Thursday, July 27, 2017

Editor's Notes #35: Edits Is Important


One of the editors I follow on Twitter posted a thought last week, and I instantly felt a kinship. She stated that she could not count how many books she'd edited after they'd already been published. I have done this a number of times, and for a number of reasons. Her comment ended with "Don't make this same mistake!"

Someone replied to her tweet with, "Why is this a mistake?" I think he thought she was saying it was a mistake to get a book edited after publishing, whereas I am 99.99% sure she was cautioning against publishing before proper editing. Tiny detail, but important. It is NEVER too late to get a book properly edited if you plan on writing more books. As the post title states (or should state), edits are important.

As an editor, I feel it's important to see what other editors are up to, so I follow a number of editing blogs and editors on the various social media outlets. There's so much information (and misinformation) out there that I figure by following them, I can only increase my chances of learning something I may not have found on my own—or without hours of extensive research. After all, I realize there are people who read my Editor's Notes who are astounded at what I've come up with, because it's the first time they've ever heard this stuff. Nouns? Verbs? What? She's a genius!

Work with me here, people. I can dream.

There are also those (probably the majority) who already know 90% of what I have to share. They most likely do what I do: you read the stuff you already know and consider it another mental nail to hold your knowledge in place on that particular subject. Repetition is great, and I'm always thrilled to not have to look something up because I've used that particular rule from the Chicago Manual so many times that "it's in there."

So why are edits (prior to publishing) important? I have worked with and spoken with a number of authors who have experienced the following (and I will use "him" as my pronoun here, though some are men and some are women):

  • Wrote a book, had someone close to him read it, published it. Got bad reviews due to lack of editing. Hired an editor and republished. Didn't realize the editor was a hack, got more bad reviews. Hired a better editor and got the book fixed but found it almost impossible to get anyone to reread the corrected version because they'd already given up on that author, due to so many other books out there to sift through. Lost all the oomph and has had a hard time wanting to continue writing. Enough years have passed now that a fan base will have to be built from scratch all over again, should the writing ever recommence. 
  • Wrote a book, ran the book portions through an online editing "help" service which helped a little but did not substitute fully for a real, live editor. Lack of edits was pointed out, he hired an editor, book quality and fan base improved.
  • Wrote a book, hired an expensive editing house to edit book. As much was missed as was caught in a fairly clean copy to begin with, but enough had been overlooked that he hired a new editor for half the price and twice the trustworthiness.
  • Wrote a book, published it. Realized an editor was needed and hired one. Editor was so-so but not horrible. Still, enough problems remained to prompt the hiring of another editor to proof. Book is cleaned up and shiny, ready to go.
  • Wrote a book, hired an editor who turned out to be a hack. Same hack as the first example I listed, in fact. Realized after getting the edited MS back that the editor had actually made the book worse, and hired another editor, who "edited" many things back to their formerly correct selves and polished up the remainder. Book cleaned up prior to ever publishing, well received, won two awards.
  • Wrote a book, published without an editor. Wrote another book, tried to hire an editor but did not want to make the changes suggested, so second book was also published without edits. Both books on Amazon have almost no reviews, and those only from admitted family and friends. I'm assuming the sales are in tandem with the number of reviews.
In some instances above, the writers didn't think they needed edits. In other cases, they truly thought they were doing the right thing by hiring someone who didn't come through. All cases mentioned (and there are many more) highlight the fact that editing is essential, and that it's not always possible to make a good impression after making a bad one. In some of the cases above, the writing was so impressive that people were willing to reread an edited version and subsequent books. In a few other sad cases, that was not the happy ending.

When in doubt, listen to those around you. Get some beta readers. Get some ARC (advance reader copy) readers. Research editors and get free sample evals. It's not just about subject/verb agreement. It's all about making sure that what seems "good enough" is actually correct.




36 comments:

  1. Good morning, milady. You always offer plenty of good information, but this post covers the "Here's why you do it" aspects of editing. I've linked this as my "Off-Site Site of the Day" on my writing.com page, so hopefully, lots of "next J.K. Rowling" wannabes will click over and learn why this is not a step that can be skipped. Fabulous work, as always. Have a great week.

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    1. Jack! How great to hear from you after so long. Now that I've found your site again, I'm adding you to my sidebar. Thanks for visiting again and for linking me!

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    2. Egads, I hope that isn't my book you're reading! The timeline's about right, and I'll just be holding my breath in anticipation...

      I am humbled and honored by your offer to feature my site, but it may not connect. My Blogger site is defunct. The place where I blog about the Craft is https://www.writing.com/main/profile/blog/blimprider --- In my experience, Blogger can get pretty snooty about linking to non-Blogger sites. I appreciate the thought, though, and I'll try not to be such a stranger from here on!

