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?