Step5: Publishing Steps – Review

As established in the previous step, finalize with the manuscript. Give it your best input because after submission you will not be able to have additional content other than what the editors request for. If you need help putting your manuscript together, join a writing class.

Why Get a Manuscript Review?

The major focus during manuscript review is the general quality of the book. It is important to establish the overall completeness, scope and readership of the manuscript and whether the presentation and accessibility of the book is suitable.

The first read-through: With the above aims, the first read-through is a skim-read. It helps form an initial impression of the manuscript and get a sense of whether the eventual recommendation will be to accept the manuscript for publishing or send the author to a writing coach or class. If the data is too raw and needs a lot of rewriting or fresh writing, it is better for the author to take time to write a fresh with the guidance of a writing mentor.

The second read-through: Even if the opinion is that a manuscript has serious flaws, ensuring a read-through the whole manuscript is critical. This is very important because there could be some really positive aspects that can be communicated to the author. This could help them with future submissions.

A full read-through also ensures that any initial concerns are indeed correct and fair and helps in deciding to publish the manuscript or send the author to a writing mentor or class.

The Review Process Answers the Following Questions:

(i) A summary of the general quality of the manuscript. Does the manuscript add new knowledge to the topic of interest? Is there clarity, accuracy, helpfulness, and accessibility of the material.

(ii) Is the manuscript well written? Is the text clear and easy to read?

(iii) Is the manuscript unique and original in any way on the topic of interest? What does it add to the subject area compared with other published books?

(iv) What is the main question addressed by the manuscript? Is it relevant and interesting?

(v) Are the conclusions/deductions consistent with the evidence and arguments presented? Do they address the main question posed?

(vi) Is the author advancing the Christian faith and establishing the centrality of Christ? If they are writing on a controversial topic, do they have a substantial case? If not, what would be required to make their case credible?

(vi) What are the manuscript’s strengths and weaknesses? It is these weaknesses that the author will be guided to work on with the help of the editor.

(vii) Who is the primary audience for the content? For what level would the published book be read? Would we envision the published book being used by others?

(viii) The table of contents. Are all the necessary topics included in the table of contents? Are there any suggestions for improving the topics or the organization?

(ix) Consistency of the chapters’ structure. The strength of publishing is in consistency – of writing style, chapter lengths and structure. For instance, if an author has reflection questions in some chapters and not others, this will be highlighted. If there is an opening quote for chapters, that should be consistent in all chapters etc.

(ix) If the paper includes illustrations, tables or figures, what do they add to the manuscripts? Do they aid understanding or are they superfluous?

(x) How would the published book fair against any available competing books?

(xi) Plagiarism: This is the practice of taking someone else’s work or ideas and passing them off as one’s own. If there is suspicion of plagiarism, including self-plagiarism, it’s important to have it raised at this stage. Most editors have access to software that can check for plagiarism.

While editors are not out to police every manuscript, when plagiarism is discovered during review phase it can be properly addressed ahead of publishing. If plagiarism is discovered only after publishing, the consequences can be worse for both authors and readers, because a retraction or republishing may be necessary. We will look further into this later.

Author’s Input to Revise and Update the Manuscript

From the feedback in this phase, your editor or book manager will come back to you with two possible outcomes:

Outcome one: Go back to a writing class or working with a writing coach. This is a good step for the manuscripts that need a lot of re-writing to be done. Do not skip the step of writing a superior manuscript – it will boost your book when finally published.

Outcome two: Updating the manuscript – your editor or book manager will share the highlights on areas you need to work on. In this phase, you can choose to work with a developmental editor to improve on your content before getting to publishing phase.

The Highlights From Review Phase Include:

(i) Missing sections that an author needs to write afresh. For most manuscripts, this includes preliminary pages – dedication, acknowledgement, foreword, introduction and conclusion (we will look at these in depth in the next stages).

(ii) Hanging stories and incomplete chapters. Sometimes writers leave a story hanging with the hope of completing it at a later time then they forget it. The review phase will highlight any stories that were left hanging and the author will be required to complete it.

If the manuscript has chapters that feel incomplete ie development of the concept, the author will be asked to complete them.

(iii) Irrelevant stories or sections. Sometimes authors get carried away with exciting stories that do not fit in the manuscript or those that do not advance the concept of the manuscript. These will need to be deleted or repurposed to fit in the manuscript’s concept.

(iv) Review of the title and subtitle. Sometimes the title and content of the book do not match or complement each other. If this is so, the review feedback will highlight this for the author to give input.

(v) Weak plot and setting.

According to Wikipedia, a plot is the sequence of events in which each event affects the next one through the principle of cause-and-effect. The causal events of a plot can be thought of as a series of events linked by the connector “and so”.

A setting is the time and geographic location within a narrative, either non-fiction or fiction. It is a literary element. The setting initiates the main backdrop and mood for a story. The setting can be referred to as story world or milieu to include a context beyond the immediate surroundings of the story.

Sometimes authors do not work on a strong plot and setting and these two can be rectified in review phase.

The purpose of manuscript review step…

…is to amplify the strengths and advise or guide the author on how to mitigate the weaknesses. At the end of the process, a superior manuscript that moves to the publishing phase is what is needed.

For more information to start the process to getting published, go to CLC Kenya’s Facilitation of Self-Publishing.

Next we will look at preliminary pages. 

Training by: Dr. Muthoni Mercy Omukhango

Publisher in Africa | National Director @CLC Kenya |Authors’ Manager @African Christian Authors Book Award-ACABA | Marketplace Minister | Patron at CLC Kids and Teens | Advancing God’s Kingdom through literature. 

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