The Truth — Editing IS Important

After reading this article:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/01/30/indie-authors-struggle_n_1242935.html

I find that there’s a lot of truth in what it said. As many of you may or may not know, I’m not only a writer, but an editor as well. I’ve mostly edited anthologies for various small presses. I can tell you, straight up, that yes writers need to learn to edit better. Maybe that’s why I cringe so much over self-publishing, because I know that most all authors have no idea how to use basic grammar and punctuation! The biggest area where most writers are lacking is punc in dialogue, and this is something you can learn from reading and paying attention.

Being an editor can in itself be a nightmare because of the authors who resist even the slightest change.

I’m going to share two of my recent editing experiences with you, but I’m not going to name names.

I was asked by a small press to edit a single author collection recently. It was okay, but overall I wasn’t impressed with the author’s collection. I did my best to make it better — something that can be done by simple editing — but the author fought me the entire way, as did the press. Apparently things like consistency, pacing, and accurate research didn’t matter to either of them. Still, I barreled on, letting them have their way. Hell, as long as they were happy, right? I finished the project, sent it in and thought we were done. Then they went behind my back and reedited the book without telling me. I was really mad at first, but now, looking back a couple months later, I’m glad my name isn’t on it.

Flip side.

At the same time I was editing the collection, I was editing a novel for someone who gave me permission to change anything I wanted. I had fun with this project, and once I sent it back to the author, they were told (when they submitted it) that it was the best edited manuscripts they’d ever had submitted. Needless to say, this author wants me to work with them on future projects.

Granted, no, I’m not perfect. No editor is and you will find mistakes in every book you read; it’s just a matter of you knowing they’re mistakes. Most basic readers won’t notice some of the smaller mistakes in punctuation, because they themselves don’t know the rules, but the stronger readers do know, and they’re the ones giving the reviews. They’re the ones willing to spend money to buy your book.

I think that one of the reasons the ‘free ebooks’ are good for self-published writers in that the consumer won’t really complain about it not being perfect, because, after all, they’re not out anything other than reading time and they might think your story was cute. This leaves the door wide open for anyone — who can string words into something that looks like a sentence — a place in the publishing world. It’s not a grand place, but they feel good because they can tell everyone they have a book out. I can promise you though, they aren’t going to be raving about your book to their friends or anything. You aren’t going to get a fan base or a following unless you put some effort into it.

If you want to actually do something with your writing, you have to take it serious before anyone else will. You have to learn plot, characterization, pacing, consistency, punctuation:EDITING. Or, you’re going to have to get someone to do it for you, and let them do it. You’re going to have to shell out some cash to get your book professionally edited.

Warning, though, this can be a trap too. Some editors aren’t that much better at editing than the self-publishing grammar slobs (not all of them are, some do know what they’re doing, but it’s a select few). You should read something edited by the person you want to have edit your stuff, or at least ask for a sample or references.

With me also being a writer, most people who ask me to edit for them have read my stuff. But, if possible, I still give them a reference.

A sample can be very simple. Ask them to edit a paragraph up to a page of your manuscript — I mean, if you’re going to shell out up to $800 for a professional edit (yes, it could be that much), you want to know you’re going to be happy with the product you’re getting back, right?

Another quick editing experience I had once… A press I was working with asked me to proof read a book one of their authors had paid someone to edit for them. OMG, it was a mess. Their run on sentences were out of control and I had to insert commas everywhere, and spelling inconsistencies, wrong words, plot holes, etc, were rampant. I could not believe this book had ever been edited. Shouldn’t an editor know the difference between isle and aisle? *groan*

It’s not easy editing, and that’s why all of us hate it so much. But if it’s done right, editing can make your book shine and make you look good!

So, either take the time to learn what you need to know to make your work better, or find someone who can help you. Because if you want to be taken serious as an author, you have to first take your work serious and put your best manuscript forward.

 

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©Rebecca Besser, 2012. All rights reserved.

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