Once you’ve finished your ebook’s first draft, it’s tempting to launch it into the world and sit back with a glass of bubbly. Most authors, though, need to spend a bit longer on their ebook before it’s ready for the world to see.
(If you’re not quite at the finished-first-draft stage yet, check out 9 Powerful Tips for Writing Your First Ebook.)
Your aim in editing your ebook is to take it from a first draft to a polished, finished product. These tricks will help make that process quick and easy:
Trick #1: Split your editing into two separate processes
Unless you planned very carefully, you’ll probably find that your ebook is in need of a fair amount of work. Perhaps you want to add an extra chapter, or merge two sections together. Maybe you need to rewrite everything to make it more beginner-friendly.
Instead of trying to fix everything at once, focus first on big picture changes (e.g. cutting chapters or adding in new sections) and then on the detailed edits (e.g. fixing typos and tweaking sentences). Otherwise, it’s a bit like trying to wallpaper a house before all the walls are in place: you’re going to end up wasting a lot of time.
Trick #2: Read through your ebook in (close to) its finished form
If you’ll be publishing a .pdf ebook, convert your manuscript into .pdf. If you’re going to be publishing on Amazon, transfer your file onto your Kindle. (Amazon can take care of this for you: see here for details.)
By reading your ebook as a finished product, you’ll find it easier to concentrate on the big picture: for instance, you might spot that you’ve included very similar information in three different chapters. If you wrote your ebook over a period of weeks, months or even years, it can be hard to spot this sort of thing while you’re drafting.
Trick #3: Make a list of big changes … and choose three
Once you’ve read through your ebook, list anything that needs changing. For instance:
- Make the introduction shorter
- Switch Chapter 4 and Chapter 5
- Merge Chapter 7 and Chapter 8
- Cut all of Chapter 9 except the final section
Instead of trying to make all these changes — which might feel overwhelming — go for three. If you only have three big changes, pick two, or even just one.
For now, you want to choose the changes that:
- You’re fairly sure about (avoid making changes you’re to-ing and fro-ing on)
- Will make a significant difference (avoid ones that probably don’t matter)
Trick #4: Use beta-readers
Feedback from real live readers is a great way to speed up your edits — and to ensure that you’re producing the best ebook possible. If you have a mailing list or blog, ask for volunteer “beta-readers”. Like software beta-testers, these people see a pre-release version of your ebook and help you iron out any problems.
Use your beta-readers’ feedback to decide on other alterations you might want to make. This is where you can go back to the rest of your list in #3: you may find that if none of your beta-readers mentioned a particular issue, it’s something that doesn’t need changing after all.
Trick #5: Print your ebook
Many authors will tell you that it’s much easier to edit on paper than on screen. When you read your ebook on the screen, you’ll find your eyes gliding over words a little too easily. Printing it out can make those typos jump out from the page.
Another bonus of editing on paper is that you can’t directly change the text. Circling or highlighting mistakes on the hard copy gives you the opportunity to revise them more thoughtfully or consistently when you go back to the manuscript itself.
Trick #6: Use the “find” tool
I’ll be the first to admit that my spelling isn’t perfect, and I often find that I make the same mistake over and over again. If you spot an error in your manuscript, do a quick check using the “find” tool to see whether it crops up multiple times; this is easier than trying to remember to keep your eyes peeled as you read through again and again.
Be cautious with your use of the “replace” option, though: it can have unintended consequences unless you’re very careful about only matching whole words rather than parts of words!
Trick #7: Read it out loud
When you read your ebook aloud, you’ll find that you spot more typos, and you’ll also notice when a sentence is clumsy or poorly worded. It might feel like a waste of time, but give it a try and notice how much easier it makes your editing.
If you feel that your ebook is in really good shape and you just want use this trick while doing a final proofread, you could even switch on your microphone and produce an audio version of your ebook.
Good luck with your editing! If you’ve got any questions about the editing process, or if you have a neat trick to share with us, just add a comment below.