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On NOT Hiring an Editor (Interview)

Discussion in 'Publishing' started by Philip Overby, Sep 26, 2013.

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  1. Chilari

    Chilari Staff Moderator

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    I can understand relegating copyediting and proofreading budgets to a low priority if you have experience in that and the time to go through thoroughly. But what about content editing? It's harder to spot things like telling where you should be showing, weak characterisation or a logical leap in a plotline because you know the material too well to see it objectively. What would your stance be on content editing?
     
  2. PaulineMRoss

    PaulineMRoss Inkling

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    Exactly. All books have a few errors, even the big-cheese traditionally published ones. I only mention them in reviews if they interfere with my enjoyment noticeably. Some errors I don't even see (one book changed a character's name for a few pages, which I didn't notice at all). Grammatical errors drive me insane. And I'll forgive a book any number of spelling mistakes if the author uses 'had' properly.

    But the other point is not just about hiring an editor, but hiring a GOOD editor. I had an author approach me recently for a review, and I rejected the book because of two grammatical errors and a serious crime against punctuation in the first two pages. He was mortified (his word) because he'd already paid for professional editing. He got it re-edited and I did read it in the end (and enjoyed it) but there were still numerous stupid mistakes. I don't know what he paid his editor but he was robbed.
     
  3. Philip Overby

    Philip Overby Staff Article Team

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    Hiring a professional editor can be very expensive. I can understand why someone would hire someone cheaper to do the work if they could. I guess you get what you pay for though.

    For self-published authors especially, making sure your work is clean before putting it out there is very important. I would probably have multiple people look at my work before putting it out there, even if I had a professional editor look at it first.

    For me content>technical issues. I mostly read big publisher or small press work, so I guess they have more resources. I'd like to read more self-published work going forward. Since it's still a relatively new phenomenon, I want to seek out new authors I believe have promise. Even if they have some errors in their work, I'll forgive that if they tell an excellent story and hope they clean it up more for their next book.
     
  4. Chilari

    Chilari Staff Moderator

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    I will forgive a certain amount of technical issues if the content holds up. But if the author constantly gets homophones wrong, put's in a few apo'strophe's that 'shouldn't be their and so on I'm gonna run out of patient's before long.

    Disclaimer: All errors in the above paragraph are deliberate.

    But seriously. There's a threshold; the better the content, the higher the threshold, but no amount of technical expertise will keep me reading a book with dull characters, a pondering plot and masses of exposition. The content has to have something going for it. And that definitely needs a second opinion - an author is too close to their own work and their own style to be able to tell if what they've written is good. That's where beta readers and editors come in.

    I'm not entirely decided on whether a professional editor is required, but I'm utterly convinced that there must be someone with a certain degree of understanding in writing to look at and evaluate a book, who is not the author. That could be a professional editor, a writing group, a stranger on an online critique exchange site, a book blogger, or even just someone who reads a lot. And I think the less expertise the reader, the more readers there need to be.

    As for copyediting and proofreading, I think that is someone some authors can do themselves, if they're well versed in grammar and willing to put the time in to make sure they've caught it all. But even then I think a second opinion is a good idea. There are a few instances where I've come across lesser known homophones (council/counsel was one) and I can see that it's just something the author doesn't even know is wrong and something most readers wouldn't even notice, but I do and that annoys me.
     
  5. tlbodine

    tlbodine Troubadour

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    Like I said, I send everything to my brother and several beta readers who help me out with that kind of stuff. I think everybody needs a crit partner (or five). Which is the other reason why paying for a final proofread is not as high priority for me.

    I've found that most of the time when people are going on about editing, they usually seem to mean proofreading. Which is actually a shame because most of the serious problems with a book are not actually, y'know, misspelled words or whatever.

    EDIT: Also, I should add that my brother and I are pretty ruthless with each other's work. We don't let things slide on account of blood relation.
     
    Last edited: Sep 27, 2013
  6. GeekDavid

    GeekDavid Auror

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    Well, my friend the volunteer editor will be the fourth reader (besides me) of Librarian, so I think you could say I've definitely had multiple sets of eyes looking at it. And I reiterate an earlier offer... if anyone wants to look at it and offer suggestions, drop me a PM. I'm not afraid, I want it as clean as I can get.

    And one reason I point out errors when I review is for the author to do better the next book... and so far I've had two of them respond positively, one asked for a list of errors so he could correct them himself, the other wrote and said he was getting it professionally edited, and would I like a free copy so I can re-review the corrected one. I gladly call both authors true professionals.
     
  7. GeekDavid

    GeekDavid Auror

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    In my own defense -- and that of Otherwhere Gazette (OG) where I review stuff -- we have an unwritten rule not to post reviews of books we don't like because of things like slow plot, poor characterization, etc, so most (stress most) of the time, if we post a review and complain about something, it's going to be proofreading errors.

