There is always something more to learn. Both the writers and the editors should always avail themselves every opportunity to improve on their skills.
An editor who knows his stuff can transform a manuscript into a market success. Considering the large population of children at all school levels in Nigeria today, there is no doubt that the country is in dire need of more publishers and not just more published books, but more publishable books.
Prestige authors, also known as personality authors are sought after by publishers. These are the people with enough clout to attract attention to their published books.
They provide ready market for their own books and the publishers are always eager to ride on the wings of their fame rather than publishing a manuscript on a wing and a prayer.
Categories of people, for instance Wole Soyinka, J. K. Rowling, celebrities, a country’s president, a well-beloved king, a retired Chief Justice of the federation do not need prayers and fasting before a well-established publishing house agrees to publish them.
One shortcut for an unknown writer to get easily published by traditional publishers is when he enters his manuscript or book in a national or an international competition and wins.
Writing for a competition provides an impetus for coming up with a manuscript that will be good enough to get the attention of publishers, even if it does not win the targeted prize.
Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA) is such an organization that has been promoting publication of works of such yet-to-be-known writers, by some well-established publishers.
Another one is Nigeria Prize for Literature by Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas Ltd. Many competitions can also be got from Commonwealth Writers and many other sources on the Internet.
As discussed above, a great percentage of unsolicited manuscripts, especially fictions end up being rejected by publishers.
Unsolicited manuscripts are those that are submitted to the publishing companies for publishing. They are not asked for by the publishers.
For many reasons ranging from being substandard works to inadequacy of funds on the part of publishers, the manuscripts are mostly rejected.
According to Okwilagwe (2001), even though few numbers of unsolicited manuscripts are published, there is the possibility of publishing all solicited manuscripts.
Because ‘manuscripts are solicited on the basis of available opportunities on the publishing list.’ It should be noted that such works mostly concern school textbooks.
An author may avoid the prospect of being rejected if he decides to fully finance the publishing of his work, i.e. to self-publish his own work.
He owns all his rights and receives 100% of the profits. However, he is faced with the task of finding his own editor and designers, marketing his own work and so on.
But the most important thing here is that he will get his work published.
Vanity publishing is also known as subsidy publishing. Vanity publishers will be ready to publish a manuscript for a fee.
The vanity publishers will charge the author to assign the book an ISBN, for the editing, the design and the production services.
The offering of these services makes a remarkable difference between self-publishing and vanity publishing.
Perfect editorial activities
The editorial contribution in producing a great book is also non-negotiable.
After the author has come up with a great manuscript, the next step in producing an outstanding book is finding a competent and dedicated editor, whether a freelance editor or an editor from a well-established or a small-scale publishing house.
This is regardless of whether an author is self-publishing or not.
While I recognize the different functions of different types of editors, especially in a big publishing house, the general editorial work on a manuscript already acquired will be the focus, rather than the individual editor’s inputs on a manuscript.
The editor is responsible for the development of a manuscript. The quality of the development of a manuscript by an editor will go a long way in determining whether such a manuscript will be a success story or not.
Some practical steps in editing will be considered and various editorial inputs, which could be of great help in turning a manuscript into a masterpiece, will also be examined.
As already explained, the concern here is not on different editors input, but rather, it is to discuss the general editorial input on an already acquired manuscript to make it publishable.
This is regardless of whether it is a freelance editor or an in-house editor of a publishing house.
The editor here supposedly combines the work of a content editor with that of a copy editor, line editor, and the proofreader. He is a kind of an all-round editor.
This however does not presuppose that any editor should be able to handle any work. Editors should be clear on what they can handle and what they cannot.
For instance, it is assumed here that the editor of a manuscript on a technical topic is an experienced writer. And he should be a more experienced writer than the author for that matter.
Technical editing may involve inconsistency in usage, in significant figures, ideas and statements conflicting with general scientific knowledge, correction of data and charts, which only an experienced writer in that field may be able to handle properly.
