Tuesday, October 27, 2015

When An Editor is Not Enough

I know I tend to ramble, but I really hope you aspiring writers will read this through, for your own sakes.

I've been in the world of Indie publishing for over two years now, and I've heard all the snarky comments about "People only choosing to self-publish because they can't get accepted by a traditional publisher," and many other accusations and assumptions. I made a choice to go Indie, and I'm thrilled with my choice. But I've also made a great deal of effort to break stereotypes. I've put time and effort into honing my writing, gathering critiques, and making sure my books are as professional looking as possible. I don't just dash off a manuscript, slap together a landscape snapshot from my phone and add a font for a cover, and send it fluttering off into the Amazon world.
Since I'm an Indie writer, I think it's only fair to support others in my trade. So I'll see an intriguing Indie book with a great cover, and buy it.
Sometimes the book is fabulous. But many times, I will start reading, and the book will have typos from the first page. Now, I'm sure my books might have one or two mistakes the army of people I have help me edit might have missed. And we will all agree we've found typos in even books published by major publishing houses. But I'm talking about many typos, often several to a page.
I don't want to be horrible, I want to be helpful. And as irritating as it is to me, I would like someone to tell me if they find a typo or a mistake in my published work. Better a friend find one and tell me behind closed doors than a reader blast it out on Amazon! So if the author of the book I'm reading is a friend on Facebook or other online group, I will often tell them, "Just to let you know, I saw several typos in chapter so-and-so."
The most terrible thing happens. Every. Single. Time. They will tell me, "But I paid a professional editor to edit for me."
Oh, this makes me so upset! Indie authors shelling out hard-earned money for edits, taking that manuscript and putting it on Amazon, thinking that everything has been taken care of for the 200.00, 500.00 or even 2000.00 that they have paid. I can't even imagine how they must feel when well-meaning people like me tap them on a virtual shoulder and say, "excuse me, but on page 42..."

Here are some things to keep in mind before you upload your book to Amazon, or if you are going the traditional route, send your child off to an agent or editor.

1. Run your story through a good critique group before you even think about editing. Find a local critique group, or an online group with subjective folks who don't know you from Adam who will comb through your story, line by line. This has been the best thing I've ever done for my writing. the great thing about this sort of group is you will learn writing techniques and find out what editors and readers are looking for. Two good groups are www.scribophile.com and Critique Circle.

2. Know the difference between types of editors. I have two wonderful ladies who get my book at the very last. One is an English teacher, and one is a retired copy-editor. They are fantastic at finding grammatical errors and spelling issues. But I need more help then they can give as far as plot, story line and character development. Sometimes copy-editors might not be familiar with your genre. They may be more familiar with non-fiction, which is a wildly different style than fiction. Make sure you are getting the type of editor you need.

3. Don't depend on family and friends as your only feedback. Why? Because they will LIE to you. Lie. Or they will tell you it's wonderful because in their eyes, everything you do is wonderful. Ten adjectives in the paragraph? They are all wonderful because they were written by you! But Amazon reviewers... they don't care.

4. Research your editor before you hire them. You can check up on several types of publishing services on the Preditors and Editors site. They also have lots of other helpful information. Another good way to find a good editor? Contact Indie authors of books in your genre that you have enjoyed. Ask them who edits for them and the prices.

5. Always ask for samples. Before you shell out a penny, ask for a sample of their work. An honest editor will be glad to oblige. Again, have another few pairs of unbiased eyes check over the sample before you agree to it.

6. Expect to pay a fair wage. Don't expect a good editor to be cheap. But they are worth their weight in gold!

I would love to hear any comments or stories you might have to add to what I've written here. 


  1. All true! Worst are the authors who get angry at us when we send them the "mistakes found" message.

    Best to you,


    1. On the other hand, I can understand why they get upset if they have trusted and paid someone to fix the mistakes. But don't kill the messenger!

  2. You're a nicer person than I am. I'm happy to support indie authors ... but not if I find basic editing errors in the Kindle sample (oddly enough, I'm more forgiving of the occasional typo. I heard recently that writing instructor James Scott Bell found a typo on the first page of one of his traditionally published novels, so it can happen to anyone).

    Authors do really need to know the different types of editing, and know that having an eagle-eyed reader to can spot a misplaced comma is great, but only any good if the writing has already been through the earlier stages of developmental, structural, line and copy editing. This probably means at least two stages of editing, and possibly two or more editors, and I recognise most indie authors can't justify that level of editing - which is why they need to be outstanding self-editors and backed by a talented critique group.

    I've come across a lot of books with beautiful covers and perfect proofreading, but still have headhopping or lines like "I'm sorry," said Beth apologetically" in the first few pages. Authors, if you don't understand why these are potential issues, ask your editor. If he or she doesn't know ... you need a new editor.

  3. Thank you for posting this, Angela. It's been my biggest frustration with some indie authors, that they don't understand why content editing is so important, long before the copy editing and proofreading. A critique group can help a lot as objective readers, but a good content editor is worth his or her weight in gold. As a hybrid author, I can attest to the fact that typos happen even with bigger publishing houses, even after going through dozens of readers.