    We have, however, made one exception, and that was a review I wrote, but the website's editor (whom I count as a friend) had also read it and pushed me to post a review as a warning to others.

    Honestly, I think it's a good policy. If I reviewed every book I picked up but put down in disgust after a few chapters, OG would be so crowded with bad reviews that you'd have to fight to find a good one... and those bad reviews would include big name authors like David Eddings, whose latest series is a clear flop, both on Amazon and with me.
     
  8. Philip Overby

    Philip Overby Staff Article Team

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    This discussion kind of gave me an idea. What if there was a service or site that gave you "practice reviews?" Meaning they would give you an honest review as if it was a finished work, but they wouldn't be put out there in the world like a real review, just shared with the writer. If there was something out there like that, there might be less instances of reviewers pointing out technical issues or glaring content problems. Then the book could be judged solely on the merits most well-edited books are critiqued. I know that's the job of beta reader sites and critique groups, but I think it might be beneficial to some authors to get these "practice reviews" so they know what doesn't work and can save themselves any embarrassment from a bad review due to these kind of issues.

    Just a thought.
     
  9. GeekDavid

    GeekDavid Auror

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    Not a bad idea, Phil. How about making it a Mythic Scribes service? I'll gladly do some of the reviews, time and other projects permitting, of course.
     
  10. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

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    It would be nice if there was a cheaper way to get your work proofread. But proofreading is real work - I would be concerned that a volunteer review service would give people a false sense of security.
     
  11. Philip Overby

    Philip Overby Staff Article Team

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    I think if the people doing the volunteering are those who are conscious about such things more than others, it couldn't hurt. The idea of a "practice review" might highlight an author's biggest problems. It seems reviewers like GeekDavid, PaulineMRoss, and Chilari tend to pick up on these issues, so these kind of reviewers (not necessarily them) could give honest reviews of a "finished" work (meaning it's ready in the author's mind, but might not be in other people's) It could be written just like a real reader review.

    Of course, any such service shouldn't substitute for a professional or experienced editor, but could be a way for writers to get a real gauge on their weaknesses before publishing. I think this might be pretty beneficial for self-publishing authors especially.
     
    Last edited: Sep 27, 2013
    Chilari and GeekDavid like this.
  12. GeekDavid

    GeekDavid Auror

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    Thanks for including my name on that list, Phil.
     
  13. Chilari

    Chilari Staff Moderator

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    I already send private critiques to authors whose books I've promised to review that I don't think very highly of, instead of posting a public review - I don't like posting negative reviews or reviews of books I couldn't get through. A pre-publication review system would be a good idea - then authors like those I have encountered can get their completed novels checked by an independent but knowledgable third party before they hit "publish", stopping them from jumping the gun on something that's not ready - but also, if the book is well recieved, giving them a pre-publication review which they can opt to have publically visible to help their marketing efforts or use quotes from in the blurb.

    I could see a service like that working and being very popular with self-publishers.
     
  14. Graylorne

    Graylorne Archmage

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    What is the real difference with 'Review Request?' We have that service already and it's not exactly booming.
     
  15. Philip Overby

    Philip Overby Staff Article Team

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    I think the difference I'm seeing, and one that Chilari highlighted, would be a review that wouldn't necessarily be a real review, meaning it wouldn't be made public unless the author wanted it to be so. I find the Review Requests section tends to be for writers who have finished products and want reviews for Amazon or other public places. This service, or whatever it is, would be more of a private venture to help writers get a taste of what people might say about their writing. I've heard this more often that not that a writer puts something out there and then is embarrassed when their manuscript is marred with problems that they either missed or an editor glossed over.

    The people who are able to do reviews often respond to the Review Requests section I find. I've noticed Chilari and PaulineMRoss have both done reviews of books posted there in the past.

    I think a simulated "publishing world" would actually be quite a cool idea. BWFoster has already mentioned doing a service where he'll "accept/reject" your manuscript and tell you why he would do so. More services like this could definitely be helpful if the right people are involved and they have a passion for helping new or undiscovered authors.
     
    Last edited: Sep 27, 2013
  16. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

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    You would need a lot of people onboard to do it - a handful couldn't be expected to carry the load on a longterm basis. It would fizzle, unless you tried to network with other sites and get in the neighborhood of twenty or thirty people to volunteer.
     
  17. Zero Angel

    Zero Angel Auror

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    Popping in to give my opinion in regards to the original article.

    I'll never be reading that blogger's blog again, and if I am ever asked to do an interview for it, I not only would say no, I would tell them that I don't like bullies and jerks.

    As someone mentioned earlier, it is very difficult for the whole thing to not read like it was motivated out of spite and jealousy.

    Although erotica readers seem to have about the same tolerance for writers of a certain quality as fanfiction, I don't think either of those things matter when you are approaching writing as something to keep a roof over your head and pay your groceries which is something wholly ignored by the blogger and true independent of genre. This writer wrote "good enough" to be successful and continue to be successful. That's "good enough".

