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So is most self-published material poorly edited?

I started reading my first non-me self-published Kindle novel today (apologies @ Ben but this one was free so I figured I'd check it out first).

I do not want to make anyone feel bad (although I don't think this author is on our forum--it wasn't fantasy--but I don't think it is appropriate to "rip" on people that are in the same position as me for better or for worse), but I could not get past the first page.

Actually, I did get past the first page by skipping the rest of the prologue to see if I could get interested in the characters.

Is this usual? I have no idea if the book was interesting or not because I had too difficult of a time reading it :(

Do yins use/pay professional editors? Do you edit it yourself? Do you use beta readers and don't publish something if they are saying, "It's a great story but it seems like it needs edited better"?

I think I spent more time proofreading and editing my first novel than I did writing it o_O
 

Ankari

Hero Breaker
Moderator
At a convention I went to, a few self-published authors stated that hiring an editor isn't that expensive. One said for $600 you should be able to get a line-by-line edit done (for an agreed upon word count). I feel that if an author doesn't hire an editor, even after beta-readers and self-editing, he's doing himself an injustice. He is also telling his potential clients that he didn't believe in the story enough to invest in editing.

I know people will post stating that coming by $600 isn't easy. This may appear snarky, but do a few things:

1) Is the phone in your hand an Iphone 4S? Are you already hyped about the Iphone 5? You have the money.

2) Do you regularly go to a bar every weekend? Skip a couple months and save up. You have the money.

3) Do you go out to every weekend to a movie and dinner? Skip a couple months and save up. You have the money.

4) Do you eat lunch in a diner/fast food restaurant? Pack your launch for two months. You have the money.

5) Do you buy the latest PS3/Xbox 360 game? Don't do so for the next couple months. You have the money.

The point is, get the money together and invest in an editor.
 

FireBird

Troubadour
Based on how many books I've read that I've gotten off Amazon, I can tell you that tons of them were not edited or had a very poor editor. If I counted up all the free books I've bought and then count how many I've read all the way through, the number would be around 1/10, if that. Every once in a while you will find a great free one and wonder why the hell it was free in the first place.
 
At a convention I went to, a few self-published authors stated that hiring an editor isn't that expensive. One said for $600 you should be able to get a line-by-line edit done (for an agreed upon word count). I feel that if an author doesn't hire an editor, even after beta-readers and self-editing, he's doing himself an injustice. He is also telling his potential clients that he didn't believe in the story enough to invest in editing.

I know people will post stating that coming by $600 isn't easy. This may appear snarky, but do a few things:

1) Is the phone in your hand an Iphone 4S? Are you already hyped about the Iphone 5? You have the money.

2) Do you regularly go to a bar every weekend? Skip a couple months and save up. You have the money.

3) Do you go out to every weekend to a movie and dinner? Skip a couple months and save up. You have the money.

4) Do you eat lunch in a diner/fast food restaurant? Pack your launch for two months. You have the money.

5) Do you buy the latest PS3/Xbox 360 game? Don't do so for the next couple months. You have the money.

The point is, get the money together and invest in an editor.

....not to be snarky, but if you don't do any of those 5 things then saying you don't have the money is OK?

I think it's a worthwhile investment and I do agree that many people do not have their priorities straight. Unfortunately, I tend to not buy anything extra...Hell, I've been giving Benjamin Clayborne the run-around about not buying his book yet and it is only $4 (although I am planning on purchasing next week...)

Based on how many books I've read that I've gotten off Amazon, I can tell you that tons of them were not edited or had a very poor editor. If I counted up all the free books I've bought and then count how many I've read all the way through, the number would be around 1/10, if that. Every once in a while you will find a great free one and wonder why the hell it was free in the first place.
One in ten?! That's rough!
 

T.Allen.Smith

Staff
Moderator
Professional editing & professional cover art, in my opinion, are both essential. A book designer is also a decent idea for internal layout.

