Saturday, February 15, 2014

Do NOT Self-publish Your Stuff Before It Has Been Professionally Edited, please!

True story: My ex, our daughter, and I, along with his wife #2 and their kids, were dining out for our young adult daughter’s birthday. Our server brought out the birthday dessert, and we sang the birthday song. Suddenly, a fashionably-dressed woman appeared at our table to wish our daughter a happy birthday and to present her with an autographed copy of the woman’s book. Nothing like that has ever happened to us before! When we got home, I looked the book over. The cover was well done, and the story seemed like it might be interesting. When I finally got around to reading it, I was so disappointed! What looked like a professionally done book was self-published and riddled with punctuation and word mistakes—not misspellings, but wrong words spelled correctly. For instance, would you be familiar with the expression “mother’s raft”? Me neither. From the context, I deduced that the author meant “mother’s wrath.” There are many such errors in the first two chapters, which is as far as I got. A good editor will notice and correct those mistakes. A good editor will also point out where an author has left a train of thought and never returned to finish it, when an author has used too much description, where an author has explained a scene rather than showing the scene, and where an author has missed the boat by using clichés. (See what I did there? *giggles*) A good editor is not just a comma nazi but someone who will work with you to improve and polish your writing. That book was missing a good editor, and all the rave reviews in the front (likely written by family and friends, I think cynically to myself) couldn’t disguise that fact.

It’s so easy to publish e-books and print books these days that many people, excited about having “finished” their book, hurry to self-publish and watch the $$$ roll in. They don’t realize that 1) as a new, unknown author, people won't be clamoring for their book, 2)  if their first work isn’t a stellar representation of what they can produce, they will not develop a fan base and no publishing house will be interested in picking  up the second or third book, and 3) the book is not truly finished until it has gone through the editing process, which is not done quickly!

You need an editor. I don’t care if you got straight A’s in high school English; every author needs an editor. I’m an editor, and guess what! When I write, I have editors! Even picture books require editors. Our eyes can trick us into believing we are seeing what we intended to type rather than what we actually typed. We need a trained set of eyes to spot what we can't see.

 Just so you know, I’m not critical of people’s day-to-day writing. I don’t critique my friends’ Facebook statuses; it doesn’t bother me when a post contains typos or other errors. Facebook is for sharing thoughts and info informally among friends. But a BOOK, that’s different. The message can get lost in the unedited mess!

Good editing also costs money. “A laborer is worthy of her hire,” as the saying goes, as well as “You get what you pay for.” I once edited a book that had been “critiqued” (for free, of course) by the author’s writing group. The author was offended by all my markings, feeling that her writing group was as good as a professional editor, I suppose. They had complimented her, and here I was, pointing out inconsistencies and factually false information! But the reality was that I was doing the job I was paid to do, and doing it to the best of my ability, applying all my resources as well as plenty of time. Writing groups can be helpful, but their help cannot take the place of the work done by a good editor.

So please, if you are going to self-publish your book, don’t rush into it. Be willing to work with an editor and take things slowly, especially if you hope to make a career out of writing. Present your best work to the public, and you’ll avoid reviews that complain about  technical mistakes in your writing. Not only that, but your message will stand a better chance of being clearly understood.

Disclaimer: I don’t tell you that you need an editor to get your business. My services aren’t advertised here or elsewhere, and that is because I stay pretty busy with one publishing house and word-of-mouth work, which is how I like it. I’m telling you that you need an editor because I want you to publish your BEST work!

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UPDATE: A reader has privately informed me that I should not suggest that my services are never available. So I will amend the statement above. While I do stay busy, I feel confident that I could handle small editing projects, such as children’s picture books. At any rate, it never hurts to ask. 

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