    If I was able to make a living writing and the only way I could do it would be to write a novel every eight weeks and only dedicate two weeks to editing, then I would be doing that and damn my reputation or the critical reviews. Any time I heard of a mistake I would update the files for the second editions and hope that I would eventually be able to give them all their fair share of time, but if it's a living, then it would be a living, and trust me it's a lot better than going to sleep hungry or working 120 hours in a week.

    If I could get started doing that, then I would do that right now.

    Two asides:

    (1) I don't have an editor anymore. I use what beta-readers I can, and trust myself as the final error-catcher and director. My first novel I spent almost a full year editing, cutting, adding, editing some more, etc and had to have read the entire thing front-to-back 8 times, not to mention dozens of times in different scenes. Reading it aloud, reading it over and over and over again. I caught 99% of errors and directorial changes that ended up being made even though I did a TFP with a college English student going into editing and had my beta-readers also. That said, I still had issues after going to press with some copyediting and a couple of anachronisms.

    (2) Even though I didn't have much success going this route that time, if you can't afford an editor, TFP is a good alternative. TFP literally means Time-for-Portfolio (or Print) and is a modeling term, but is a good term to use in general. Try to find people that are going into editing or need experience and would be willing to work with you in return for the experience, adding to their portfolio (before-and-afters, recommended changes on manuscripts, etc), or even a letter of recommendation (just work out the terms before-hand). It's basically like an individual intern, but has some of its own issues to navigate.

    I had too much of my time wasted when I went that route and ended up doing more on my own anyway, so because of that combined with my natural cockiness, I won't be doing that again. Word-of-mouth or calling up your local university's English Department would probably be the best route, but get a good recommendation and don't get burned like I did.

    If I ever had enough money to be a professional author, then I would re-invest in my books probably about with the same priority as mentioned earlier in the conversation: Cover, then marketing with editing close behind/tied, then formatting.

    I trust myself in the formatting department enough that unless I had extra, extra money to spend, I wouldn't even consider it. I've become very proficient in formatting.
     
  18. PaulineMRoss

    PaulineMRoss Inkling

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    To be honest, I don't see a lot of difference between this proposal and what beta readers and some editors already do, that is, provide independent feedback on a book. Speaking for myself, I wouldn't want to do this. My time is short, and I'd hate to spend it reading a book I don't enjoy (even in a good cause). I'm very selective about what I read nowadays.

    What I would be happy to do, purely as a favour for Mythic Scribers, is to look at the first 2-3 chapters, cover image, blurb, etc, the sort of things I'd see if I was trawling through Amazon, and give an honest assessment of whether I personally would buy the book, based on that information, and if not, why not. This wouldn't be too time consuming to do, and although it wouldn't be a full review, it would give the author an idea of how his/her work comes across. If two or three people were to do that, it would be very useful.

    Alternatively, there are online critique groups who can provide that sort of feedback too, if you critique other work in return.
     
  19. tlbodine

    tlbodine Troubadour

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    Yeah, I was going to say, this is exactly what crit partners/critique groups are for.

    My experience with them has often been that critters are 1.) too worried about coming across as mean (criticism sandwich!) and 2.) too worried about getting their own work dealt with, that this isn't as helpful as it should be. But that just means that you need better critters, not that the whole system needs to be reinvented.
     
  20. Philip Overby

    Philip Overby Staff Article Team

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    Well, it was just an idea. :)

    Maybe Pauline's "mini-feedback" idea would be good. Not reading a whole novel, but just giving feedback on a sample. I could probably have time to do that. As it is now, I only do full reviews for writers who aren't well-known if they contact me directly or I've read some of their work before and I liked it.

    So maybe a "sample review" type of thing would be helpful? Like mentioning if you would want to continue reading, if it hooked you early on, etc. Maybe a critique of a synopsis, cover art, as Pauline mentioned?

    I feel like critique partners and beta readers would be different. With a critique partner, you're often trading critiques. So you're usually analyzing the writing more than you would if you were doing a simple review. I reviewed one of Andrzej Sapkowski's book not long ago and I didn't treat it like a critique.

    I guess this idea would be similar to a beta reader. The idea would be do maximize helpfulness and perhaps minimize time investment from the reviewer. I agree that giving a review of a sample wouldn't be a big time suck. This would be something I'd be willing to do as well.

    In regards to the original article again, I just wanted to mention that on other blogs and websites that have shared that article, the main sense seems to be that they thought the whole thing was funny and that more people should speak out against poorly constructed writing. Here at Mythic Scribes is the only place that I've noticed all negative feedback. I guess this means we're more compassionate towards an author trying to make it than proving a point about needing an editor. I was sort of on the fence about it, but I think you've all convinced me that there was probably a better way to get the point across than baiting a writer into an interview and ambushing him/her.

    Interesting to note. :)
     
    Last edited: Sep 27, 2013
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