If you can’t afford an editor, you shouldn’t be publishing

This review of R.L. Mathewson’s book over at Dear Author and the comment thread made me want to pound my head on my keyboard.  Especially the fangrrls who seem to think that commenting on abysmal copy editing is an attack on an author.  Not long after reading that head-scratcher, my daily browsing led me to this article at Galley Cat on the need for editing in self-published work; in the comments an author noted that many authors (presumably herself included?) cannot afford an editor.

An author cannot afford an editor?  I cannot take that claim seriously.  In fact, I call foul on it:  even if a wannabe author can’t pony up the cash for a professional editor, he or she can and should have a circle of partners/readers who are capable of catching at minimum problems like punctuation misuse, homophone errors, etc.  An aspiring author who has made no effort to acquire something like a critique group or professional support network has bigger problems than a bad review, and probably should be questioning their professional strategy.  An author who “cannot afford” an editor is an author who is saying that she is not interested in investing in her work and should not be attempting to publish.

Look, I know some authors think of their books as their children, meaning they believe them to be utterly perfect and beyond criticism.  But to the extent authors are looking to make a living writing, i.e., by selling their books, they need to be business people.  And self-publishers more than any other authors need to understand that producing a book requires quality control; their adoration for their own words doesn’t absolve them of that necessity, especially if they want others to pay to read those words.

I’ve complained before, here and on Twitter, about how poor copy editing in books will cause me to DNF them, and poor copy editing in samples will cause a lost sale.  It’s demoralizing to realize that readers are becoming inured to crappy production values in books, self-published and otherwise, as noted in the comment thread at Dear Author.

I haven’t read anything by Mathewson, and I’m unlikely to, especially in light of the fact that s/he seems to think that editing on the fly AFTER publishing a book is acceptable.  It isn’t a defense to an author that they edit or fix poor production values after publication; it’s an admission that they were too cheap/sloppy/lazy/interested-in-making-a-quick-buck-without-quality-control to do it the first time around.

Frankly, I’ve reached the point where I’m reluctant to purchase any self-published book by any author based on the sloppy copy editing.  Why waste my time and money on wannabe authors who don’t respect their work or my time and money?

About these ads

16 Comments

Filed under Book related

16 responses to “If you can’t afford an editor, you shouldn’t be publishing

  1. Pingback: Shuffling Through A Book-less Desert: Wins The Internetz! | The Naughty Bits

  2. Word seconded.

    There are exceptions. If you’re publishing a memoir that you only intend for your family to read, they’ll excuse the occasional typo. (Heh … Unless they’re like my family.) In that case, letting your cousin who’s an English teacher look it over and leaving it at that is fine.

    If you actually intend the sell the thing? Yeah, hire a professional. And note well that being a high school English teacher, or a college English teacher, or holding a PhD in English, does NOT make someone a professional copyeditor. I’ve known people who thought they were qualified, but didn’t know that the period goes inside the quotes.

  3. Could not agree more! Poor copy editing is a dealbreaker. Sadly it’s not limited to self-pub. I’ve read some books from publishers that really should do better. I don’t mean the odd typo – those can slip by all of us, even with rounds of editing and proofing (as much as it pains me!), but consistent sloppiness throughout a book. I recently read an excerpt from a prominent ebook romance house with a character discussing the books of “Hemmingway.” I shit you not. And this was in the EXCERPT! Inexcusable.

  4. Pingback: Editing, Self-Publication and a New Era | Amelia C. Gormley

  5. Great post! I completely agree with you. Every business needs an investment to get started. Heck, even Avon or Gold Canyon Candles or whatever salespeople need to come up with upfront money to get themselves going. Being self-published is NEVER an excuse for poor editing, so self-publishers need to put their best work out there, somehow, someway.

    I’m tired of people coming up with excuses for why they couldn’t have anyone check their work. As you point out, if their “network” is so poor that they couldn’t come up with a single beta reader to help them for free, they’ve got bigger problems. Namely, their book will disappear into obscurity because writers can’t make all the sales themselves.

