I teach a class on self-publishing at a local community college, and the subject of editing comes up often. And the more I work with indie authors, the more I’m amazed that many seem to think that editing doesn’t matter that much (in this post I’m discussing more grammatical and punctuation editing versus content editing). Now before you say wait, Renée, I do edit, let me explain. There’s a difference between indie authors trying to edit themselves, and even those indie authors who hire someone who says he/she is an editor, but these editors clearly don’t know what they are doing, versus those that hire a quality editor. Read on…
Indie Authors – What Readers Say About Poorly Edited Books
If you think editing doesn’t matter, spend a few minutes on Amazon and read some of the one and two star reviews. I have, and here’s a sampling:
Good Character development. Predictable too early in story. Very poor editing. Looks like just they used spell check on the computer versus checking for context. This made the story stumble and there are too many good books out there to waste time if the author doesn’t take time to ensure quality. Will not try another book just for the editing.
Editing and grammatical errors were distracting. I am not planning to read more in the series.
I could not get past the juvenile writing style and errors. Don’t waste your money.
I could go on. I see many that reference indie authors, and how the readers wish they’d known the book was self-published. I know you’ve heard it all before. But since the these kind of reviews keep coming, it bears repeating – get a quality editor for your book(s). You’ll be glad you did.
Indie Authors – What To Do
You can’t do anything about reviewers that just didn’t like the story. Heck, if your books start to sell, you’ll get those reviews. You can do something about books that are poorly edited. And you should want to, because if you don’t, you are losing book buyers. It’s as simple as that. So find a good editor. Don’t just rely on yourself or your friends. You need someone who is trained and/or experienced at editing.
Indie Authors – Where To Find A Quality Editor
The question of where to find a quality editor is one I get asked a lot. In my case, I got lucky. My editor is a friend of a friend, and she’s amazingly good. She used to work for the state, editing political and legal documents. She knows what she’s doing. Even so, I went through a process with her, where we talked through what I expected and what she could deliver. Some places you might look for an editor are:
- a local university or community college
- local writing/critique groups
- from other author recommendations
You can certainly look on the internet or Twitter, but I’d be careful to vet the editor (see below). And yes, you will have to pay. If you want quality in your work, you should expect this.
Indie Authors – What To Look For In An Editor
If you’re looking for an editor, these are some questions to ask:
- what are your qualifications?
- are there other published works that you’ve edited, so I can see if there’s anything in the reviews about the quality of the editing?
- do you have references, other authors who will vouch for your editing?
- how much do you charge? and if I find that you’ve made numerous mistakes, what recourse do I have (I’ve never had to do this, but given the quality of some of the editing I’ve seen, I’d ask this)?
You’re paying this person to help you, so it’s in your best interest to vet the editor carefully. If the editor is above-board, he/she shouldn’t have a problem with any of these questions.
Indie Authors – If You Insist On Going It Alone
If, however, you decide you don’t need an editor, here are some things you can do that might help you prevent the glaring errors that many readers complain about:
- don’t rely on yourself only – you will miss things
- have someone who is extremely meticulous read your manuscript carefully to catch errors
- better yet, get a few meticulous people to read your manuscript
- be aware of mistakes you are prone to make and check for these (for example, I frequently write the word peak when I mean peek)
- read your work out loud, slowly…if you do, errors have a tendency to point themselves out to you
- if you’re not sure about something, look it up
- and this one seems obvious, but spell-check, multiple times (I truly think some authors don’t do this, based on what slips by)
Be careful of letting family or friends help, unless you are sure they can be honest with you. I’m paraphrasing JA Konrath, who says you need to find someone who will tell you where your book stinks, and where the errors are. You don’t want the friends who will tell you that your book is great.
I’ve been told I’m anal with my works, from editing to prepping the books for release. I take this as a compliment. I also know that things slip through, but at least I’ve made every effort to get a perfect book out there :).