This week’s blog post is for my writer friends. Everyone has a checklist of things they know they need to consider before publishing. When it comes time to turn that manuscript into a book, it’s all too easy to get caught up in marketing considerations or thoughts of cover design before the dang thing is ready.

With that, here are five things to check before you turn your manuscript over to a publisher…or, if you’re the publisher, before your public sees it!

1. Is the editing complete?

This sounds like a no-brainer. But for a writer, it’s actually one of the most difficult questions to answer. Paul Valéry said, “A poem is never finished, only abandoned.” The same is even more true for a book. After all, you’re talking about hundreds of pages, thousands of words. It’s taken months, even years, to write.

How do you know when you’re done?

I faced a triple dose of this angst when I published my first three novels at the same time. During that long, hot summer, I had a major proofreading gig. So while I was editing and proofreading about 1,000 pages of my own material, I had to spend hours proofreading something else. Ultimately, I reached a point where I just couldn’t do it anymore. I had set a deadline. So it was time to surrender the work and let it go out to the public.

2. Has it been professionally proofread?

Proofreading is just as important as editing. Once a book goes through content editing and copy editing, you need someone to proof it again. It’s all too easy for errors that the writer and editor missed to get through. And if the editing process is intensive and time-consuming, as it was for me, new errors might pop up. So this is critical.

3. Are there any formatting errors?

Possibly the most frustrating part of editing and proofreading a book, once it’s in the publishing layout format, is the need to eliminate formatting errors. You want your book to look just as good as any book in the local bookstore. So you have to make sure that the spacing is consistent at the top and bottom of each page, that words aren’t hyphenated in the wrong places, that there are no “widow” words hanging out in space…and so on, and so on, ad nauseum.

Your book designer probably isn’t an expert writer like you. That means you’re going to have to spend some serious time getting errors corrected. It’s the nature of the beast, and it’s crucial before letting it get out in front of real readers, people who bought your book.

4. What about the copyright page?

Finally, an easy one, right?

Well, not necessarily. Your copyright page has to include copyright info, probably a legal disclaimer (definitely, if it’s fiction), and a Library Of Congress control number and ISBN number. But did you know it should also have Publisher’s Cataloging-In-Publication (CIP) Data? I didn’t know that, so my ARCs went out without it. Today my books’ copyright pages all have custom CIP data.

That CIP data – best provided by a company called The Donohue Group, in my experience – enables librarians to easily determine how to catalogue your book. You send the first few chapters to them, and they create the CIP data block from that. Want to sell your book to any library? Then you need that CIP data to be part of your copyright page.

5. Are YOU ready to let it go?

This goes back to my first point about editing. At a certain point, you have to let it go and surrender that book. If you’ve done your homework, created and executed a marketing plan, and have people who want to read your book, you’ll know it’s ready. You may not feel like it’s ready, because no one ever thinks their book is as good as it could be. But by this time – after all the editing and proofreading and correcting formatting errors – you’ll be so sick of looking at it that you’ll never want to look at it again.

That’s the bad news. The good news? It’s probably a lot better than you think.

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