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What Should You Expect from a Self Publishing Book & Manuscript Editing Service

As an author paying a publisher to produce your book, you probably have your doubts about whether they are being honest when they say they like your book. Of course they’d be all schmoozy because they want to make you happy and keep your money coming in, right?

You have every right to question the objectivity of any publisher who tells you anything like this:

  • “We want to publish your manuscript because we really like it.”
  • “Your book is exactly what we are looking for!”
  • “Your manuscript is one of the few we have accepted of the thousands submitted to us every year. This is a great honor.”

None of those things is actually true, or even relevant.

Any self-publishing company will publish nearly any manuscript as long as you can pay the bill—Dog Ear included. It’s what we do. All self-publishers are in exactly the same business: selling publishing services to authors to get their books into the market.

Dog Ear has many tools to help you get your book into the market in whatever shape you choose, but we always advocate for the very best shape possible, for your reader’s—and thus your—benefit. For example, our design team can make any manuscript look good, regardless of the quality of its content, but you can’t give the reader a great experience by disguising a poor manuscript with two pretty covers and attractive type. Editing, however, helps you create that good experience for the reader. Our editors have to make your manuscript as good as possible. Our reputations—and livelihoods—depend on it: If we’re not good, we can’t make a living.

I’ll let you in on a little secret: When I hire editors for Dog Ear, I want them to be friendly—but they have to be damn good at what they do—honest, helpful, and fully committed to improving manuscripts. Their allegiance is to your manuscript, not necessarily to you.

Edit Manuscript

When we edit a book, we’re really hoping for a few key features:

  • Engaging, interesting content
  • Skillful storytelling and/or topic explication.
  • Understandable plot line
  • Clear progression of events/ideas
  • Clear purpose
  • Content that fulfills the purpose
  • Text written for a specific audience

We prefer to have a story that’s got these down and needs mechanical work, rather than the other way around. Ever heard of a diamond in the rough? We like those. They’re enjoyable to read but also give us something to polish. (We are editors, after all.) A really good copyeditor can fix your grammatical and spelling mistakes with just some time, talent, and thoughtfulness, but if a story doesn’t already have some shine, sparkle, and personality, no amount of editing is going to help. We editors take for granted that manuscripts will have mechanical errors, misspellings, and, occasionally, incorrectly used words. We have the same problems when we write. That’s why we have people edit our work, too, and why we don’t judge manuscript quality based on mechanics.

Editorial Process

Because I’m the managing editor, every manuscript edited at Dog Ear crosses my desk, and I ask for the editors’ thoughts about them. Below are some examples representative of feedback I receive. Notice the difference in response to a manuscript needing a lot of work (1) and one already in excellent shape (5).

  1. This author, unfortunately, used the same formula over and over in his collection of stories. His stories all have the same types of characters with no depth. Every time I started reading a new story, I knew how many main characters it would have and how the tale would turn out; the story arcs were completely predictable. All of the stories are very limited in scope and drag on past satisfactory endings. Almost every story could be cut in half without detriment.
  2. There is nothing remarkable about this book. Overall, it could be written far better. It’s got some good info and personal stories, but it’s kind of hard to follow at times, and it often fails to fulfill its stated purpose. It’s sort of part personal story and part guidebook, doing neither very well. It can’t keep its focus.
  3. This book is only okay. It’s inconsistent in how well it’s written. Parts of it are fantastic; parts are frustrating and confusing. So, I guess I’d say this is a mediocre book, assuming the author goes through and does another rewrite and polish. It’s kind of too bad that this isn’t more concisely written—there’s a ton of great information gathered here.
  4. It’s really a good book. I’d rate it highly if the author would rectify the mechanical issues. It’s really well-researched, thoughtful, and well-organized. Plus, it shares a great deal of helpful information concisely. I like how the author starts with the hero’s journey, weaving it throughout the book while citing works by others. Solid book here, I think.
  5. This manuscript is fantastic. Not only does the author have a good grasp of writing and mechanics, but the story is detailed and exciting. Its setting and focus set it apart from other procedural/crime novels. This is great work! My only slight irritation with the book is the somewhat sexist portrayals of women in the story, focusing on appearance and dress more than with the men in the story. However, in this way, the author sounds no different than most male narrators, so people won’t be surprised by it. I did suggest edits in a few places to address this as well.

As you can see, we work on books running the gamut of quality. That quality looks like a bell curve—most books we see are really only okay, so when we work on a really good manuscript, we rave about it. When we tell you something in your book needs changed, it isn’t because we want to put our stamp on your book—it’s because in our professional opinion and experience, that change will improve your book. Conversely, if we tell you your book is good, it’s because your book stands above the others we see and we know it will stand up to any product published by any traditional publisher. If you’ve received wonderful feedback from a Dog Ear editor, you might think it’s being laid on too thick; we may come across as too enthusiastic. That’s because we see so few excellent books that when we come across those diamonds in the rough, we want to tell the world about them. For that reason, Dog Ear created its Award of Literary Excellence—so we could highlight the books that we truly enjoy working on. We love reading good stories and are committed to getting good stories out in the world so others can share our joy. We eagerly await their release so we can get our own final copies, and we tell friends and family to watch for them.

Book Editing

When you choose any of Dog Ear Publishing’s editorial services, you will receive honest—and occasionally challenging—feedback about your work. My editors and I are honest. There’s no back-patting here for a mediocre job. If your manuscript is only okay, or even what we consider terrible, we’re not going to be mean or rude, and we’re not going to humiliate you, but we will bring up the difficult truths. We might congratulate you on your effort, but we are going to tell you that you have a lot of work ahead of you to make a really good book.

Every manuscript edited by my team will come back to you better. If you follow our advice, it will also be the best it can be. As a Dog Ear author, you can be confident that we’ve done our best for you and your book, and if you’ve received a Dog Ear Award of Literary Excellence, congratulations, because you’ve earned it and you should feel proud.

Stephanie Stringham
Stephanie Stringham

As a child, I read everything I could get my hands on, and I dreamed of getting paid to read books and of helping people. With this dream, I propelled myself through college to earn bachelor’s degrees in English (minor in Writing and Publishing) and Business Administration while working as a peer tutor in the university writing lab and interning with a publishing company in college. After graduation, I stayed on with the publishing company, where I fell in love with book publishing. Editing is my avocation. I began freelancing right after college, while earning a master’s degree in Health Communication and then working as an editor for Eli Lilly and Company and for the Defense Finance and Accounting Service. I have edited everything from class materials and newsletters to master’s theses, scholastic imprints, professional journals, and books in all genres. I feel my calling as an editor is not only to improve text but also to teach those with whom I work so they can constantly improve their writing. When I’m not editing books, I’m planting and growing things on a small homestead in Indiana with my husband and two children.