Off to the Fair

editingToday my dear hubby and I will be at the Lane County Fair from 11 to 5 PST with a bunch of other authors signing books (if you’re in the neighborhood, drop by and get a copy of Titanic Deception), and you can bet they all know the worth of a good edit!

While I’ll miss being away from my desk today, I know it will be here when I get back. And yes, I’m taking some hard copy to edit during the slow times to keep me busy. What?

Getting to the Point: Editing

Anyway, my point is that editing is important to every book. Whether you’re promoting it at the fair, on Amazon, or in your local bookstore, your readers expect it to be the best it can be in every way. They’re the ones plunking down their hard-earned  cash for it. How do you feel when you buy a book and it’s full of misspelled words, incorrectly used words, or the story falls flat because there’s a big fat plot hole you could drive a truck through? Exactly. So don’t give that to your readers! You know it drives you nuts. And even if it doesn’t… even if you’re one of those rare, mythical readers we all fantasize about that loves everything they read, there’s a lot of readers who don’t have any qualms about ripping an author to shreds over every editorial mistake. Don’t believe me? I randomly picked books on Amazon by searching genres and looked at one star reviews. Check out these quotes:

This book was awful. First there was the multitude of grammatical errors and misspelled words which makes me wonder if there was even an editing process at all for the book.

Unbelievable: illiterate, gruesomely unrealistic, with inconsistencies on every page – how could this piece of work ever have been published? Was it even read by an editor?

Interesting enough story but the typographical and grammar mistakes were too numerous to enjoy the story.

As you can see, readers aren’t shy about expressing their feelings. Don’t let this be said of your story.

(We’ll also be at the fair on Friday, July 26 from 3-9 and on Saturday, July 27 from 5-9. If you need to get in touch with me, please use the contact form here on the site and I’ll be checking emails again as soon as I get home.)

Investing in Your Book

invest in your bookI urge you to invest in your book.

What does that mean? It means a lot of things.

First, you need to invest the time to do it right. Take your time writing and researching your book. Revise it. Get feedback. Are there holes in your plotline? If so, fix them! Are your characters flat? Fill them out! A rough draft isn’t enough.

Get it edited. Allow enough time for a good edit, don’t expect 150,000 words to be done overnight. Give your editor the time to go through it carefully. Rush jobs usually result in something being missed because they were rushed. Can you do your best work when you’re in a rush? Schedule enough time in your production timetable to allow for a proper edit. Then add a little bit more for bumps in the road, like an unplanned for revision, or a family emergency. It’s better to be ready ahead of time than to be squeezed for time at the end.

Proofread it. After you, your editor, and your trusted beta readers have all read it, get someone else to go over it for errors. If you can afford it, pay a professional. Trust me, even after all those others have gone over it, there will still be some errors. No one is perfect enough to catch everything. Could you? If you were given a 50,000 word manuscript, could you catch every single error? Especially if the author wanted it in a week or two? That’s why the more sets of eyes you have go over your book, the better. And spell check doesn’t catch everything, either. It doesn’t know the difference between there, their and they’re. Or to and too. Or rein and reign. Or wait and weight. Or right and write. All it knows is if they’re spelled correctly.

Get a good cover design. If you don’t know the first thing about designing a cover that looks good, find someone who does. It’s worth the money to have one that catches the eye. People do judge a book by its cover, whatever they may say.

Your book represents you. This is your product that you want people to buy. Putting a substandard book out there can create a reputation that will follow you no matter how much work you put into later publications. Today’s readers aren’t shy about complaining in a review about shoddy writing or editing (or lack thereof). If you fix your book later, those reviews are still there. Those readers have already told their friends and the damage has been done.

