Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Does editing work?

My biggest regret after I published my novel A Half Life Of One online was that I hadn't had it professionally edited.

A number of reviews pointed out the numerous typos and the odd inconsistency or two. The realisation that I'd previously been sending out an inferior manuscript to a long list of disinterested publishers made me blush with shame.

I finally bit the bullet last year and paid out £300 to get the mss edited. Not just proof-read, but a full report, suggestions and critique. Reading the corrected mss was a salutary experience. Not that I agreed with everything the editor said, but the flaws were plain to see. To be frank, my writing was rubbish. That wasn't my editor's opinion, that was mine.

Oddly though, a number of people have read the book online and I get the regular email praising the novel. Some people have even bought it. Maybe it wasn't so bad. But how could I tell?

Fortunately I've kept some statistics on the visitors the book has received over the past year. I know, for example, that it averages around 25 visitors a day. Each visitor stays on average for around six seconds, which I guess is the equivalent of someone browsing through the titles displayed in a bookshop.

I figure that if I start feeding the newly-edited version of the book online these stats should improve. In particular, I'm keen to see what difference the new first chapter will make. I can see from my stat meter that if someone reads past the first few pages (or maybe even paragraphs) I've got a good chance of keeping them for the duration. Editing should significantly improve the proportion of browsers who read on.

So, I'll let you know if the edited version of the book turns out to be any more popular than the original. I'll even carry out a cost/benefit analysis on the editing process and see if it was money well spent. Hell, if the feedback is positive I might even send the book out on its rounds once more in the faint hope of finding a publisher. If I'm successful, that really would be money well spent.