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    3. No, no, no. Not your book. No worries!

      I do have some things in my sidebar that are WP and others like Wix, and they link all right. But when I tried to follow Jack's Hideout, I kept coming up with an error and then finally went through. I'm going to try to add the blimprider page anyway, doggone it. I guess we'll know in moments if it works. I'm happy to send people your way!

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    4. *Whew!* That's good news! Thank you for the link. For some odd reason it went to a two month old post (I post every Monday), but that's all right, it's a good one, and once you're in, you can get to everything else by clicking on the title. Thanks again for everything, and keep up the great work!

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  2. I can't imagine how someone could think they don't need an editor. But anyway, I'm encouraged by what you wrote here. I currently have a beta reader, so it sounds like that was a good move.

    I do have a question: at what point in the process is the best time to go to an editor?

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    1. You wouldn't believe how many people publish "to make enough money to get an editor." How backward is that?

      Fun fact: I'm currently reading a book I won in a Goodreads giveaway a couple years ago (and finally got around to picking up). It was obviously not edited, and unlike the self-pub authors I'm acquainted with, this person did not take the time to get professional formatting or anything. As soon as I opened the book, the lack of proper front matter and bad formatting screamed "low quality" and so far, I'm forcing myself to read just so I give it a fair shot. I even found the book free on Amazon for Kindle and got it, and saw a few things had been fixed but not much . . . and this is at least two years later. The author has two more books in the series and I have no idea how the first one has such high ratings. Sigh. No one wants to work that hard to give a book a chance.

      In answer to your question—and good for you that you have a beta! It's essential—I would say to proceed to an editor after the beta feedback comes in, you make any changes needed, and then get it as clean as possible. Editing/proofing is like the icing and sprinkles on a cake.

      Get sample edits from the editors you're considering (and they should always be free, doing about the first 2000-3000 words) and then go for it!

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  3. Hahhahaah I remember that mistake in that image from when you showed me years ago. . . I can't even.

    As you know, I thought it was a terrific post. It truly is crucial to have an editor and giving examples of why one should is one of the best ways to get the point across. As well as creating awareness of the people out there who claim to be editors and then just mess up your book.

    So thanks for helping me get my book ready way before publication, I'd have died of embarrassment lol (which of course makes you my two-time award winning editor lol)

    Great post, LynLyn

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    1. Yes, this is a photo I wish I could use more than once!

      I'm bummed that all these examples are real people I know. That it continues to happen is astounding to me, and reading the other editor's observation made me feel sad and normal at the same time.

      And hey hey hey, I'm a two-time award-winning editor! Three, if you count Raymond's award. But we won't, unless he comes here to comment on his own. That's only fair.

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  4. Hahahahahahaha . . . I'm so childish and immature that her anus cracks me up. I know an author who paid a high-priced editor in advance and received in return a book that she described as "torn apart" and unfinished. I hate it when "editors" give us a bad name.

    Love,
    Janie

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    1. I hate it, too. But yes, I laugh every time I even SEE the word "anus." I can't help myself. Twelve-year-old Lynda takes right over.

      The worst part about bad editors is that the authors who hire them trust that they know what they're doing. Kind of like having a doctor misdiagnose you . . . you are being paid to know more than I do about this stuff, Doc, and all I did was Google my symptoms.

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  5. "Edits Is Important?" They certainly is! I recently left a comment on someone's blog -- it could even have been yours -- about a book I read which used "waive" twice when the author meant "wave." Drove me nuts!

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    1. It was mine! Waive/wave is one that drives me crazy, along with peek/peak. Or using peak/peek when they mean piqued. It doesn't take much to trigger me, I suppose. I recently read a book in which the MC said something in Spanish to see if the other person understood her, and the person replied, "Si, hablamos Espanol, tambien." Now call me crazy, but if you're going to bother using Spanish to prove you speak it, you could at least get the accent, capitalization, and letters correct, as in "Sí, hablamos español, tambien."

      Like I said: triggers.

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    2. Heh. I once did a "Grammar Nazi" post about peak/peek/pique as well as lightning/lightening!

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    3. I don't know how I missed the reissue of that post! It's great. It seems we have the same pet peeves, David. Maybe we should do a regular feature together called "Don't Push My Buttons." The two of us could (potentially) stop the world's newest writers from telling people to "keep your eyes pealed" and things like that.

      And I laughed out loud at your "your spell-check is not a mind-reader" comment.

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    4. I knew you were joking about what someone else might write, but I still cringed at seeing "keep your eyes pealed!"

