I’ve gone through everything you did a few times now and had to reach out. THANK YOU! I am so appreciative. You went above and beyond anything I expected. I found myself nodding to my laptop as I read your recommendations. You truly helped bring this book to the next level. I will not hire anyone else for my books from here on out…that is, if you are open to working with me again. :) —James DiNannoI have nothing but good things to say about Catherine.... I appreciated the way she understood the intent of certain sections and how to make the words flow better for a specific audience. I'd definitely work with her again and highly recommend her! —Virginia Goodhart
How to Improve Your Self-Help Book Before You Hire an Editor
Are you ready to hire an editor to help you polish your manuscript?
I think of writing a self-help book as like peeling an onion. The first draft is simply taking off the outer layer; then you have many rounds of peeling in order to create a high-quality book.
If you want readers to take your message seriously, you're going to want to refine, and then keep refining, until everything is perfect.
Want to simplify your editing process? The amount of improvement you can make before hiring a developmental editor or copy editor can make a huge difference in the number of red marks and suggestions you get back from your hired pro. Plus, when you can correct a bunch of smaller issues, your editor can then focus on more-substantive input to help make the book really shine.
Here are some ways to get started.
1. Write your book in Microsoft Word or Google Docs, which will make it easy for you to see your editor’s suggestions and comments.
2. Keep your sentences relatively short (no run-ons).
3. Keep your paragraphs relatively short (3–6 sentences each max).
4. Break up dense text blocks by shortening or breaking up long paragraphs.
5. Include subheadings to provide structure and break up the text.
6. Include all the elements of a book: a title page, a copyright page, a table of contents, acknowledgments (people you’re thanking), an introduction (written by you), a preface (written by someone else; optional), references (if applicable), and your author bio.
7. Start each chapter with something intriguing, entertaining, or reader focused, such as a “fun fact,” question, quotation, or anecdote.
8. Write in an engaging way to draw your reader in. Don’t bore them. Don’t just do the bare minimum. For example, don’t use a one-word subheading. Make the book a joy to read.
9. Get to the point. Cut out all extra words, sentences, and even entire paragraphs that aren’t relevant, particularly compelling, or likely to be adding value for your reader. The shorter and sweeter you can make the book, the better.
10. End each chapter by summing up your message in a way that will leave your reader feeling inspired.
11. Be logical. Make sure every single sentence in a paragraph relates to and connects with the one before and after it. Make sure every single paragraph relates to the one before and after it.
12. Make the book accessible to a wide audience by writing in a simple, straightforward way (not in a stuffy, long-winded academic style) for all reading levels.
13. Use informal language as much as possible. Imagine that you’re having a one-on-one conversation with your reader.
14. Avoid making generalizations (“We’re all so busy!”).
15. Avoid sounding biased (sexist, racist, ageist, elitist, etc.). For example, don’t address your readers as if they’re all men who are married with kids.
16. Don’t be preachy or tell readers they “should” do anything. Instead, present them with options they can relate to and that could inspire them.
17. Don’t plagiarize (steal other people’s content without crediting them). Want to include someone else’s work, such as a poem? Get their permission.
Focus on your reader (avoid talking about yourself)
18. In general, stick to the reader’s perspective and needs. They’re reading the book to get insights and action tips.
19. Unless the format of your book requires it, avoid sharing details and stories about yourself. Save the powerful personal anecdotes, and the reason you wrote the book, for the introduction.
20. Directly address the reader as “you.”
21. Avoid using “we” or “us” to refer to humanity or a subgroup (for example, people who suffer from a certain condition). Implying that everyone is the same can come across as condescending and alienate readers who don’t think of themselves as sheeple.
22. Don’t alternate using “I” and “my” with “we” and “our” in the same paragraph.
23. Don’t quote yourself (even if you consider yourself an authority).
24. Avoid referring to things you said earlier (“As I wrote in Chapter 1…”) and to advice you’ve given in other books.
25. Avoid marketing your services and promoting your business in the text. Your readers want helpful information, not a sales pitch. Save your promo blurb (if appropriate) for the back page or back cover.
Get the details right
26. Be concise. Prune every sentence. For example, instead of “Why is that?” write “Why?”
27. Avoid the future tense (“You will learn about this in Chapter 5.”). Instead, use the present tense. (“I cover these issues in Chapter 5.”)
28. When referring to a statistic, cite the source by either mentioning it in the text (“According to…”) or footnoting it (or both).
