Editor-in-Chief: A Publishing Journey
When you're publishing a novel on your own, perhaps the most important step is to put your ego aside and spring for a professional editor. You're too close to your own work and your writer friends might be helpful, but you need someone who knows their business. The surest way to turn off your reader is with a novel full of typos, misspellings and grammar errors.
When my time came, I looked around at various options, both local and online. I finally settled on Lynn O'Dell of Red Adept Publishing. At the time I subscribed to Lynn's blog, Red Adept Reviews. Alas, the review site has closed up its doors, but editing site is up and running. Lynn's price was reasonable, perhaps even more so when you realize what you get. She copy edits your manuscript, providing feedback both by phone and e-mail. After each revision, she reviews the manuscript again until you're satisfied with the draft. That draft then goes to a couple of different proof readers. By the time they're done, your manuscript is sparkling clean. Not only that, but the process picks up other errors along the way. In my novel, Harkness, I had Mussolini's body hanging from a lamppost in Rome. One of the proofreaders pointed out that it was actually in Milan. Nice catch.
If your manuscript needs more than copy editing, I think there are two choices -- first, find yourself a solid writer's group, one focused on your genre and also workshops your manuscript. If your manuscript is complete and needs some serious input, you might think about a manuscript consultant. I wouldn't recommend this unless you're very serious. I used one of my instructors in the Vermont College MFA program, Ellen Lesser. She isn't cheap, but she is very, very good. This is one service I wouldn't get from an ad in the back of a writer's magazine. Check around with your writer friends, see if there's someone they would recommend. Read the consultant's work. If they haven't published, move on to someone else. Published writers are good, MFA instructors are better. Don't expect them to do your work for you, you're the author, they're helping you round your manuscript into shape. After working with Ellen, I realized my novel needed a complete make over. The characters and general plot would remain the same, but the basic structure needed to be remodeled. I'm still working on that one.