Afterthoughts

Some additional thoughts on yesterday’s post about the need for editing in self-publishing.

First, I think I made clear within the body of my post that “affording” editing is not necessarily a monetary issue.

Second, there are exceptions to every rule:  I’m sure there are self-published authors with rigorous editing processes whose work is better than the best of what NY publishing has to offer.  The problem for me as a reader and consumer is that the exceptions are thin on the ground in comparison to the volume of poorly produced self-published books for sale via any number of outlets.

Third, issuing new editions or uploading new versions of a book does not resolve the editing problem or close the gap.  As a reader, it is not my job to keep track of if/when an author decides to fix things in their book or to seek out new versions. The version I bought/borrowed/obtained-in-whatever-legal-manner is what I have to evaluate and either enjoy or discard. The book that is published (and bought) is the author/publisher’s opportunity to make a first impression; fixing it after the fact is too late.  If an author/publisher needs to keep fixing problems, perhaps they should not have made it available prematurely. Frankly, the whole “do over” atmosphere engendered by uploading new versions strikes me as beyond unprofessional.

Fourth, pointing fingers at NY publishing and claiming that their editing standards are declining is in no way a defense to an e-publisher or self-publisher’s lack of quality control.  In fact, that defense leaves a bad impression on me, as if a self-publisher is saying that since external standards are low, they have nothing to live up to or measure themselves by.  It’s like the whole “everybody’s doing it” defense.

The choices an author makes, in terms of pursuing a contract with a Big Six publisher, going with a smaller e-only imprint, or self-publishing, they are business decisions that she needs to evaluate.  Self and e-only publishing may net a larger immediate return, but pretty uniformly offers less production assistance.  When the author chooses to self-publish, s/he is exchanging institutional support (for better or for worse) for immediacy; that is her/his option.  But that doesn’t change my expectations as a reader and consumer that there be some minimum standard of literacy in the book published.

Is it elitist to [be] complaining about the lack of quality control in self-publishing rather than criticizing other publishers first?  I suppose you could say that, although I think that’s obfuscation as I mention above.  But since the vast majority of ebooks I sample, purchase, and reject are either self-published or e-published by small pubs rather than the Big Six/NY publishers, my criticism was directed to where I am personally seeing the problem.  Do I think Big Six publishers are blameless?  No, I don’t.  And I’ve posted here complaining about continuity errors and content and copy editing blips in books by Nora Roberts/JD Robb and Ilona Andrews.  But I’ve never opened a NY published book and found a complete lack of direct address commas in dialogue, a misunderstanding of the difference between loose and lose and loss, etc.  Errors, yes, but not in the same volume or even order of magnitude.

I’m sorry that some self-published authors feel that criticism of lack of copy editing, both here and in reviews generally, is a personal attack.  Certainly I could have been more tactful in my title yesterday, but I’m not sorry to have published that post.  Because I’m even sorrier when I spend hard-earned money on ebooks that make my brain hurt with their clunky writing and poor editing.  (And I’ve only written about copy editing, not content editing, which is an entirely different can of worms.)

ETA:  The elitism label is somewhat ironic IMO, since my preferences in genre fiction are so utterly ghetto-ized by mainstream publishing and fiction venues:  genre romance…and gay romance.

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4 Comments

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4 responses to “Afterthoughts

  1. Tamara

    I thought your title yesterday was entirely appropriate and called for. If someone can’t be bothered to try to get it right, she *shouldn’t* be publishing.
    This and your previous post are excellent and should be read by more writers.

  2. Releasing inferior product insults the customer and there’s no excuse for it. I don’t like it from the Big 6 and I don’t like it from indie-land either. If money is an issue, then utilise the services of some beta readers for the copy editing – they’re free. (Content editing, as you said JMC, is another issue entirely).

  3. Pingback: Errors and Expectations | Something More

  4. Pingback: Stumbling Over Chaos :: Lachrymose linkity

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