I know I harp about this repeatedly here, but I can’t emphasize this enough. As an author, your book is you. Do you want to go out in public with a big smudge on your face? Of course not! So why let your book do the same? Yes, editing and a good cover can cost a lot of money, depending on who you hire and the length of your book. But isn’t your book worth some scrimping? Isn’t your reputation as an author worth it? Many editors, like me, offer payment plans. Payment plans, however, don’t work well if you’re on a quick deadline (just another reason to plan well for your production time). We also offer a discount for payment in full, so there are multiple ways to save some money on editing services. So invest in your book, both with time and money if possible.

You want to put your best book forward.

Get Thee to an Editor

get thee to an editorPesky errors got you down? Tired of hearing you’re using ‘reign’ instead of ‘rein’? Does trying to figure out the difference between the two leave your head in a tizzy? Get thee to an editor.

Do you love the word ‘that’? Do you capitalize your dialogue tags and don’t know why? Get thee to an editor.

Got a hole in your plot big enough for a Mac truck? Are your scenes lacking panache? Are your descriptions falling flat? Get thee to an editor.

When you’ve done all you can on your own, it’s time to get some help. Go ahead and send your baby out to your beta readers… they can give you some good advice. They may not all agree, however, and you’ll need to pick and choose what will work and what won’t. Still, when you’re done reworking the story for the tenth or hundredth time… it’s good to have eyes on it that know what to look for.

What can a professional editor do?

  • Help you find the glaring issues in your story
  • Fix timeline problems others may have missed
  • Get rid of the annoying errors readers will be sure to mention in their reviews
  • Tighten your writing
  • Polish that manuscript and make it shine
  • Make you look good

Doesn’t that sound worth it? Especially that last one. Your book is your baby. You’re putting it out there for the world to see. You want it looking all pretty and clean, not all messy, right?

And what does the editor get out of it? The satisfaction of helping an author and some money to pay the bills. Do we like it when we’re mentioned in the acknowledgements? Sure. We appreciate your thanks. Do we demand it? No. We’re happy even if you don’t mention us in public. We’re happy because we were able to help you get your book ready for the public. That’s what makes us tick. What makes us get up in the morning. We don’t necessarily need the accolades. We just like what we do.

So if we like it so much, why don’t we do it for free?

Well, sometimes we do. Most of the time, however, we need to pay bills. We need to feed the kids, just like you. Editors understand that it’s hard to spread the money around sometimes. We have the same problems. It comes down to what’s important. If someone wants to go on a vacation, they’ll save up for it. If they want Prada shoes, they’ll save up for them. If they want a 125 gallon fish tank, they’ll save up for it. If they want editing, they’ll save up for it (or take advantage of a payment plan). Whatever becomes important, we find the means to do. Is your book important? Then you should do what you can to present it in the best way possible. This includes good editing and a good cover.  Can just anyone edit or do a cover? No. Some do not possess the skills to do these things. Some are not the right fit for each author. But when you find that fit, it’s worth the price.

OMG–I Can’t Stress This Enough

I’ve written on the topic of the importance of editing before, but OMG guys, it really is.

I love indie authors, I really do. Heck, I’m one myself. Some of my best online friends are, too. Some of what I’m hearing from indie authors is alarming. I’m hearing that editing is a luxury, an expense they can do without. Yes, it can be expensive. I’m sorry about that, but if you tell me that How to Train Your Catfish in Three Easy Lessons is 175,000 words long–well, I know you want to hear it’s only going to cost you $50, but any manuscript that long is going to cost you some bucks. Editing carefully, I can average about 1,250 words an hour, assuming I’m not spending that hour answering your emails asking why I haven’t finished your book yet or what did I think of the chapter on earning your catfish’s trust. I’m not saying you can’t ask questions… I encourage you to do so. This is a working partnership on your book. But back to our make believe scenario. So your 175,000 word manuscript on training catfish is going to take about 140 hours of my time. I wish I could do it for free (if I were rich, I would… I enjoy it that much!).  So why should you pay this *luxury tax*?