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    5. If it makes you feel better, it hurt me to type it, too.

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  6. Hi Lynda,

    I never really think about edits and the only help I get with my purely amateur, therapeutic writing is from Penny the Jack Russell dog and of course, a highly respected pawblisher.

    I should maybe recheck my sentence that stated, "I went out with a lady wearing a low-cut dress." Should clarify it was her wearing the low-cut dress!

    Thanks for an informative post, Lynda.

    Gary :)

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    1. Hi, Gary (and Penny)!

      As long as you don't write ad copy like "Desk for women with thick legs and large drawers," we're good to go.

      I hope your eyeballs are focusing more easily. I'll take this comment as a good sign that you're up and running for the moment.

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    2. For one brief moment, I thought you were describing my ex wife! Okay, I'm kidding.

      Indeed, my eyes are better thanks to some magic drops I got from the optometrist.

      Gary

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  7. I don't know if you know this Lynda but I had paid for a high dollar editor on the book you edited for me. Anyway, again another right on point post. I think an anus around the neck quite painful for both parties. Can't wait for the next

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    1. As a matter of fact, I did not know that, JT. Perhaps it makes you feel better to know you're not the only one, though. Small comfort when you're shelling out good money for not-good services.

      And yes, anus placement is an issue that needs to be handled properly.

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  8. Lol you are brining tears to my eyes.

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  9. That error is priceless!! It sure tells why we need editors. :)

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    1. Isn't it hilarious and awful at the same time? I can't imagine being that author and not noticing something so blatant.

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  10. I'm sitting at my computer having a gooooooood laugh at the "anus" error! LOL

    Lynda, have you signed up for the monthly IWSG blog hop? Your writing/editing posts will fit perfectly and you'll get more traffic to your blog.

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    1. All anyone has to say is "anus" and I start to giggle. That error still ranks up there in my favorites of all time.

      I've actually wondered about the IWSG blog hop but wasn't sure if I'd have as much to add, since I'm an editor/blogger and not an author. I enjoy all the ones I manage to visit each month, though, so maybe I should look into it!

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  11. See all I can do now is try to figure out the logistics.

    Editing is so important and you really can't have too many eyes on your work.

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    1. Hey, I even have S.K. read through my blog posts, and they're only around 800 words on the average. I can't imagine writing an entire book and thinking no one else needed to check it before publishing.

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  12. Wow, they actually have online editing 'help' software? Gee, how could that go wrong? It's like entrusting the fate of your book to Microsoft's spellcheck program.

    I don't enlist beta readers. I only enlist alpha readers. Yes, only the strongest of males will have the balls to tell me what needs fixing.

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    1. Ohhhhh, MS's spellcheck and grammar . . . that's a post I've had in the works for a long time. Even Grammarly gives bad suggestions from time to time. Things like that are tools, but they are no substitute for edits.

      I like your idea of alpha readers! Don't you dare settle for second best.

      Glad to see you out and about (whichever one "you" are)! I've missed seeing more frequent stuff from you guys but am always glad when your name pops up.

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    2. Oh yeah, we're getting back to regular posting soon(ish), but, well, yesterday's post sums it all up. That and the other guy having a baby.

      Maybe that's enough of a hint as to my identity.

      MS's spellcheck and grammar... yes, I'd love to see that post. I cringe whenever I see people run it and use 'automatically correct all errors', because this is a program that, up until a few years ago, listed words like 'raccoons' (plural only) as being a misspelled word.

      Don't trust the fate of your novel in the hands of a program that doesn't understand the concept of more than one raccoon.

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  13. Some cautionary tales there! As a trained editor myself, I self-edit as well as getting a bit of help from CPs. (One's also an editor.) Lucky, I guess. I hope I never have to republish anything - nothing against it really, but I believe what you put out you stand by, for better or worse.

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    1. You're probably one of the few who are qualified to self-edit. And you still have CPs you can trust, so I'd say you have a good thing going.

      In some of the above-mentioned situations, I would chuck it all (if it were me) and publish my future books under a different name. It's tough to get a good reputation back. And republishing can be costly, depending on how much revamping needs to be done.

      Thanks for the visit!

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  14. I self-edit, but there's no way I'd send anything for publication without having a good pair of editor eyes take a look at it first.

    Damyanti

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    1. Heck, I don't even publish my blog posts without having someone look them over. I just dont trust that my eyes aren't glossing over something I should be fixing.

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I love comments, and will always answer them, partly because I like having the last word and partly because I just like getting to know the people who read my blog. (Note: if the post is more than a couple weeks old, your comment will automatically go into the "needs approval" folder, but I will still publish it and reply!)