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Life, Law & Libros

Shop Talk: Editing for Self-Publishers

6 comments
Shop Talk: a reader's weekly ramblings on the publishing industry, bookstores and/or writing.


Self-publishing. Digital on-demand services have made it easier and cheaper than ever before, and, with the Internet, the same goes for marketing. But certain stigmas have always accompanied self-published works. According to Natalie Whipple, who recently sold three YA books to traditional publishing houses and is now self-publishing a fourth, those stigmas are alive and well today. She wrote a blog post yesterday called "My Formal Apology To All Self-Published Authors" in which she describes how different things look from the other side.

I have mixed feelings on self-publishing. I know there are good stories big publishing houses won't take because they want guaranteed sales. I also know many self-published books have problems that make for a lousy reading experience. The most easily fixed of these problems is a lack of proofreading. (If you're publishing a book, putting it out there for the world to read, for crying out loud, make sure it's free of typos.)

A bigger and less easily fixed problem is editing. Publishers Weekly had a November article titled "Why All Self-Publishers Need a Good Editor." While the article is more about explaining what different types of editors do and where to find freelance editors, I agree with the general sentiment. I'd take it one step further: "Why All Writers Need a Good Editor." No matter how good the writer, you always need a second opinion, preferably from a professional; and, again, the Internet makes it so easy to find one. Why not?

There are self-published authors who do their due diligence and put out the cleanest, most professional products they can. Some of them hire professional editors or commission designers for beautiful cover art. I'd love to see more glowing reviews of self-pubs like Anya's review at On Starships & Dragonwings of a Tammy Blackwell book. But I'm a little lost on how to find these hidden gems. More detailed, critical reviews from other readers, perhaps? :)

6 comments :

  1. I recently reviewed a self-published book by an author who claimed she had gotten it professionally edited. Either her editor cheated her or she has a very odd view on what "professionally edited" means, because her book was full of typos and grammatical errors. Yeah, it got a low rating - and not just because of that.

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    1. Ouch! That sounds like a painful read, and a good point. The skill levels of self-pubbed authors can range from experienced reader/writer/self-editor to barely literate. (It sounds like the author whose work you read was toward the less skilled end of the scale.) And when they don't know what reads well or is grammatically correct, how do they know when it's ready for public consumption?

      That's the hard part; even if an author tells you s/he's gotten "professional editing," you can't guarantee exactly what that means. I recently read a bit of a self-pubbed short story collection by a friend of a friend and was twitching as I read how he "purposefully chose each word to make exactly the sentences he wanted." Sigh. It makes me less likely to pick up other self-pubs ... which I guess still leaves me dependent on reviews from other readers who are willing to take their chances. ^^;;

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  2. I agree that we all need good editing of our books. If we're going to self-publish, it's probably a good idea to pay for a good editor, at least until we learn enough from the experience to use our critique group, what we've learned, and beta readers.

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    1. Yep, that can be the biggest danger: thinking it's been "edited" without being fully familiar with what professional, top notch editing looks like.

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  3. :D This 100%! It breaks my heart when I see a self-pubbed book with a really interesting premise but not enough copy-editing since that cool story could have been awesome if the author had put in a bit more time.... That self-pub that I reviewed recently (Two), had a copy-editor listed but I had the same thoughts as Mara, someone is lying here since that book definitely needed more editing *sigh*

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    1. Or, perhaps even worse, what if the editor isn't lying and it's a case of the blind leading the blind? *double sigh*

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