Edit Already!
Why You Need An Editor

I have to admit I get a vicarious thrill when I catch an editing error in a novel that’s gone through traditional publishing. Like the time I was reading a Harlequin Romance and the FMC put on a white robe, and then a couple of pages later took off a black one. Or another book where the hero was taking off his boxers before he unzipped his pants. Or in the first Harry Potter book where instead of “neither/nor” I read “neither/or”.

When it comes to editing, nobody’s perfect – not me, not you, not even the “big six” of publishing. So I’m not asking for perfection here. What I am asking for is a modicum of professionalism.

One of the best things about an e-reader is all the free e-books out there (and I’m talking legitimately free, not something from a bootleg site). However, in many cases I’m finding you get what you pay for. A lot of the books I’ve been reading on my Kindle lately are Indie books or self-published books (which are not the same thing. If you need an explanation, the Book Fetish has a great one here). Some of these books are awesome; some of these books are . . . not.

And when I say some of these books leave something to be desired, I’m not talking about the story itself, I’m talking about the presentation. It’s not just formatting that people are being careless about, it’s grammar and spelling as well. And that’s what really bugs the crap out of me.

Okay, yes, I’ve already mentioned that these books are free. But that’s no excuse. One of the books I read had a really great story, but it was spoiled by the fact that the grammar and spelling were all over the place. Would I pay money for a book by this person? No, I would not, even though I enjoyed the story immensely. I probably wouldn’t even download another free book from them because of the poor quality.

Another one of these books I’ve read recently flashed back to an earlier time and made reference to events that hadn’t taken place yet. It pulled me right out of the story and after that I spent more time looking for more incidents like this (there were several) than I did paying attention to the story.

Editors are not evil monsters, people, especially the independent editor (ie. one that doesn’t work for a particular publishing house). Okay, yes, an editor will cost money, but it’s money well spent, particularly if you intend for people to pay for your work. Shop around if you have to; find one who’s willing to respect your “voice” while pointing out the flaws in your story.

If you really can’t afford an editor yet, have someone else read over your work – preferably someone who will be honest and knows a lot about grammar and spelling. Better yet, get several someones. Remember, spellcheck only finds words that are spelled wrong, it does not point out the wrong word (such as: then/than; there/they’re/their; two/too/to; affect/effect).

Just because you self-publish doesn’t mean you shouldn’t polish your work until it shines!


Dolly said...

so true Carol. I think it's one of the reasons that self-publishing has a bad rep, because lazy writers make us thing all self-pub books are barely edited. Not true of course, but I often find it's a case of taking the least amount of risk. If I'm not confident of quality, I go to authors and publishers where I know the standards to expect. Not perfect, as you said, but at least acceptable.

But whatever the medium of publishing, poor editing is no excuse. There will always be things we miss, simply because we get used to our words, but it's all part of the job.

Jamie Gibbs said...

I completely agree. Though I don't take it into consideration when I review a book, editing error really detract from the story for me, and lessen my overall enjoyment of the book. Self published books are by far the biggest culprit of this, and I tend to cringe when I see these (errors of tense are my primary bugbear).

Bish Denham said...

I SO agree! If a person wants to be a writer, GREAT, but get the basics out of the way first. I know I'm a bad speller so I check everything. Thank goodness for the little squiggly red line that magically appears.

Switching tenses and jumping from POV to POV is one that gets me too.

Margo Lerwill said...

Until a few days ago, I would have thought anyone would agree with this. Then I ran into a forum where a writer was arguing that even correct grammar didn't matter so long as the reader could "figure out" what the writer meant. I was even more stunned when a few people agreed. They were all quite proud of never having paid for an editor. 0_o