can pick the phone up and call them about a particular edit they have suggested. So don't compromise on this. It will also speak of other intangible things, like their age. In my experience, people over the age of 30 seem to be far more responsive and engaged with what you are doing. Plus, interviewing them on the phone will allow you to get a feel of just how involved they want to be with this project. You can establish how the process will work, how many chapters they will get a week, and most importantly, tell them that at the end you will send them a free copy of the Ebook and request that they write a review. Setting expectation is important. A phone interview does that far better than typed messages or emails.
Additionally, make sure to add them as a contact in your phone so you may call them for private conversations. You may want to do this at the end to ask how they felt about the story. Did the twist work? Were they surprised? Was it believable? This is important.
I suggest 10 beta readers is a nice round number. Too many and you will be overloaded with returns.
STEP 3: Create a private Facebook group for your Beta Readers. This becomes your means of ongoing communication with the group. You can drag and drop your chapters in a post and see how many of them, and which ones, have seen the post at a glance. If someone suggests that a paragraph is clunky and should be rewritten, you can post the rewritten paragraph to the group and get their opinion.
Important note: Do NOT engage in any other conversations other than your book. The last thing you need is for your beta readers to be arguing over social issues or who the next President should be. Keep it professional here. Don't be stupid.
STEP 4: These people have lives. They are doing YOU a favor. So don't overload them. I suggest sending them a chapter on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. This keeps the workload light and establishes a routine they can depend on. DO NOT SEND THEM THE ENTIRE BOOK AT ONCE. You might never hear from them again. This keeps them on a schedule.
STEP 5: The reason you want to use Word, and why you need them to have it as well, is because Word has something called Tracking. If you don't know what that is, look it up.
The process will look like the following:
1 - Copy and paste a chapter into a new Word doc. and make sure to have Tracking turned on.
2 - Drop it into a new post.
3 - They download the document to their desktop.
4 - They read and edit the document as they see fit, making any changes they think should be made, and then save it.
5 - They drop the edited document in an EMAIL and send it to you. This allows for you to have them sit in your inbox as unread until you can get to it.
6 - Open their document side by side with your completed manuscript. If editing has been turned on, every single change they make will be in red, allowing you to quickly spot it on the screen.
7 - Decide if you like the changes and then make them on your full manuscript, saving all changes.
CONCLUSION: Is this method perfect and as good as it could be if you paid $4,000 to be professionally edited? Nope. Not at all. But is it good enough to be passable by 95% of the people who read your book? My experience says yes. How do I know this?
Because my first book was so littered with typos and grammatical errors I only had a 3-star rating, and there were tons of written reviews commenting on the grammar. But when I adopted this approach, I was able to move to a 4.5-star rating in a year. And all of those negative comments went away. No one says this anymore.
One day, you will have 20 published books and your sales will be high enough that you can afford the professional editing services. But until then, give this a try.