9 July, 2015
You want your self-published book to make an impression on your readers. But you want that impression to be based on your ideas and your writing, not on inconsequential errors and inconsistencies in spelling and punctuation. You know that the interwebs are full of people who delight in posting Amazon reviews mocking meaningless errors. Reviews like that will not help you sell books. And you don’t want your readers distracted from your main message by a raft of small mistakes that can easily be prevented.
If you are serious about being the publisher of the book you’ve written, then you should do what publishers do: hire a professional book editor. Maybe you’ve considered that and decided that the cost of professional editing is more than your budget will withstand. But an editor is going to charge you for the time it takes to correct spelling and punctuation, whether you are paying by the hour or by the page. By eliminating the bulk of the small errors yourself, you can save a lot of your editor’s time. This leaves your editor free to focus on the substance of what you’ve written and help you with the bigger picture. This should reduce the cost of editing and also focus it on the areas that are most important for the success of your book.
And if you decide to go commando and publish the book without having it edited, at least reviewers will have to critique your ideas and your writing rather than taking cheap shots at your punctuation.
There’s more to checking text than running a grammar checker or a spell checker (you should run a spell check anyway, but you knew that already). The world will not end if you misspell 'Hillary' as 'Hilary' (or vice versa) or if you accidentally put a quotation mark on the wrong side of a period once or twice. Your meaning will not change because of such small errors. But readers – many of them, anyway – do notice, either consciously or subconsciously. Consistency matters, and your credibility suffers if there are a lot of such mistakes. Here are a few things you need to make sure you check:
'Gray' or 'grey'? 'Theater' or 'theatre'? 'Adviser' or 'advisor'? None is wrong, so spell check isn’t going to help. And maybe there is a reason for using both forms (for example, in a quote). But usually spelling has to be consistent, so you should review the inconsistencies and decide which is the form you want to use throughout your book.
Does your book have chapter titles and subtitles? Did you treat them consistently in terms of capitalization (all words capped, sentence case, or title case)? For that matter, how about individual words such as 'Web' (capitalized) or 'web' (lowercase)? These mistakes can be difficult for you to find, but they will jump out at your readers.
Whether a term is open, hyphenated, or closed ('health care', 'health-care', 'healthcare') is something that changes over time in English, and at any given time, more than one form may be completely acceptable. So a spell checker (or is that 'spellchecker'?) won’t highlight the fact that you’ve used one form in some places and another form in other places. Again, that might be intentional. For example, a compound modifier before a verb is generally hyphenated, but when it comes after the verb, it is usually left open. As the author, it’s ultimately your responsibility to decide what form you want to use, but then you need to stick with it.
Do you want to consistently use a serial comma (Oxford comma) or not? Do you treat quotation marks according to US (or is that U.S.?) style or UK style? Do you type space-hyphen-space when you mean to use a dash? It didn’t matter when you were writing a draft, but as you get ready for publication, you have got to help your reader and eliminate these errors.
Do you talk about a 'Ph.D.' in one place and a 'PhD' in another? And did you rearrange your content so that you wound up unintentionally introducing an abbreviation before you defined it? Abbreviations are hard to keep track of when you’re writing; but they’re much harder for a reader to understand if you don’t introduce each one properly with a definition and then use one form consistently.
These mistakes have two things in common: they are extremely difficult to find manually, and they can all be checked with PerfectIt.
As the author, you are not the best person to be checking for such errors using only your eyes and brain: you know what you meant to write, and your mind will trick you into seeing it on the page, even if you wrote something else. Enter PerfectIt, which is oblivious to what you intended. It looks only at what is there.
PerfectIt scans your manuscript and runs multiple tests on it. It checks for many types of inconsistency, and you can customize the list of tests for your particular needs. You can also incorporate any of the built-in style sheets or customize a style sheet for your specific manuscript. For example, you can add a list of all the characters in your novel to ensure their spelling is consistent.
PerfectIt does its work quickly. The variable is in the amount of time you spend reviewing results, and that depends on how much PerfectIt finds. (Lesson: write carefully in the first place). But the time you spend is time your editor won’t have to spend. PerfectIt can also generate a series of reports and lists that you can send to your editor along with the cleaned up manuscript. This will be a time-saver for your editor and a money-saver for you.
It will result in a better book overall, too. Editors are human. If an editor catches ninety-five percent of the errors in your manuscript – a reasonable expectation, although many editors do better than that – and if you submit a manuscript with a thousand errors, you are liable to get back an edited version that still has fifty errors. If you submit a manuscript that has only twenty errors remaining after you’ve run PerfectIt, the editor may return it to you with one error or none. And the rest of the editor’s efforts can be devoted to more substantive editing concerns, such as sentence structure and overall organization and flow.
“Editing is a collaboration between author and editor to make the book as good as it can be. The better shape the manuscript is in at the beginning of the process, the smoother and more productive that collaboration can be. PerfectIt is a great tool to help authors submit a clean manuscript.”— Dick Margulis
A fully functioning version of PerfectIt is free for 14 days. And you only need to run PerfectIt on your book once. So after you’ve written the final draft of your book, download PerfectIt and run it for free. During the free trial, you won’t be asked to supply any credit card information.
We know that today’s self-publishing authors are tomorrow’s best-selling authors. So when you write your next book, we’re confident you’ll be convinced PerfectIt is worth purchasing. Meanwhile, tell your friends how much it helped. To install PerfectIt and check your self-published book for free, download it now.