I enjoy writing book reviews. They are part of the critical conversation that authors and readers need to make decisons about reading and writing, buying and selling. A good book is worthy of our respect and serious attention even – perhaps especially – if we disagree with its viewpoint or have trouble with some of its assumptions. And, of course, a good book that we also admire is a joy to review – it’s as if the author’s talent has rubbed off on the reviewer!

However, over the past six months or so, I have had to refuse a great many requests for reviews. The main reason I’ve found myself saying no is because the published book is not in good shape and contains lots of glaring errors. This is sad, as a great deal of good work is disappearing forever simply because of bad copyediting. From the title on the cover of a book to the last sentence on the final page, good copyediting establishes

•    Authority
•    Credibility
•    Professionalism
•    Trust

These are things we need to provide readers right from the start, otherwise they will give up on our book. Look at it from their perspective: at the very least, they need to invest their time and probably their money to find what they’re looking for. If they don’t find it in our book, they’ll look elsewhere.

The same goes for reviewers. They’re probably very busy people. They want to like your book, so don’t put them off with basic errors.

Review Tips for Authors

  • Be courteous and polite. I often receive emails that are clearly cut-and-paste jobs, with no greeting and no mention of who they’re for.
  • Copyedit your email. Your book may be perfect but if your email is chock full of errors it doesn’t create a favourable impression. You need to impress people with your care and attention to detail.
  • Copyedit your press release. If you supply a press release, make sure it is in great shape, with no errors of punctuation and grammar.
  • Provide a short summary of your book with a list of characters’ names. These things aren’t essential, but they are tremendously helpful. Once you have prepared them, you can use them over and over again for different purposes.
  • Copyedit your book – especially the opening page! If the first few paragraphs contain a spelling error, bad punctuation and a formatting mistake, then your book is unlikely to be read.

There’s no substitute for a decent professional copyedit of your book. It’s a mistake to think you can skimp on copyediting or to view it as an inessential luxury. ‘No one will notice’ is simply untrue: they will!

Copyediting for Indie Authors

If you want some help on copyediting, I’ve written a short guide to some basic tips for improving the editorial presentation of books. It’s called Copyediting for Indie Authors and it addresses some of the simple problems that put off potential readers and reviewers.

I’ve spent a lifetime in the publishing industry as a writer, copyeditor and editorial project manager, submissions readers and reviewer. I’ve worked for major trade and academic publishers such as Berlitz, Routledge and Wiley-Blackwell, plus major international organizations in the not-for-profit sector. I’ve helped literally thousands of authors on many thousands of books – books of all kinds, from travel guides to children’s picture books to cutting-edge academic scholarship.

The ten top tips in Copyediting for Indie Authors are among those I have used in my professional career to make thousands of books the best they can be. The difference is that instead of spending a lot of money on copyeditors who may not be right for your book, you can do these things yourself, right now, for free.

Copyediting for Indie Authors will be published on 20 March as an ebook only on Amazon.

What the reviewers are saying:

‘Indispensable! Oh how I wish I had these ten tips when I was copyediting and formatting my novel. Trust me, I’m going to keep this slender document with my dictionary and thesaurus right next to my computer.’ Ginger Bensman, author of To Swim Beneath the Earth

‘I wholeheartedly recommend Jack and Brigitte Messenger’s how-to guide, Copyediting for Indie Writers. Just follow their excellent tips for a more professional-looking book.’  Mark Gordon, author of The Snail’s Castle

‘I have no hesitation in recommending this accessible and engaging guide to all independent writers. Laying out their advice in forthright, unambiguous yet never hectoring or patronising terms, and supporting each of their ten top tips with clear examples, the authors admirably synthesize lessons learned from their years of experience as publishers, freelances providing expert services to publishers, and authors themselves. This guide is just what writers will have been waiting for!’ Ally Dunnett, formerly Production Director for Social Sciences and Humanities Books, John Wiley & Sons

‘This is an excellent guide for authors striving to eliminate copyediting errors that can sink a book from the start. Clear and concise, it provides many concrete examples of how to do it right.’ Ulla Jordan, author of Lost Ground

‘Professional copyediting is vital for any indie author who wishes to compete with traditionally published books. In this quick-reference guide, Jack Messenger provides a valuable resource that will enable authors to correct issues from punctuation and paragraph breaks to common spelling errors. Highly recommended!’ Ken Doyle, author of Bombay Bhel and Gateway of India