29. Use contractions (“You’re”) for a friendly tone.
30. Don’t start a sentence with “This” or refer to “this” if it’s not clear what “this” is.
31. Be elegant: avoid ending a sentence in a preposition (“…what you’re looking for.”)
32. Use one space (not two) between sentences.
33. Fact-check everything, including the spellings of people’s names.
Peel the onion
34. Rewrite your first draft. If you’re like many writers, you throw thoughts on the page and eventually arrive at the point you want to make. Unfortunately, this does not make for an easy-to-read book. Do an edit to better structure all that information.
35. Set the book aside for a week. Then pretend you are your target reader and read it from their perspective.
36. Have friends and family members read the book and give you their honest input.
37. Check for missing transitions and rewrite for a natural flow.
Follow conventional style
38. In chapter titles, capitalize major words (this is called “headline case”).
39. Capitalize only the first word of subheadings (“sentence case”).
40. Emphasize words by italicizing them. Don’t use ALL CAPS (it’s the equivalent of shouting). Italicize only words that are begging to be emphasized.
41. Don’t use bold for emphasis.
42. Don’t use italic as a contrasting font or to set off a large block quotation.
43. Don’t overuse exclamation points. Use them to occasionally indicate something truly amazing, otherwise they lose their impact.
44. Do a spelling and grammar check.
45. Don’t prematurely agree to a publishing date before you’re finished with the editing phase.
46. Give yourself time to correct and improve everything that may not be quite right, whether the process takes you two days or two weeks.
47. Enjoy the editing process and the moments of “flow” you may experience as you focus on creating a relevant, positively reviewed, and (we hope) best-selling book!
I'm focused on copy editing and proofreading non-fiction books that inspire and empower people: women, men, couples, singles, baby boomers, millennials, business owners, health advocates, activists, speakers, parents, non-parents, entrepreneurs, writers, artists, health-care professionals, and others.
I also edit marketing and technical content for companies. I specialize in blogs and web sites.
Copy edited Big Data integration software training and certification content for non-native-English-speaking writers, edited (and formatted in HTML) help articles for software user community, coached writers to help them improve grammar and usage, created editorial style guide for team that was adopted companywide
For Google AdWords Partners certification program, edited and enhanced exam questions about Google search, display, mobile, video, and shopping advertising, as well as related study-guide material and UI content
Wrote and edited web content to help eBay sellers promote their listings, help eBay users create item collections, and simplify buyer-focused help pages
● Edited and proofread web marketing copy and promotional content
● Improved conversions by 12%, content quality by 35%; 66% of customers preferred new messaging; achieved results by strategically rewriting landing page
● Wrote and maintained editorial style guide
● Edited trade paperback books about protecting the environment and women's empowerment
● Managed team of writers and researchers, ghost-wrote newspaper columns, promoted books in media appearances
Aimed at advising and amusing girls age 12 and up, this collection includes quotations from 500 famous women, including suffragists, pioneers, politicians, moms, musicians, athletes, and actors. The quotes are grouped by categories, such as friendship, confidence, and creativity.
With quotes, suggestions, poems, and advice from celebrities, such as Beyonce Knowles and Amelia Earhart, provides young girls with encouragement and inspiration for achieving success in any career they wish to pursue. Original.
A handbook for girls ages ten to sixteen familiarizes them with the basic issues affecting girls and women today and explains how to cultivate a healthy self-image, presenting a mix of facts, activities, profiles, poems, and resource lists. Original.
A collection of true stories, quotes, poems, and personal advice on various aspects of romantic relationships and being in love includes work by Oprah Winfrey, Sarah Jessica Parker, Amy Tan, Jennifer Love Hewitt, and others.
The Girls' Book of Friendship published by Little, Brown and Co. for Hallmark Card (2003) [Hardcover]
AAL Member Benefit edition
In Dotcom Divas, prepare to meet some of the most talented, energetic, and visionary Internet entrepreneurs who ever plunged into the e-business revolution. And, oh, by the way -- they're all women. Industry insider, Elizabeth Carlassare, introduces readers to the inspiring women founders of 20 Internet companies, including LookSmart, EDGAR Online, E-Loan, RightWorks, and Marimba. In Dotcom Di... read more
Discover the world’s most comprehensive book on dating, romance, and the secrets of a happy love life. Finding the man of your dreams just got easier, thanks to this empowering, no-nonsense guide for women seeking real connections and long-term commitment. How to Find & Keep Your Perfect Man will revolutionize the way you think of men and your relationships with them. Drawing on a lifetime of ... read more
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I'm an experienced nonfiction editor: I edit books, articles, papers, and more. I'll polish your writing so it stands out from the crowd!
20+ years of experience in memoir, health, self-help/psychology, parenting. Authors include Domingo Martinez, Karen Karbo, and Stacy Keach.