Case in point: Step into my time machine and we’re going to travel back several years. At this point in time I was doing reviews of birth-related books. (Cue spooky time travel music.) Ah. Here’s one. Take a look at this. Not only is the text so riddled with errors that it gets in the way of their wonderful message, but their formatting for the book was way off. The title page was actually on the left side! It made me wonder if they’d ever even seen a book before. Needless to say, all the money they spent printing all those copies was wasted. I couldn’t review it… there was nothing good I could say about the book. I contacted the author privately and suggested nicely that she get an editor to go through the book and then a book designer to set it up properly. I never heard back from her so I don’t know if she did or not.

As I said at the beginning, I love indie authors. I want them to succeed. However, it’s getting to the point that I hesitate to buy ebooks unless I’m already familiar with the author. I don’t want to waste my hard-earned cash on a book that may be full of errors. Before I push that Buy button, I wonder if they had the book edited. Will it be full of errors? I read books full of errors for a living… I don’t want to do it in my pleasure reading. If I find the first chapter full of mistakes, I don’t read the rest of the book, no matter how good the story was. I know I’m not alone in this.

A lot of readers are returning their ebooks for errors or complaining to Amazon, who then reports the errors to the authors for fixing. Amazon will report a few of them, then recommend to the author to check for more. If you get an email like this from Amazon, will you follow up and fix them? Will you look for more? Do you even know what to look for since you let them go through the first time? This means spending time going through your book again and then re-publishing.

Some of those readers will go so far as to write a review criticizing your editing errors for all the world to see and giving you a low rating for them. This brings down your overall rating. Even if you do find every error and fix them later, those reviews will still be there for other potential readers to see. I’m currently editing a book that had this problem. Yes, the errors will be fixed, but the old reviews will still color the perception of the improved book once it’s done.

Others will request their money back, and Amazon cheerfully refunds it, taking it out of your royalties each time a reader does this for the life of your book. Still think skipping the editing was a good idea?

Do it right the first time and hire an editor. Most of us are willing to work with our clients. I offer a payment plan… I’m sure many other editors do as well. I even offer a discount to those who can pay in full. I love books. I always have, ever since I learned that when letters are put together to form words they could tell a story. I got into this business to help authors make their books the best they could be. When the spotlight is on you, I want you to shine.

Do You Really Need an Edit?

The answer is, of course, a resounding YES. And I’m not just saying that because I’m an editor.

Let’s explore this a little bit.

Your book represents you. You want people to buy it, and subsequently, any future books you write. Would you present yourself at a book signing in wrinkled clothing with splotches of last night’s dinner down the front? Of course not. So why present your book that way?

Your book is your baby. You’ve labored over it for months, maybe years. (Okay, maybe weeks if you’re one of those super fast wordsmiths who spew words like volcanoes spew lava.) Would you show your baby off in public with an aromatic poopy diaper and baby spit all over his/her onesie? Of course not. So why present your book that way?

You hope your book will garner you lots of fans that will follow you over hill, over dale, thorough brush, thorough brier, over park, over pale, thorough flood, thorough fire… okay, maybe not that far (thanks, Shakespeare), but you want those fans to wait impatiently for your next book. NEWSFLASH: They won’t if your book is full of errors.

I can see you shaking your head over there. Not you, right? That only happens to other authors.

C’mon. Sit down. Have a cup of tea.

Errors happen. As the author, you can’t always see the errors because you’re too close to it. It’s true. I write, and I don’t edit my own writing. I hand it off to someone else because I’m too close. Sure, I can find some of them. Most of them, even. But my brain makes me see what I expect to see there, not those pesky little errors that a fresh pair of eyes will catch in a nanosecond. And it’s not just typos. Are you sure you paid attention to every detail? Is your timeline right through your entire book? Or did you miss a detail here and there? Did Anne leave her hometown a month ago in chapter one and two months ago in chapter 18? Are Brian’s eyes blue on page 25 and brown on page 231?

