I can be an aggressive editor. I’ve turned 28 chapters into a four-part structure. I’ve written brand new content to help give my clients inspiration. I even cut 52% of someone’s first draft.
That last one isn’t common. I’ve only gone over the 40% mark three times. However, up to a third isn’t unusual.
Why? Because I believe in making your book as effective as possible. For communicating your message, representing your business, and for engaging your readers. However, your message isn’t clear if it’s buried under repetition and rambling. Incoherence doesn’t cast your business in a good light. And your readers won’t keep reading if they can’t find the information they wanted to find when they bought your book. If the cover said it would teach them how to do something, your book shouldn’t leave them scratching their heads – it should leave them with a clear action plan.
So what can you do if your editor cuts half of your book?
Don’t end up in this position to begin with
If you’ve already had your draft edited, jump down to the next heading. If you haven’t, then the best thing is to ensure you don’t end up in this position at all by having a book with a clear structure and relevant content covered at the right depth for your readers to learn what they want to learn.
How do you do this? You create a blueprint.
A blueprint is not a table of contents or a five-step process. A blueprint is when you take each item on your table of contents, or each step in your process, and expand that to encompass:
- An explanation of what you’re talking about
- The sub-topics you need to cover within that chapter
- Why this is relevant to your reader (this usually comes down to the benefits of following your advice and the risks of not following it)
- Any evidence you want to include (examples, case studies, statistics, interviews)
- Relevant questions, activities, exercises and action steps
- Any content you’ve already written that’s relevant to this chapter (blog posts, marketing collateral, articles, transcribed interviews and more)
Then you take all of that information and organise it so it has a logical flow.
Then you go through your plan and expand. Do some topics need exercises and action steps? Add them now. Do you need to add some research or examples to back up your arguments? Add them now. Keep adding to your notes until you’ve answered every question you need to answer.
Once you’ve done this for every chapter, then you start writing. This ensures:
- You’ve covered everything you need to cover.
- You’ve included the key elements of a well-rounded chapter (what, why and how).
- You don’t need to worry about repetition, because you’ve already outlined what goes where (i.e. you don’t need to talk about goal setting in Chapter 3 because you know it’s already covered in Chapter 1).
- You don’t need to worry about rambling, because you already know exactly what to write and have so much detail that you don’t need to ramble to boost your word count (not a good idea – good editors will cut it anyway).
- You won’t get side tracked by research during the writing process because it’s all already in your plan.
- You won’t get writer’s block, because you know exactly what to write next!
Sound like a lot to get your head around? Then download the first two chapters of my book, Book Blueprint, free for a kick start.
But my book has already been cut…
If this is you I’m sorry – I know it can be difficult to stomach, especially if you were hoping you’d be ready to go to print once it came back from the editor.
In your case I’d recommend you:
- Take a deep breath.
- Review any feedback your editor gave you which might explain why they made so many changes.
- Take another deep breath.
- Read the edited manuscript (if they use Track Changes, I always recommend viewing the Final version for your first read through so you can get a sense for how it flows). Try to stay objective.
- As you read, take note of any comments the editor has made throughout the document, as well as noting any questions you’d like to ask them about.
- Once you finish ask yourself – is your book more effective this way? Is the message clearer? Will it be easier for my readers to get the result they want now?
If the answer to these questions is ‘yes’, then congratulations – despite your word count drop, you have a much more effective book! Now, when you catch up with your editor, any questions or concerns will probably be around tweaking certain areas, or your ideas for new content.
If your objective answer to these questions is ‘no’, then make time to talk to your editor. Use this opportunity to calmly outline your concerns (why you don’t feel your book is effective, if they’ve interpreted your message incorrectly, if you feel your book no longer meets your readers concerns) and see what your editor has to say. They might be able to explain their changes in a way that makes everything clear, or they might admit that the book isn’t quite there yet, in which case it’s a great opportunity for you to discuss different approaches.
Whatever you do, please don’t close your manuscript and forget about it. While an editor’s changes can be significant, the worst outcome isn’t that you have to make a lot of changes. The worst outcome is using this as a reason not to continue with the self-publishing process.
In a nutshell…
If you are still planning or drafting your book, revisit the key points or chapter topics you want to cover and, using the points listed previously, create a detailed blueprint. This will help you avoid drastic cutting and restructuring when you send your book to your editor.
If you’ve just received a much shorter book from your editor, try to review it objectively. Think about your original goals for your book and what you told your editor you wanted to achieve and ask yourself, does your book achieve these goals more effectively now? Then, talk to your editor, keeping in mind that they want you publish a great book and will do everything in their power to help.