Have you ever written anything which, once proudly presented to someone else, turns out to be a total turkey which is either illegible or incredible?
What often sets bestsellers apart from books which “just do okay” is polish, and by polish, I mean editing. I wish I had a percentage for all the self-published works out there written by people who think they don’t need editors. I don’t, so I’ve made one up, and put it into a graph. Have a look at this, it’s lovely.
Sometimes the value of a good edit is unquantifiable. Such as, when your editor points out that your story has lost its way and nudges you back on track, or when you’re told that Chapter 9 is boring, pointless and annoying, and should be surgically removed immediately.
But nothing infuriates me more than reading a self-published book full of spelling mistakes, grammatical errors, continuity errors and generally unforgiveable oversights, such as:
1. Spelling mistakes
This is self-explanatory, but can be remarkably more expansive than you think. It’s not just typos. Some people just don’t get that spellcheck can only check half of what you right. 🙂
You’d be surprised how many times you’re told that something “wrecked havoc on her life”, for instance, and the book I’ve just finished reading had a doormouse in it. I once read a self-published e-book which had a fairly decent storyline and structure. But after textual offences too numerous to count, the expression “like a bulldog chewing a gasp” appeared. The ensuing rage caused me to break every plate in the house. Get an editor.
2. Grammatical Errors
We are all guilty of these, and there is absolutely nothing to be ashamed of:
missing commas which make your brain breathless as sentences run on and on without a break and which run the risk of the reader missing the point entirely as they struggle to remember the start of what they were reading
commas where no commas should ever, be
apostrophical abuse to within an inch of it’s life
over-use of: colons; and, semi-colons;
relative clauses, what are never clear whether to use which or that or where or who
The point is, when you’ve written them, it’s impossible for you to see them. You must therefore ask someone else to look for you. Get a bloody editor.
3. Continuity Errors
When you’re on your 42nd draft, it’s quite unlikely you would notice that Farquhar, whose name you changed to Alistair in your 38th draft, has made a reappearance on page 684. Or indeed that Penelope, who you decided should not go to the ball on page 58 and rather, in a fit of female empowerment, should stay at home to read a good book and broaden her mind instead, should not therefore be coming home from said ball on page 72 any more. For the love of God, get an editor.
4. Tangent Terror
It may well be that the six chapters which finish the first third of your novel contain some lovely literary grandstanding of which you are very proud. That purple prose-ridden piece in particular, describing the horrific childhood of a peripheral character who only appears once more before the end of the book, is like poetry in a paragraph. It doesn’t matter that it has nothing to do with the main plot. Even if your readers think it’s irrelevant, they will appreciate the beauty of your prosaic prowess.
No they won’t. For pity’s sake, get an editor.
5. Generally Unforgiveable Oversights
An editor will be just the person to kindly and gently point out that World War II did not start in 1966 because of government-sanctioned telephone bugging. If you think you don’t need an editor for this sort of stuff either, you’re welcome to your own opinion. Just don’t ask other people to buy your book unless you want a lot of very shouty people making a scene on GoodReads or Amazon, and an excruciatingly large proportion of hard-won but speedily-lost readers agreeing with them. In the name of all that is wonderful, get an editor.
Would you buy a medicine which hadn’t been tested and certified, or a car with no windscreen wipers? No, of course not. You expect the people who make these things to make them properly. A book is no different. It is an author’s duty to ensure their work is up to acceptable standards before releasing it on the innocent public.
Research candidates carefully, choose wisely, and accept changes calmly. But above all, get an editor.
Brilliant! Yesterday my editor pretty much told me that a chapter that I was hugely proud of was ‘boring, pointless and annoying, and should be surgically removed immediately.’ I was gobsmacked; nodded that I’d have a look at it and after a bit of re-reading and playing around with it I decided it was ‘boring, pointless and annoying, and should be surgically removed immediately.’
Thank you Tara for this insightful blog which should prove to be a help to all self published authors who are wondering if they could get away without an editor.
No! You couldn’t!
There is always that awkward period in between getting the right feedback, feeling injured but then agreeing to it, isn’t there? It’s a toughie, but part of the territory – it takes courage to climb the harsh mountain in pursuit of a better product, so well done you Carolann, you should be congratulating yourself at least hourly!
And my editor!
Thanks for the glowing endorsement, Tara! We aim to serve.
Thanks, Book Nanny! Authors ask a lot of you, but nobody loves our literary darlings like you do :0
You make it easy, my dear. Look at the superb talent I’m dealing with. Fantastic post and it gets better and funnier on each re-read. I can’t wait for the next one. Must go. Have to frame a graph or two!