Do you want to look and read like a pro or do you want to be an amateur?
 

Ankari

Hero Breaker
Moderator
....not to be snarky, but if you don't do any of those 5 things then saying you don't have the money is OK?

No. Even if you can't get the money by saving it, do something to get it in your hands. Ask a friend, lover, brother, mother, or anyone that shares your gene pool. Write a loan agreement with a favorable repayment plan (for you) and invest the money wisely. There is a way, just find it.
 
I'm lucky to be skilled enough to be my own editor, so I didn't see any need to hire someone. (My wife very helpfully did two passes looking for mistakes, and found about 1 error per 10,000 words on each pass.) The technical proficiency of the words is separate from their artistic merit, and I'd never claim that my prose would make Fitzgerald weep with shame.

I can't do art for crap, though, which is why I hired an artist to create my cover.
 

Jabrosky

Banned
I typically edit as I write, and at the risk of sounding arrogant I've always had less of a problem with typos than most of my generation. Obviously I'll have reviewers point out any errors before I publish something, but typos aren't my biggest concern right now.
 

Ankari

Hero Breaker
Moderator
but typos aren't my biggest concern right now.

But it's not only about typos. Its about grammar rules (when you mean to use them), sentence structure, word choice (better clarity) and (if you're using a content editor) story consistency.

But you're right, you don't want to even think about an editor until you've completed your story.
 
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But it's not only about typos. Its about grammar rules (when you mean to use them), sentence structure, word choice (better clarity) and (if you're using a content editor) story consistency.

But you're right, you don't want to even think about an editor until you've completed your story.

Nice clarification there Ankari. I think some people think of editors as a glorified Word spellchecker/grammar checker.
 

Ankari

Hero Breaker
Moderator
Nice clarification there Ankari. I think some people think of editors as a glorified Word spellchecker/grammar checker.

I did too, until I took this craft more seriously. I wish I had the guts to go to university with writing as my goal, not to get a degree for monetary gain (which didn't work anway!).
 
I did too, until I took this craft more seriously. I wish I had the guts to go to university with writing as my goal, not to get a degree for monetary gain (which didn't work anway!).

I don't know about getting a writing degree, although I'd be interested in a few classes, but just being able to dedicate that much TIME to writing would be amazing. Every day I feel like I am being literally shredded by my desires to write conflicting with my work obligations.

This forum has been a godsend in that regard. The micro-writing and just being able to THINK about fantasy for short bursts of time is spectacular and much-needed.
 

Ophiucha

Auror
I'm honestly a better editor than I am a writer (and I'm not a bad writer), so that particular aspect is something I think I'll handle myself, with the help of a few beta readers I can trust to be honest with me about it. But the book cover? I'd have to get that done professionally. I have a novella that I am considering self-publishing (because novellas are hard as hell to get traditionally published, particularly in a genre that loves their 120,000 word epics) after a few more serious read-throughs, maybe three months work, but I just don't have the money to pay for a book cover right now, so I'm going to wait before I put it in the Kindle marketplace.

And before you say "just save up", I should say I have no form of income, and if I could get a relative or friend to lend me a few hundred dollars, I would far sooner use it to pay for groceries and rent than I would a book cover. I love to write, and I'd continue writing if I had to do it on the back of a cardboard box using pens people tossed away from the alleyway I was living in, but I'm not so eager to get published that I'll put myself one month closer to homelessness.
 
Thing is, the spelling and grammar is not the most important contribution an editor makes. Obviously those things are important but the main problem with bad self-published books (as opposed to good self-published books...there are such things) is that they've not had the benefit of a structural edit; ie, someone with judgment and skill asking the hard questions about the story and helping the writer to pull it all apart and put it back together in a tighter, more coherent and satisfying way.

It's the art of storytelling that's missing from bad self-published books...not just spelling and grammar.

I've been fortunate enough to have been through the structural editing process three times now and it's quite a challenge. The editor won't always win, but by god you'd better have a strong argument if you're going to convince the publisher that your vision is stronger than their editor's.
 

