his is a question I get a lot from authors, especially as we near the final steps of production before publishing. Even after several rounds of editing, many wonder if their book is “ready.”
Can you relate?
There is something a little scary about that final step of releasing your book to the world. Once it's out there, people will read it and form opinions about its content, both positive and negative. Is it good enough? Is it clear enough? Did I unintentionally offend someone with an example or story? These wonderings can keep even veteran writers stuck in editing mode indefinitely, even after professional editing steps are complete.
If you find yourself in this perpetual editing mode, I find it's helpful to reflect on the following.
Is the content grammatically correct?
If your book has gone through the various steps of editing—developmental, line editing, copy editing, and a proofread before print—then the grammar and usage should be fairly sound.
Even with professional editing, however, your book may still have a few typos by the time it gets to print. An acceptable error benchmark, for example, is about three typos per 10,000 words, and this is true for even traditionally published books that have been through several rounds of professional editing!
Obviously, the goal is still to have zero typos. I only mention error rates to help writers understand that perfection may not be an achievable goal, and getting stuck in perpetual editing just delays the transformative work your book will help your readers through.
If your book is clear, concise, consistent, and mostly correct, it is ready to publish!
Perpetual editing just delays the transformative work your book will help your readers through.
Are you moving the reader through a clear path to the solution your book offers?
Hopefully, you've established the solution your nonfiction book will deliver for the reader in the introduction, and you've moved the reader through that solution with each chapter's content.
Let's look at some examples:
Your book about entrepreneurship walks the reader through seven steps to work-life balance when you own your own business. Your introduction clearly communicates the purpose of the book and what the reader will experience if they follow each step. Each chapter (covering one of the seven steps) connects to the idea of finding work-life balance and moves the reader forward in their quest. The conclusion briefly summarizes the book's main idea and invites the reader to go deeper with discussion questions in the resource section at the back of the book.
Your memoir about surviving abuse as a child walks the reader through your life experiences with the lens of what you've learned from them. Each chapter offers the reader encouragement for overcoming their own experiences of abuse by inviting them into the healing process you walked through. The conclusion summarizes your thoughts on healing after abuse and includes an invitation to receive helpful emails twice a month that will encourage survivors of abuse.
Your ninety-day devotional about praying through the Psalms takes the reader through chapters in the book of Psalms that deal with sorrow, grief, loss, and struggle. Each devotional includes a few verses from the selected book of Psalms, brief insight about the verses and their meaning for the reader, and a prayer the reader can read quietly or pray aloud. There are journaling pages throughout to encourage the reader to jot down their thoughts as they move through the content.
With all the examples above, there is a clear purpose to the book's content. If the purpose for writing your book and sharing it with the world is clear from the introduction to the conclusion, it is ready to publish!
What if I still feel like it's not ready, even after reflecting on these questions?
For those perfectionists out there, I see you! It's challenging to release something out into the world that may be judged as flawed in some way, even if the flaws are minor.
With the advent of print-on-demand services through Amazon KDP, IngramSpark, Lulu, Barnes & Noble Press, and other providers, however, you have the ability to upload a revised file after publishing if you find mistakes after pressing "publish." Almost every author I've coached through the publishing process has opted to upload a revised file at some point post-launch. Just expect that this will be part of the process, and you'll likely be less terrified of taking that final publishing step.