Well, I don’t know what you have against bulldogs chewing gasps, but that aside — absolutely bloody brilliant post! I laughed, I cried … as an editor myself, I thank you for shining a light on this topic. And also for clarifying the matter with your informative charts and graphs.
I know. I was pretty down on bulldogs there. It’s the way they look down their noses at me… but well done on keeping the candle steady for finely tuned literature 🙂
This is a fabulous post! I sent it over to my author Facebook page and said that it is just what I would like to tell all the self-published authors of books I’ve read but will never review. We all need to read this, again and again. I do have a whole section of my current work -in-progress that my editor feels is pointless. I of course love it. Time to reassess. Thanks for a great post. Think I’ll hang out with you for a while.
Thank you for the kind words and a pleasure hanging out with you! I know what you mean about never reviewing badly edited stuff – I feel the same. It somehow seems pointless to point out mistakes to people who mustn’t care…
The most entertaining argument for an editor! And let me tell you… that ain’t no mean feat 🙂 x
I’ve made so many clangers I have to entertain myself with my own mistakes! A great editor is worth their weight in gold!
Found this from your latest post. It’s good. I mean this.
Had a conversation with an author recently and we discussed how authors and publishers make excuses for poorly/non-edited books.
So I take the time to send an email, saying excuse me, you do still have a few errors in your published version, you may wish to ask your editor to revise it (what editor) or employ an editor.
Oh yes, I’ll try and find the time to check it over, thanks. Er, thanks? It was bad the first time you checked it over, think you will sort it out on your next read?
People need to bite the bullet. I can’t say it, because I’m an editor, but you said everything I would and very well too 🙂
Thank you! Glad you liked it. I wrote it in a fit of pique, really, after a run of terribly edited self-published reads. It particularly irked me when the story was good – I found I was actually mad at the author for ruining what could have been a great experience!
I’m assuming the author in question is still lurking in the shallows? If they won’t get help, they can stay there.
Most self-pubs that I read, are not well, if at all edited. Or the ones that are, still have enough errors to make me grown. Sorry groan 😉
I wasn’t clear, I had discussions with two very different authors. One who was happy to put his hands up, and we discussed the ones making excuses, and the other… made excuses.
People need three things, assuming they can write. A very good cover, a good editor, not their flipping partner or best mate from the book circle, and then, if they have got something half-way decent, they need to learn how to promote their book.
How difficult is that? I guarantee to find errors in unpro edited books. Easy, just easy. I can usually find them in edited ones too sadly.
But the main point is, a poorly edited book ruins, just ruins, the reading experience and savages the reputation of self-publishers. I read one recently, think I namelessly wrote about it, where I lost interest in the thin plot and started playing chase the error.
An editor costs money, but if you want to be taken seriously…
As I said initially, you said it well. Um, off to do some editing 😀
Oooh! Can we all play chase the error? There’s more than a few people hanging out here who might be interested in that 😛
I see what you mean now. I thought it was an author who was all talk about getting it right, but in the end just wouldn’t bother.
(and between you, me, and moderation, I’ll always bother!)
Homophones. They aren’t just for Grindr. Horses have reins for the love of God, not reigns! Again, something you can’t see yourself, especially if you don’t know the difference! grr, homophones are one of those things that annoy me beyond all reason…
Grindr! Love it. Bet the editors don’t, though.
Wonderful – as a busy editor not touting for clients I am still really pleased such an amusing and informative post is out there in the world! I have an editor for my self-published books – and I AM an editor (and it’s not me). Good work!
Thank you, Liz! Still, no matter how much I rail and scream, I’m still coming across a shocking amount of unedited stuff. Makes me snarl sometimes…
Yes! Thank you for writing this. Of course, you’ve used ‘chew a gasp’ so well that it might end up in the vernacular after all. 😉
Oh, dear. You really think so? Who can I pay off to have it retracted? Or should I just try and replace it with something equally ugly? 😀
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Love your posts on self-publishing – can you recommend anyone in Ireland for professional editing? Want to get my book self-published properly. Cheers!
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Certainly – and kudos to you for going the professional route…. it’s so important (as you may have guessed, however I poke fun at it). Have a look at the Book Nanny – http://www.booknannyfictioneditor.com – Bernadette Kearns is also a member of the Irish professional editor’s association and may be able to recommend someone else to you if her time is already booked out.
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Excellent, thank you!
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