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The Importance of Being Edited

Self-Publishers EditingThe Importance of Being Edited

Self-publishers the world over are now looking up to John Locke,  the first indie to break the Kindle million-seller mark, and Amanda Hocking, who moved from self-publishing to traditional publishing with a $2 million publishing deal with St. Martin Press.

These icons of the self-publishing and Indie world are the tree that hides the forest of self-publishers who never make a cent from their writings.

One of the biggest culprit for self-publishers’ failure is sloppy editing. A book is not a blog. A blog can get away with a modicum of faulty punctuation, typos, grammar mistakes, errors in formatting etc., and still be successful, as it is free, articles are short and readers know that bloggers are time strapped and have lower expectations from a blog than from a book.

When buying a book, a reader has the right to expect a finished and polished work and expects a comfortable reading where the eye conveys the story to the mind. Mistakes of any kind are a distraction and detracts from the pleasure of reading.

In the new age of peer reviewing, where book reviews can make or break authors, dispensing from hiring the services of a good editor is tantamount to literary suicide. Book reviews are deemed the single most efficient tool in book promotion. On Amazon, anything less than 4 stars will pull the book down in Amazon algorithms and reduce the book’s visibility.

Frankly, who would give a 4 or 5 star review to a book littered with mistakes?

 Commenting on the bad name that self-publishers give to their trade by skipping the editing process, a January article in the Huffington Post  quotes an anonymous letter sent by a group of successful traditionally published authors

PLEASE EDIT MY BOOK. Even if you know it will sell and get reviewed because of my name and my previous books, even though you recognize the many good qualities in the manuscript I have turned in, if you think it needs a serious revision, please, please, ask me to do it…Please do not let me go out in public this time with my slip showing and parsley on my tooth…And while we are on the subject, please employ a copy editor who understands the basic rules of grammar and has a working knowledge of the subject of the book sufficient to make useful and necessary changes in the manuscript instead of adding egregious errors while omitting to find crucial mistakes and typos. I love our nice expense account lunches, and I love you, but above all, I really, really want you to edit my book…”

This means no-one, not Shakespeare, not Mark Twain, and certainly not self-publishers should be conceited enough to think that they write flawless copies that should not be reviewed and edited by at least one external editor.

Yes, professional editing costs money. Yet, the time invested in writing the book also has value. For a writer who cares about his creation, sending his book out in the world without editing it is like sending their cherished daughter to the prom in her sweaty gym outfit.

What are her chances of becoming the prom queen if she did not even shower before showing up? So yes, one goes shopping for a dress before the prom, showers, and puts make up on, and styles hair and nails. None of this guarantee to land the crown, but it gives a fair fighting chance.

For a book, though the dress is the book cover, the editing is the shower, the make up, the perfume, the manicure-pedicure, and the hair styling.

Amazon’s shelves are the prom, so dress your book up before sending it there…

Filed under: Book reviews, Editing tips, Editors · Tags: ,

8 Responses to "The Importance of Being Edited"

  1. Eve Littlepage says:

    Hiring an editor for “CELESTIAL BODIES IN ORBIT: Memoirs of The Unknown Stripper” had a value for me that went far beyond grammar correction and comma placement. Linda Maree was a sounding board, cheerleader, and cosmic companion through my process! I’ll admit I was already ‘cheating the system’ a bit. Knowing my educational background (or lack thereof) would have me hand-tied when it came to being grammatically correct, I tried something different. I created an fictitious author, named Stella Mars and sat down with a tape recorder in ‘her’ parlor to tell my story. So everything Eve is saying is dialogue, and thus not grammatically perfect. However, even with that artistic license, Stella’s commentary had to be spot on and I wanted to make sure mistakes were not a distraction from the flow of the story.
    As I said in my Acknowlegements, “Linda’s positive and enthusiastic feedback has been a blessing as she shared her intelligence, insight, and grammatical skills with me. I only wish I had another book ready to edit so I could continue working with her!”
    Thank you for your post Patricia!
    Best to you, Eve

  2. Damyanti says:

    Well said.

    I agree there are differences between US and UK grammar conventions. I also agree that an editor alone cannot catch all errors. No single person can– which is why publishing houses employ a team of copy editors and line editors, along with proofreaders.

    In the absence of such a team, an indie author can take help from freelance editors and proofreaders, and if that’s not possible, ask a set of readers– friends, colleagues.

    But writers need to respect themselves and their work enough to polish it as much as possible.

    Thanks for saying it like it is.

  3. “Who would give a 4 or 5 star review to a book littered with mistakes?” You would be amazed. A lot of people simply don’t see even very large numbers of spelling, grammar and punctuation errors – or, at least, they don’t mention them in their 4- and 5-star reviews.

    That’s not an argument that editing is unimportant. (I used to be an editor, so I’d hardly argue that.) But lack of editing doesn’t appear to be as fatal as you and I think it should be to a book’s ratings and reviews.

  4. I note a comment about grammar in the UK and US. There are some differences in grammar and spelling, as well as the placing of quotation marks and punctuation. I find in general UK readers have a greater knowledge of the differences than US readers do. Maybe it’s because UK readers read books from both countries. a lot of US fiction is on UK bookshop shelves. The US being such a vast country I’m not sure about the reverse, and those UK traditionally published writers who do publish in the US often have their books edited to a US version for the US market.

  5. I totally agree, but even with two editors and a proofreader people can still find errors. Traditionally published books have errors. I’m not sure what the future holds for me. I just might start submitting again. It’s very frustrating when you pay somebody a huge chunk of change there might still be errors. I do wonder if grammar differs from the US and UK?

  6. Finding the right editor who can do the job entirely is tricky. I feel like 2 or 3 editors are sometimes needed with certain books since people who read mine almost always have different ideas for improvements and they’re usually right. Even though readers are not professional editors, I find having six great readers giving feedback to be incredibly valuable.

  7. Leanne says:

    Yes! Authors need to respect their readers and edit their work. I agree with what you say here. Though, I contend that all writers should put their best work forward even in blog articles. Especially if they are using their website/blog as a platform to promote their book. The writing on a blog should reflect what a reader will find in an author’s book.

    I love your metaphor here about sending out unedited work is like sending your daughter to prom in a sweaty gym outfit. So true!

  8. I love the shower/editing analogy. Great post! As a freelance editor, I couldn’t agree more. ;)

    Lynnette Labelle
    http://www.labelleseditorialservices.com

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