  6. Pingback: Top Picks Thursday 08-16-2012 « The Author Chronicles

  7. Pingback: Errors and Expectations | Something More

  8. Pingback: Stumbling Over Chaos :: Lachrymose linkity

  9. Colin Leonard

    Your comments have a valid point. However I am busy loading a novel onto lulu for self-publishing and just do not have the funds for editing. Do I give my family a holiday or get my book edited? No contest. I price my book at what I personally have put into it. Plus I believe people want a good story and will pay for it. If some readers life is ruined by a misplaced comma so be it. At least my novel will be copyrighted.

    • First, I made in clear that “affording” editing is more than a financial decision.

      Second, choosing not to have your work professionally edited is your business decision. As a consumer, I don’t care about your personal finances any more than you care about mine. However, announcing that your family holiday is more important than editing certainly gives me insight into the respect that you hold for your work and for the readers who will be paying for it. As a reader and consumer, choosing not to waste my time and money on books/authors who don’t value quality control in production is my business decision.

      Does a single misplaced comma “ruin” a reader’s life? No, but it goes back (again) to quality of the good produced and the reading experience as a whole.Grammar and punctuation are basic building blocks of the craft of writing. Weakness in them leads to weakness in the story; if a storyteller’s writing is bad enough, it becomes a distraction to the reader and a detraction from the experience of reading the book.

      Think of it this way: if a baker uses salt instead of sugar, will her cookies still be edible? Probably…but if I bit in expecting a sugar cookie and got a mouthful of salty dough, I certainly wouldn’t finish the cookie. No, I’d complain to the bakery, ask for my money back, and be wary of giving the baker a second chance. Why would my response to a poorly edited book by a self-publisher be any different?

      • Colin Leonard

        Thanks for you honest reply. You are right of course. I wrote a stupid reply. I was irritated with myself,work and my financial position regarding editing. 122,000 words is an expensive edit. Please accept my apologies.

  10. Pingback: Most popular posts | Shuffling through a book-less desert

  11. I’m going to say somethign different. I want to invest money in my novel, but I have family who believe it’s still a pratice novel and I have no money of my own. And I can’t find myself a criqitue group because I don’t have transportation besides my parents. Online criqutes require me to criqute 3 pepole before I can get a few chapters reviewed.
    I have no money to pay for my novel and you’re demanding I get somebody? You’re crazy, or maybe I’m just ranting.

    • General observation: the people who are cranky about this opinion seem to be the people who want to be published, who want readers to pay for their writing, without wanting to deal with the actual hard work of writing and publishing.

      I’m not demanding anything: more than a year ago, I wrote an opinion piece from the point of view of a reader irritated with sloppy, lazy, unprofessional work self-published by aspiring authors, and explained my perspective; you’re the one taking it personally. My perspective has not changed. To the extent that anyone publishing their work expects to be paid for that work, they are producing a product for consumers. Consumers have a right to expect a certain quality control to the products that they buy; the standard QC for publishing is critique, proofreading, and editing. “Affording” those things, either by the investment of time or money, is a business decision for the writer. My business decision as a consumer is to not buy, or to return upon discovery if I have bought, sub-par work. An author’s personal financial or work situation is irrelevant to me as a reader; certainly authors do not take readers’ personal financial situations into account when writing or pricing or selling. (I’m laughing at the idea of any author offering lower than market price on their books just because I complained that I can’t afford to buy as many books as I like.)

      When I read your comment, I first considered deleting as trolling; surely it must be trolling, because no one could be that naive, entitled, and immature. But upon second read, I considered that maybe you are young, which would explain those things. I don’t know, and I don’t really care.
      Here’s how your comment reads to me: “I want to be a Writer! But people won’t make it easy for me! No one will fork over to me money and/or time without expecting something in return! I want to join a crit group long enough to get critiqued but am not willing to actually participate legitimately. Boo hoo!”

      Reality check #1: No one has to give you anything or support your dream.

      Reality check #2: Online critique groups might reasonably be wary of new joiners who abuse them, and require that new members critique others before being able to receive critiques themselves.

      TL;DR — If you want to be a “professional” writer, start acting like a professional rather than whining that your problem is that people either won’t help you or are crazy.

  12. Pingback: Apparently I’m crazy | Shuffling through a book-less desert

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s