The Proof is in the Proofing

Pardon my crankiness, but since throwing my Kindle against the wall would be foolish (need a new term for wall-banger) I’m going to vent right here. Okay, indies, listen up. It’s time for a come to Jesus meeting. I’m reading a lot of your self-published fiction. I’m buying a lot of your self-published fiction. I am getting fed up with the sub-par editing. I will give you a pass on formatting errors. The technology is new, not all programs are compatible, hiccups occur. Eventually the bugs will get worked out. But the editing? Indies, that’s on you.

Read the following and ponder if any of it applies to you.

  • I don’t want an editor destroying my vision or homogenizing my unique voice or style.
  • I don’t know how to find an editor.
  • Editors cost too much.
  • I’ve been writing a long time, I even have traditionally published credits. I don’t need an editor.
  • I can edit and proofread my own work.
  • My mom (spouse, friend, next door neighbor, mailman) edits my work for free.
  • Come on, my book only costs .99 cents ($1.99, $2.99) and I don’t make enough money to justify paying a professional editor. Readers shouldn’t be so picky.
  • Editors are too slow. I need to get my work published as quickly as possible.
  • Traditionally published books are full of errors and they charge a lot more than I do, so obviously readers don’t care.

If even one of the above applies to you, keep reading. I’m talking to you.

I don’t want an editor destroying my vision or homogenizing my unique voice or style. Aren’t you precious? An editor’s job is to smooth out your prose, untangle your mangled messes, clarify the muddy patches, snip the excess and otherwise make you look a lot smarter. An editor is your partner in shaping and refining your work. To claim your writing is so unique, your vision is so special, your style is so… stylistic that it can’t withstand the pressures of a red pencil is to doom your writing to obscurity. Readers can’t see your vision when poor editing distracts from your words.

I don’t know how to find an editor. I’ll bet you found a place to make a cover. Fifty cents says you’ve found all sorts of places to promote your work. A great cover and promotion might get you a few sales, but if readers get disgusted with the sloppy prose, careless grammar and incessant typos, the best cover in the world won’t sell your next book. You can find freelance editors on the ‘net. Attend workshops and conferences and put out the word that you’re looking for an editor. Ask around at your local library or college. Join a critique group that has professional writers as members. They know editors. They might freelance as editors to supplement their income.

Editors cost too much. Skilled editors are often artists in their own right. That’s what you’re paying for and it’s worth every penny. Budget for editorial costs. Better to skimp on the cover and promotion and spend more on what really matters– making your prose shine. Hell, you’re an indie. That means you’re fearless and innovative and open to new ideas. Maybe you have something to barter. Trade services. Maybe work out a commission deal or monthly payments. If you want to be more than a dilettante, if you take your writing seriously, if you want to make a living at it, then you have to bear the costs.

I’ve been writing a long time, I even have traditionally published credits. I don’t need an editor. Ahem, bullshit. You might be an excellent craftsman, a skilled wordsmith, an accomplished professional, but trust me, no matter how cleanly you write, you have your quirks and failings. You miss opportunities, overwrite in places and drop the ball in others. You need an editor to point out where you’ve failed to say what you meant to say. You need a proofreader because quite frankly, no matter how many times your brain sees the missing word or translates the not-quite right word into the right word, on the page it’s still wrong.

I can edit and proofread my own work. Maybe. Probably not as well as you think. You need fresh eyes, objective eyes to make your writing the best it can be.

My mom (spouse, friend, next door neighbor, mailman) edits my work for free. And you’re getting what you pay for. No offense to the lovely, helpful people in your life, but proper editing takes skill and experience. Your editor needs to be well-read, bordering on fanatical when it comes to grammar and punctuation, have a sharp eye for details, and possess the patience and dedication to keep working until everything is just right. Editors are professionals. If you want to produce professional writing, you need a professional to help.

Come on, my book only costs .99 cents ($1.99, $2.99) and I don’t make enough money to justify paying a professional editor. Readers shouldn’t be so picky. I don’t even know what to say that. I don’t even want to talk to you. If you have such disdain for your readers and so little pride in your work, maybe you should consider another career.

Editors are too slow. I need to get my work published as quickly as possible. Good editing takes time. Just as there are no shortcuts in producing a quality piece of fiction, there are no shortcuts in making it shine. Why, exactly, do you need to publish as quickly as possible? If you’re putting out poorly edited crap, it doesn’t matter how much or how often you throw it out there, readers will catch on quickly that it’s not worth reading. In the long run, quality counts far more than quantity.

