Like the impulsive idiot that I am, I dove head-first into a discussion about a particular self-publishing company. Someone had asked everyone else their opinions of this service, and though I’ve had only one experience with it, my opinion was for her to “run.” I’ve never self-published anything through the site–never self-pubbed anything but my public speaking pamphlet–but I’d edited the proof version of one of their books, and was . . . underwhelmed, to put it nicely.
The dissenters had valid arguments, and I was out-voted in no time flat, but one person took that opportunity to slap me down as an editor. Editors, according to him, have no value:
anyone with a decent reading ability and a decent understanding of the language can weed out 90% of the typo’s [sic] and mistakes of a book. Editing isn’t rocket science, it’s just meticulous work for someone with patience . . . most editors just load the file into Word (or whatever) and just skim the red underlined words anyway.
The only thing right in his statement is that editing isn’t rocket science–I’m convinced it can be much more complicated.
Professional editors–freelance and publisher-employed–are more than glorified proofreaders. I can’t speak for all of us, so I’ll limit myself to my own experience and services.
I have a degree in English. I’ve been writing for the bulk of my life, but picked it up seriously again in 1997. I belong to a professional association of editors, study the crafts of writing and editing, and constantly work to hone my skills. Authors who hire me get more than just a proofread of their manuscript. They get a comprehensive assessment of:
- The strength of the opening scene and hook
- Characterization and all pertaining to it
- POV strength and consistency
- Conflict and its sustainability
- Chapter and scene openers and closers
- Sentence structure and word choice
- The overall strengths and weaknesses of the book
Aside from doing this assessment, I try to help authors understand how to strengthen their skills; so to a certain extent, I also teach.
The young man who’d made the claim that editorial services are useless also lamented the cost of them — “a king’s ransom” he said. And perhaps it is high for some.
But I’m not embarrassed about charging for my service. I work hard and put in several hours per manuscript, often to the detriment of my own WIP. Since I haven’t been at it as long as some of my colleagues, I don’t charge as much, and even what I do charge can mount up. In the long run, however, a professional edit can give the serious author a head start and can make him a better writer.
A good way to keep editorial costs down is to submit your work to an experienced critique partner. I’m not alone in determining my fee based upon how much work I believe a manuscript will take. Those who get charged the least are those who have polished their manuscripts the most. The perfect pre-publication scenario is for an author to submit his completed work to a critique partner or group, make the corrections, then submit to a professional editor. After this edit, the author can either resubmit to the professional to polish his corrections, or he can head down the road to publication and let the publisher’s staff editors have the final say.
But some folks believe they know all there is to know about the editorial process and services, probably believe they know all there is to know about writing. Well, more power to ’em. They’d probably get charged the highest price on my range anyway–which would prove them right in one aspect. I charge a king’s ransom.
Sheesh! Maybe “Editing isn’t rocket science” but it is “literary science”! It requires more than a “decent reading ability and a decent understanding of the language.” He left out knowledge and experience. Having an understanding of something is not the same as having an educated knowledge stored in one’s head. You had a right to be mad!!!
“Having an understanding of something is not the same as having an educated knowledge stored in one’s head.”
Good for you for maintaining your professionalism. On the one hand, it’s awesome that computers have made it possible for more people to write. On the other hand, it’s a shame that everyone who owns a computer thinks they have the ability to write a really good book, especially without a second set of eyeballs to catch what doesn’t work. Sorry to hear of your exasperation.
Computers really have changed the landscape of publishing. Everyone who thinks they can write believes they have the right to be published. Manuscript rejection isn’t a challenge to improve, it’s “a worthless opinion of someone who wouldn’t know good writing if it walked up and slapped him.” And editors have no value.
These are the folks who keep the vanity pubbers in business.
Everyone needs an editor. I’ve used your services, and those of Lena Nelson Dooley, Laura Lippman, and Barbara Zaremsky. Each one of you pointed out flaws which needed fixing. Redundancy, revealing too much too soon, implausable actions, dialog, all editing corrections that help to make my books better books.
Why didn’t I “see” these mistakes? As an author, you can’t always see the forest because the trees are in the way (Cliche, I know.) We know too much about our book. We need trained individuals to point out what is working–and what isn’t.
So far as I know, even editors have editors for their writing. Mine doesn’t go anywhere without Katie’s approval. Even so, I found a ridiculous mistake in the Kindle version of Ride–and it went through *several* editors and *several* proofreaders. Mistakes happen, but a lot of them can be eliminated. And poor writing can be improved upon if the author approaches an edit with the right attitude.
I was steaming too. I edit too – but not as “thoroughly” as you do. Don’t have the skill quite yet – glad I have friends willing to be my “guinea pigs.” It is HARD work. I’d wanna slap that person too.
Giggle! I can’t imagine you getting angry enough to want to slap someone! A new facet to JoAnne Sher!
Obviously the man who made this stupid statement has never used a good editor. I can thank my wonderful editor, Susan Lohrer, for making my first piece of mush into an enjoyable novel. There’s more to editing than catching mistakes. One of Susan’s favorite comments is . . . And how does this make him feel? Those words send me off into a whole new world of emotions that I should have expressed the first time around. Nothing slips by her eagle eye. Considering the education required, the time put in, and the emotional investment of a good editor, I would say they are grossly underpaid.
I think I’d love Susan, too. I use those words often–how does this make him feel? How does he react? What does he think? Get into his head! Climb under his skin!
Gotta love it when an editor-dissing know-it-all forgets to proofread his own comment!
Anyone who thinks editing is glorified proofreading is just working with bad editors. In the same way you might work with a bad customer service agent or a bad basketball coach–i.e. there are “bad” examples in every profession. Including, I might add, egregiously horrifying (and yet oddly arrogant and self-assured) writers.
I’ve worked with two fiction editors in my lifetime, and both were absolutely necessary to the success of my books. I do my own proofreading. They edit. They cut the junk and find places I need to add important details, change storylines, or reinforce character development. They are better than gold.
I’d rather have one good editor than 100 great proofreaders.
You’re right, the bitterness he was spewing was sure indication he’d had a bad experience. My bet, though, is that he had a bad experience with an acquisitions editor–a different breed, one lots of writers who try to publish too early have bad experiences with.
I’m glad you had a good experience with your editors!
Good rebuttal, Linda. Jerks like that do believe they know it all. And they give the rest of us newbies a bad rap with agents, editors and publishers. At least you put him in his place graciously, but firmly, and taught us what is involved with the final polish of a book. Five stars, Linda.
Thanks, Cece. There is a *lot* involved in the final polish of a book. I didn’t realize it after completing my first novel, either. Folks think they can write “the end” and they’re finished. Those who have an attitude about their work aren’t likely to get published unless they do it themselves.
Those who claim a good Editor is not worth the price, never paid for professional editing. I found having my first three book length manuscripts (one of them is published as “Just Alex”) invaluable. Much I needed to hear as a professional writer was explained. A professional Editor shares a completely different view of one’s manuscript that can be invaluable; better than finding gold nuggets in one’s backyard. One benefit is that you receive an idea of how an Editor at a publishing house is going to review your work and why they have certain pet peeves. I enjoyed receiving the expert advice my professional Editor gave me after sincerely reading my manuscripts. I learned a lot of what not to do. 😀
Keep up the good work Linda! You are truly helping those who hire your editing skills. 🙂
Thanks, Alicia. Glad you had great editors!