Before you jump in and say that readers won’t care… they will. Sure, not every one of them will do anything about it, but some will ask for refunds. Ouch! Right in the pocketbook. Worse, some will write reviews. Lack of editing seems to be fair game for reviewers on Amazon. Don’t give them the fodder. Isn’t it hard enough to compete with the zillions of books out there without giving them reasons not to buy your book?

Seriously, are you willing to put your first impression on the line? Are you willing to get bad reviews due to something that was preventable, like editing? Is it worth the risk? Ultimately, this is a decision only you can make, but is it really necessary? You’ve invested the time in your book. You’ve invested something in the cover. You’re not going to invest in the rest of the package?

I understand budgets and the need to cut costs. But was it worth cutting the cost of editing if you don’t sell any books because readers are returning them and complaining about the editing (or lack thereof) in the reviews? I guess that’s up to you. But don’t you want to put your best book forward?

Selling Yourself Short

The other day, I got into a discussion with someone about why authors might skip the editing process before publishing. Now, I didn’t know this guy, and I’m sure he’s a perfectly great guy. I don’t hold anything against him. We had a lively debate on the topic.

In my own experience, I’ve picked up a few ebooks on free days that I’ve put down just as quickly when I discovered that they were filled with basic errors. I’ll be honest… I edit for a living. That means I spend my life reading unedited writing, so I’m extremely choosy about what I read during my limited time for leisure reading. The occasional editorial flub is no big deal, it happens in every book, even those put out by the Big Six publishers. But I can tell the difference between the occasional editorial flub and an unedited manuscript. Remember Elaine from Seinfeld testing her dates to see if they were sponge-worthy? Well, unedited books are not time-worthy.

Anyway, back to my discussion. My worthy opponent brought up cost. He said editing costs a minimum of $1500. I know writers are notoriously poor. I’m an editor and I’m notoriously poor. I get it. Money can be hard to come by. There’s a reason they say it doesn’t grow on trees, because if it did, we’d all be horticulturalists. As I told him, not all of us editors charge an arm and a leg. Some of us softies even offer payment plans and bend over backwards to work within budgets. Why? Because we all have families to support. You gotta feed your kids, I gotta feed mine (and boy, it seems they eat more every year, doesn’t it?). I can’t speak for every editor out there, but this is why I work with several clients at one time… to keep my prices as low as I can. My rent won’t get any lower, but hey, I can spread my costs out to make it easier on my clients, right? So, authors… you may think we charge a lot at first glance, but we’re also having to use our fees to not only run our business, but to pay all those pesky bills that you have to pay at your house. It seems as soon as one month starts, it’s over and the cycle begins all over again. I’m sure you feel the same way. So, I do what I can to keep it reasonable, including a big discount for payment in full upfront. If you can afford it, you don’t have to worry about making payments, I don’t have to worry about sending reminders, you save money, it’s all good.

He suggested that most people don’t press the quality issue when I suggested that you can’t redo a first impression, and maybe that’s true. But they won’t buy book two, either. Putting out a second poorly done book won’t help you sell more books. While some may ask the seller for a refund, others won’t. When authors are signing petitions to convince Amazon not to refund ebooks after seven days (and part of me doesn’t blame them… you can read any ebook in seven days and return it, quality or not) the issue over quality becomes clouded. Was the book returned because the final quality was not up to par or because the reader knew they could get their money back, no questions asked?

Now, Amazon does have certain standards in place, but many of them don’t kick in unless complaints are made by readers. How many readers know how to make these complaints? How many readers actually write reviews? There’s the rub. Without the extra layer of an editor, how do these errors get expunged from the book?

To take it a step further, how do you know you have a competent editor? If you don’t know other authors who can recommend one for you, how do you know you don’t have one who isn’t an author just like yourself who decided they’d hang out an editorial shingle to earn a few bucks?

