Writer's moments

Welcome Alicia Rasley…

…as guest blogger today.  Alicia Rasley is a Rita-award winning author and nationally known teacher of writing workshops. She teaches composition and tutors students in two state universities. She grew up in the mountains of Southwest Virginia but now lives in the Midwestern flat land. Her book The Year She Fell has been a Kindle fiction bestseller.

Her blog is at: www.edittorrent.blogspot.com, and her website is www.rasley.com. Her writing book, The Power of Point of View, is still available from Writer’s Digest Books. All her books can be found on her Kindle page and are listed at the end this post. Stop by and click the “like” button or add a comment about one of the books—this really helps authors spread the word!

Thanks for stopping by, Alicia, take it away…

Editing With Myself, Part One

Hi, all! Thanks to Nancy, who invited me to guest-blog today. She and I are both editors, so I thought I’d blog about editing myself. That is, I’m currently editing my old books (my “backlist”) to upload for sale as e-books. Well, you know, I’ve found it’s a lot easier emotionally to edit another person’s book!

Let me explain first what I’m doing.  The publishing rights to these books (mostly Regency romances published in the ’90s) reverted to me in the last couple years, just in time to catch the wave of indie publishing. So first I had to scan the old books, then format the manuscripts for the publication platforms (each of which, of course, require different formats), commission covers, then edit the stories.

Just in case you are considering something like this yourself, or are wondering whether it’s actually possible for an editor to edit her own work, well, I’ll take those tasks one by one. I’ll blog about the mechanical aspects of re-doing the backlist, scanning and formatting, this week, and next week talk about the more sensitive aspects (cover and editing).


This ought to be the easiest of all, right? I mean, I went out and bought a high-speed scanner that can do duplex (two-pages per sheet) scanning. But… these are old books, and they weren’t printed on expensive paper in the first place. So I had to denude the books, or whatever you call it. Disassemble them?  Anyway, I had to pull off the cover, then separate each page from the binding. Most of the pages are in fours—two pages on one side of the sheet and two pages on the other side of the sheet. So I had to cut the pages apart. Of course, with such old cheap paper, I managed to tear a lot of them, and had to tape them back up. No fun. I also had to pull off old glue from every sheet. Then I had to scan them. Some pages would jam and wouldn’t print, so I had to re-do them separately. Also, the optical character recognition program, though pretty good, wasn’t able to correctly read anything in italics (like all the chapter headings). What I thought would take a few minutes took hours for each book.


This was no fun. It was just tedious work, to tell you the truth. First I had to make this a Word manuscript rather than a bunch of scanned pages from a book. That first meant deleting all the headers and page numbers, necessary in a print book but not in an e-book. Of course, there were headers on every single page. It was easy enough to get rid of my name and the book title with global find, but page numbers? I decided to delete (through global find/replace) each digit from 0-9. Surely then I’d get every page number! Yep, and I’d also deleted every date, every mention of time and amount, and every incidence of my hero’s regiment (the 52nd Light became the nd Light. And he was very proud of his regiment, so it was mentioned often).

Then there were all the tabs that started paragraphs. And the spaces between scenes and chapters—what might look like two lines in the print book turned into eight in the e-book version. And hyphens! I guess I didn’t notice at the time, but my old publishers, to save ink or something, frequently broke multisyllabic words at the end of a line. No big deal, except that in the OCR process, Word “hid” the hyphens. They wouldn’t show up in the manuscript, but they showed up in the versions my readers bought. Very ugly. I fixed. (Email me if you want the long boring instruction on how to do this.)

What else? Well, you know, back then in the typewriter and typesetter days, we used to put two spaces after a period. (I still do that, actually. Muscle memory. You’d think if my body has forgotten how to do a cartwheel, it would forget to put two spaces after a period.) That was pretty easily fixable with global search and replace.

But as long as I was going through to find all the extra spaces and hyphens, I started looking for repeated incidences where the OCR had interpreted the words wrongly. A particular issue was “cl,” which was usually read as “d”.  And “in” was often rendered  as “hi”. “Burn” was always rendered as “bum.”  Interestingly, the biggest re-interpretation was in names, where the poor beleaguered OCR tried to find more common words that fit those shapes. So “Dorie” became “Doric” (as in “column”) and sometimes “Done,” and “Gwen” had a sex change and became “Owen.”

As I said, this was mostly just tedious work, but necessary, especially for poor gender-confused Gwen.

Is anyone else preparing older books for e-publication? What’s been your experience?

Next week: Changing the cover, and editing the copy. (Am I the only one who thinks “copy” is sort of an insulting term for Golden Prose? It’s like calling actors “the talent.”)

Alicia Rasley’s books:

The Wilder Heart, a Regency novella

The Year She Fell

The Reluctant Lady, a Regency novel

Royal Renegade, a Regency novel

Poetic Justice, a Regency novel

The Story Within Plotting Guide

The Power of Point of View


  • Alicia Rasley

    Sorry I haven’t responded, all! Have been driving to Ft. Benning for our older boy’s graduation from basic training. It was very moving, but also amazing– he stood there for two hours in the son in that uniform and those pointy patent leather shoes! You have to understand– he wore nothing but sneakers till he was 16.

    Liz, I’m a lousy typist, so however bad the scanning is, it’s better than my typing. It’s interesting to see the mistakes of “translation”.

    Bethany, the self-promo is a real bear. I’m trying to do just one thing a week. There’s an unlimited supply of options, but no one actually knows what will work. “LUCK” is a big element!
    Carrie, yes, you’re right– it is really tedious. The most annoying part is deleting all the stray extra spaces that suddenly appear in the middle of words.

    Robena, and each format has different problems! The major publishers are having the same problems too– it’s just such painstaking work, and then you save and upload, and something else will go wrong. My husband did a couple books with photos, and he’s had a whole lot of trouble with that, especially the position of the picture on the page. A lot has to do with the fluidity of text on the “page” because you can set the font size. So if you make the font size better, suddenly a picture is on a new page, or “Chapter 4” starts at the bottom.

  • Liz Flaherty

    Wow, this is interesting, and–to me, at least–horrifying! I was thinking of just re-typing my book, because it needs to be brought up to date anyway, but am not sure that will be any easier.

    Looking forward to next week’s episode.

  • Carrie Trimble

    Um, ugh. My deepest sympathies on the brain cells lost to the scanning and editing process. 😉

    Thank you, though, for sharing this information. I’d call it enlightening but that seems to gloss over the tedium of the task.

  • robena grant

    Thanks for this explanation, Alicia. I knew it was hard to format for all of the different readers, but did not know how hard. : )

    This explains why there are many errors in e-pubbed books. I’ve found them frustrating to read, and to tell the truth, have stopped reading what I know are backlist or self-pubbed books because of that.

  • Bethany

    Wow! That’s a lot of work on the tech side before you even get to editing the “copy”!

    I never thought I’d want to go the indie route because of the formatting drudgery (and all the self promotion necessary) but after a couple of disappointing royalty statements, that option is looking better and better. I’m looking forward to reading your next posts on this topic.

    Best of luck!