A lot of irreparable damage is sometimes done to a good manuscript by young in-house editors in publishing houses when an experienced writer is brought in only as an assessor of the already edited technical work, which is sometimes the practice by some publishers.
General editorial work
In general, the editor is expected to use his skills to help the author in developing his manuscript, usually from initial draft to make it worthy of a read and publishable.
According to Okwilagwe (2001), ‘The editor reads the manuscript to ensure consistency of content, organization and sense. He identifies all ambiguities, logicalities, errors and inconsistencies.
The house-style is maintained by ensuring internal consistencies of spelling, grammar, punctuation and number.’
This about sums up the major editorial input on a manuscript but we shall highlight some of the editor’s responsibilities in turning a manuscript into a mass-market product at this stage.
Save a copy
The editor’s first assignment is to save a copy of the original draft before working on it even when he is using track changes.
This is in case he inadvertently or purposely deleted something that might turn out to make sense later on.
Check for copyright infringement
The editor should make sure that the author has not violated any copyright law. It has to be stressed here that the editor should be a wide reader.
If not, he would be handicapped in preventing the author from committing this crime.
Check for consistency in spelling
If the word processor has spell check function, this can be of help to a level. On the issue of spelling however, one of the greatest problems authors have is in the erroneous use of the American English.
As Areo (2008) observes, ‘In Nigeria, as a British Commonwealth country, the spellings should be completely and consistently British or anglicized.
Non-British spellings will be marked errors in candidates’ English language examinations at certificate level.’
By application, this means that a single quotation mark style (‘ ’) rather than the double quotation (“ ”) should be used since the latter is obviously American.
The double marks are however used for a quotation inside a quotation.These are some pairs that are commonly confused:
When most people hear of editing, what immediately comes to mind is grammar. Of course editing is a lot more than grammar check.
But the fact still remains that grammatical problems stand out in an editorial job. Please permit me to reproduce this short text which I created for discussion with some editors recently.
There are at least 17 grammatical errors that can be identified in it. The errors are among the common errors that authors more often than not commit.
- I’ll see you again on Sunday, next week (Not next week Sunday)
- This had been going on every day (everyday is written as one word only when it is used as an adjective (i.e. everyday event).
- She had started having a headache frequently. (headache is a countable noun)
- She had met him in Ibadan (Big cities, states, countries, etc. take in, not at)
- leaders converged on
- Not just good at maths
- Not just good at maths (‘math’ is American)
- he was an authority on maths
- Learning the English language was difficult
- she had requested the assistance (for is not used after request when ‘request’ is a verb).
- who graduated from the University of Ibadan
- subjects such as economics and accounting (‘etc.’ is not used with ‘such as’ in this sense).
- the assistance of the late Mr ‘Randy’ Cole (the should precede late as used here.)
- Mr Randy Cole (Mr, Mrs, Dr, etc. should not be written with a full stop in the British English.)
- The university demanded Mr Cole’s resignation (Just like request, demand does not take ‘for’ when used as a verb.)
- died after contracting AIDS
- Birds of a feather flock together
Areo, Agbo (1995). ‘Editorial Strategy’ Lecture delivered at the Nigeria Publishers Association Training Programme on Editorial/Production, Ibadan, Oyo State.
Areo, Agbo (2008). ‘Manuscript Assessment and Editing’ in Book Publishing and the Reading Culture in Nigeria, Ajibola&Oluyide eds., Manifold Grace Publishers, Ibadan, Nigeria.
Igudia, E. (2014) ‘Book Indexing with the Computer’ Lecture delivered during the Nigerian International Book Fair, 2015, Lagos.
McPhee, N. (1978). The Book of Insults, London: Futura Publications Ltd.
Okwilagwe, O. A. (2001). Book Publishing in Nigeria, Ibadan: Stirlin-Horden Publishers (Nig.) Ltd.