These are good questions. First, ask your author friends. They may have worked with an editor they liked. Second, (blatant self-promotion) you could hire me. :) Third, you can go to an editorial association like the Editorial Freelancers Association and peruse their members. If you go that route, make sure and look for editors who work on fiction. Fiction and non-fiction are two different animals, and not every editor is familiar with both. Not every good editor is a member of associations like this (not all of us can afford it yet), but you can bet that you can avoid the bad ones by going there.

If you’re not sure about an editor, look at their client testimonials. Ask them if they’re willing to edit a few pages for free as a sample of their work. When you send a sample, pick a few of your worst pages so you can make a fair assessment. If you’re testing more than one editor, send them the same pages so you can compare. Cheaper isn’t always the best choice, just like the most expensive isn’t always the best choice.

So, don’t sell yourself short. Put out the best book you can. Don’t skimp on the editing. You want a book as close to error-free as you can make it. You want your story as tight as it can be. You want it to be a pleasure to read, not something someone puts down after a few paragraphs.

Why This Writer Loves Editors

Today we have a wonderful guest post by Heidi Turner. She has put into words my feelings exactly; it bothers me to no end when I buy a book and find errors. Help us all make books as error-free as possible! Enjoy Heidi’s wonderful post and be sure to visit her sites listed at the bottom in her bio. Thank you, Heidi, for sharing your opinion with us!

Why This Writer Loves Editors
by Heidi Turner

I’m not perfect, by any stretch of the imagination. I’m a good writer, but I know mistakes happen. That’s why I think it’s vital to have a good editor look over my work. It’s not an insult and it’s not a sign that I don’t know how to write. It’s a sign that sometimes, even with the best writers, mistakes happen.

One of the worst things for me, as a reader and as a writer, is when errors occur in books. Errors, be they spelling, grammar or continuity errors, confuse the reader. They stop her dead in her tracks, forcing her to reread the sentence (or paragraph) and wonder exactly what the writer meant. They interrupt the flow of the book.

The best-case scenario with an error in a book is that the reader won’t notice. But some readers will, and it will bother them. It makes them wonder about how professional the writer really is. When there are multiple errors in the book, it makes readers wonder if they should continue reading or if they should bother buying more books by the same author.

I’m currently reading a book that was highly promoted in Canada (where I live). I won’t give away the name of the book or the author, but I will say that on one page, the author uses the word “serious” where he meant to use the word “series.” I might be picky, but I’m certain I’m not the only person who noticed the error. And even if it only stopped me for a minute, that’s a minute too long.

A big source of errors, I find, are self-published books. It’s too bad, because a lot of self-published writers have something to say. The problem is that some either refuse to pay for an editor or they have too much confidence in their own editing skills. Either way, the result is a book that I might start to read but I quickly put aside because I can’t handle the errors. Usually when this happens, I make a mental note not to buy more books by the same author.

It bothers me when writers refuse to pay for editors. After all, as a profession we don’t like to hear about non-writers taking jobs from writers. We don’t like to hear people say, “If I can pass high school English, I can be a writer, too.” So why should we assume that just because we can write, we can also edit? Editing is a specialized skill, one that takes dedication, training and an eye for details.

I’m of the firm belief that it’s impossible for even the best writers to edit their own work. We’re often too close to the work to be objective about it. Furthermore, our eyes often see what we think is there, not what is actually there. So we mistake a “me” for “my” or a “serious” for “series.” They’re just close enough that a quick glance might not uncover the error—but once they’re in print, they’re that way forever.

Editors catch the errors that writers miss. They ensure consistency in spelling and tense. They question ideas that don’t make sense. They take a writer’s words and ensure those words are clear, coherent and correct. They are the final step to ensuring that a work is as professional as possible.

For my money, editors are worth their weight in gold. Because as a writer, I want my readers focused on my words and ideas, not on my misplaced apostrophes and dangling participles.

Heidi Turner is a freelance writer. Her website is www.heiditurner.ca. Her blog, full of advice for freelance writers, is thehappyfreelancer.com.