To win an award is such a fantastic affirmation for writers. I know. I’ve won a few and can confirm that validation kept me energized for weeks. I’ll never forget the exhilaration of first place in a national magazine with my first-ever submission.
My kids had to darn near peel me off the ceiling.
So whenever I hear of a colleague or friend winning an award, I do “the happy dance” in my heart, post congratulations online and try to attend any celebration that honours that win.
But when I’ve had something to do with that reason for celebration, then some of those wins are a bit more special.
The Joy of Editing
As an editor, I’ve loved discovering the stories of others writers in unpublished form. It’s been a privilege to move into the creative process of another writer. Their trust is precious to me and forms the foundation of our working relationship.
And it is wonderful when I can do the happy dance for them: when they are ready to submit or to publish. When they have a launch. And when they win awards.
Just last week, I got to do the happy dance for Pauline Kiely, author of No Poverty Between the Sheets. Pauline had previously published her family memoir but asked me to work with her on a new edition.
That new edition was entered in the 2019 Independent Publisher Book Awards. Known as the IPPY Awards, they were launched in 1996 to “bring increased recognition to the deserving but often unsung titles published by independent authors and publishers.”
So I was thrilled when Pauline let me know that her book won the Silver Medal in the Canada East Best Regional Non-Fiction category! And so grateful that she let me know how much she appreciated my work.
Pauline Kiely on Facebook
Thank you Ruth Walker your edits made this book a winner!
Few award options are available for independently published books. A notable exception is the prestigious Leacock Medal for Humour, where jurists accept entries of self-published books by Canadian authors. Author Terry Fallis sent the last 10 copies of his independently published first novel The Best Laid Plans to win the 2008 medal, well deserved accolades and so much future success.
Make it Award-worthy
There are many other self-published books in the world that deserve success like Pauline and Terry have enjoyed. But just like the world of traditional publishing, few great books win awards.
Nonetheless, books that haven’t been put together in a professional package — self or traditional — are far less likely to win readers, let alone awards. From the cover to the last page, you don’t want your book to be full of errors or amateur missteps.
If you’re fortunate, you may have excellent book designers, copy editors and proofreaders in your circle of family, friends and colleagues. But chances are you don’t. So avoid playing with chance.
Unless you are skilled as an editor, hire one to help you polish the text. Should you choose to go the traditional publishing route, agents and acquisition editors expect professional standards in all submitted material.
If you opt to publish independently, you want readers to stay firmly immersed in your story. Just think for a minute about how little it takes to kick you out of something you’re reading: a typo, a logic glitch or a complicated and confusing scene.
Finding an Editor
Editors Canada has over 400 editors listed online. Most independent publishing/printing services have a list of freelance editors you can hire. And traditional publishers employ staff and freelance editors.
No matter where you find your editor, make sure it is someone who understands your book’s purpose. It is a tender relationship — one that balances collaboration with principles. But when it is the right editor for your book, you’ll find no greater champion, dedicated to taking your book to the best possible form.
No manuscript is perfect. But the right editor can help you come close enough to smell the binding.
The Last Word
Writescape offers both coaching and editing for writers at all stages of the process. It’s been our pleasure to see writers achieve their goals for their books and their careers. Some of our authors:
Sylv Chiang, author of the CrossUps series middle grade novels with Annick Press.
Fred Kennedy, author of Huareo, Story of a Jamaican Cacique
Janet Stobie, author of To Begin Again and Elizabeth Gets Her Wings
Felicity Sidnell Reid, author of Alone, A Winter in the Woods