Traditionally published books are full of errors and they charge a lot more than I do, so obviously readers don’t care. And your point is? They’re slobs, so I can be a slob, too? Readers do care. This reader cares. Every sloppy sentence, incomprehensible paragraph, misplaced modifier, plot inconsistency and mixed up homonym is like a pebble in my shoe. It’s an irritant. Irritate me too much and I will remember the source of the irritant and not buy your other books. I won’t review them on Amazon or gush about them on my blogs or tell all my friends on Facebook and Twitter. Just how many readers can you afford to irritate? One? Ten? A thousand? You’re an indie writer, a proud breed with the opportunity to break new trails. Show your pride by emulating the best and never taking the “easy” road by slobbing out and telling yourself readers don’t care.

Okay, rant over. I feel better now.

 

 

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14 thoughts on “The Proof is in the Proofing

  1. Jaye, any time you want to rant, I say, “RANT AWAY!” As someone who’s currently going through the process of editing my editor, let me say “DITTO!” to everything you said today. I’ve just been professionally edited for the first time and it’s been a huge learning curve on so many levels. I’ve learned so much through this process and know that my book will be infinitely smoother, cleaner and professional product than the 13th draft I submitted to her. To anyone reading this and wondering “I don’t know…do I really need to get edited…can I get by without it…it is really worth it…”, the answer is an unequivocal,”Yes you do! No, you can’t! Yes, it is!”

  2. As a reader, I have to agree. I’m not that picky, but I do notice things. Like a missing ‘not’ or a tense change. Those might be intentional, meant to relay some subtle meaning to the story, but more often than not they are just mistakes that confuse the reader. I’m noticing it a lot right now because I’m reading GRRM’s latest beast and I have NOT come across one typo. Half way through that beast and not one (that I’ve seen). It makes a difference. I’m never confused and after about a sentence into where ever I’ve left off – I’m immediately in the story and nothing draws be out. It’s nice.

    Now if he would just get on with the plot and stop farting around… 😉

  3. The thing about a beautifully written book is, nobody notices the writing. It’s all about story and character. When the editing is sub-par, it’s a constant reminder. Like I said, a pebble in the shoe.

    I don’t think I’ve ever read a book that didn’t have a few typos (heck, my dictionary has one!). I can ignore a few, maybe five per book before I decide the editor should be fired.

  4. Oh gorgeous rant! Lovely! I know a great editor and he’s quite reasonable. But I hear over and over and over again from idie authors….”I need an editor but I can’t afford an editor so I’ll just publish my book as is.” OMG!
    I was once an editor and I’m pretty confident, but I’m well aware that I miss stuff. I have two proof readers. They catch small mistakes I make – because when you read something over and over again, you really don’t see it – you see what you expect to see, missing the spelling error you made on page 35.

  5. Thank you for saying this. I totally agree. Maybe, as a retired English teacher, I’m picky, but I really hate spending even $.99 on a poorly edited book when I’m only going to be able to force myself to read a chapter or two of it. I have a hard time understanding the rush to publish something that is not the best work you could do. If a writer really cares about the characters and the story, why not take the time to make it shine?

  6. I’m very lucky in that my writing buddy is also an accomplished editor. We do a lot of back and forth and quid pro quo on the editing front. I freelance edit, too. I prefer story editing and line editing. Proofreading blisters my eyeballs.

    To give an idea about what a painstaking job it can be, when I wrote for Harlequin they always sent me galley proofs for one last look see. This was a formatted manuscript that had been through at least two copy editors and two proofreaders and still I’d find bloopers. The more eyes on the copy, the better.

    I think some writers somehow believe that needing an editor makes them less of a writer. That it’s a sign of weakness or some such nonsense. That’s not the case at all. That’s like saying a heart surgeon is a wuss because he needs a team of doctors and nurses to assist in the operating theater.

    Maybe the next logical step for indies would be to bring in editors as full partners. The editor’s name on the cover. Maybe even a royalty deal. A good editor is as much a collaborator as a co-writer, so why not?

  7. Jaye, this so needed saying, and saying again and again. So all you eager writers out there, if all you want to do is publish something, then publish away. You live in a world where you can do that.

    But if you want a career, happy readers who want to read your next book, and/or the respect of your peers, don’t imagine you can get away with half-assed writing and editing. Hell, I’m an editor, and I won’t publish my novel until it’s been edited by another editor, and not just anyone who’s hung out a shingle, but someone who knows his or her job (if you don’t know someone like this, ask around. Ask for samples). And then it will get a separate proofing run by a sharp-eyed pro who hasn’t read it yet.

    Does it cost money? It probably will. And it probably will pay for itself many times over the life of your career.

    • I’ve never met an editor/writer who didn’t realize she didn’t need an editor no matter how accomplished she was as an editor or writer.

      And you are dead right, Bridget, about reader response. Readers do remember careless work. They do remember the annoyance. Readers will forgive much, but rarely do they forgive sub-par editing.

  8. Pingback: Top Picks Thursday 11-2-2011 « The Author Chronicles

  9. Pingback: One More Time (Nooooo!) The Final Proofread « J W Manus

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