Ophiucha

Auror
Though true, it is a balance when it comes to self-published novels and the stories they tell. I think one of the best things the self-published market has to offer is its untraditional stories. I see this a lot on writer's blogs about how they had to fight the editor for the most basic things, like fighting to keep a character as a female, or black, or gay. Because it doesn't sell as well.

While, yes, a great deal of self-published books I've read are... borderline incoherent and lack any recognizable purpose, there are things an editor would want to change that you don't have to if you don't have a publishers interests in mind. And of course, when you start fighting them on those things you're right about, the power dynamics between you and the editor become a bit foggy. You are the author, but you are also the publisher. You are the person whose vision is being challenged and the person who you have to defend your vision to. And if you are right about one thing - let's say, that Character A should be gay - you create a situation where the editor knows you'll value your vision above his/her opinion and where you become aware of your veto power over anything the editor says.
 

Chilari

Staff
Moderator
But it's not only about typos. Its about grammar rules (when you mean to use them), sentence structure, word choice (better clarity) and (if you're using a content editor) story consistency.

But you're right, you don't want to even think about an editor until you've completed your story.

Not to sound smug or anything, but my written English is pretty strong. My teachers from school and my uni tutors commented on it; before I got my current job I was days away from starting my own proofreading business. Written English has always been a strength of mine. Not to say I don't make mistakes, because I do occasionally, but I intend to do several passes on a completed manuscript (after rewrites and story edits) for awkward sentences, typos, calling characters by the wrong names, and so on.

No editor required, not that I could afford one; I can honestly say no to each of those five points above - I can't afford a nice phone and have the cheapest contract I could find - £10 a month - I don't go out drinking much, I think the last time was about three months ago and I had lemonade, I don't eat out often, I go to the cinema about once a month but always go on the cheap nights and don't have popcorn etc. There's nobody I can ask for money and it's not fair to do so anyway.

Sum total of that is: I can't afford an editor, neither can anyone I can ask, but I can edit for myself and I can ask both my mum and my sister, who are both strong at written English too, to look over my final manuscript.
 

JCFarnham

Auror
You said it Chilari.

There is no reason a professional editor is absolutely better than doing it yourself. They may certainly be better suited to it than you, it is after all their day job, they do it enough, but that's not a given. They are just one more person you need to explain your vision to.

While an good amount of editors work for you, I'm almost certain (it being human nature) that there are some who would rather take what you offer them and rewrite it their way. That's the kind of editor I would absolutely not pay for. Seeing as how it would be difficult to judge such thing, aside from trusted word of mouth reviews I'm more inclined to self edit at the moment.

The simple fact is that the authors of those bad self-pub novels are not ready to publish and no amount of professional editing will be worth it. Just because you've finished your first book, does not mean your craft is good enough to put it out into the open market. "A polished turd is still a turd" is something I heard once in this regard haha.
 

TWErvin2

Auror
Sadly, poorly edited self-published works, in my experience, are the rule rather than the exception. It is an additional hurdle that more serious/dedicated/professional writers who choose to self-publish have to overcome.

Typos and grammar gaffs are often just the first clue as to a poorly edited novel or short story. As has been said above, editing includes more than simply finding those. Word choice, clarity, consistency, dialogue, plot, pacing, descriptions, all those things and more are reviewed by an editor. And as also been said, a good editor improves a work, but not by altering or shifting it away from the author's voice and storytelling--making it more like the editor's vision/voice, etc.

No novel is going to be perfect, self-published or traditional published, but the writing and editing has to be good enough that errors don't interfere with the reading and enjoyment.

I think that one of the reasons so many self-published novels out there are poorly written and edited is because the writers are impatient. One of the foremost reasons they self-publish is because they don't want to invest the time and effort necessary to go through the process to find and agent and/or seek out a publisher--it is often mentioned by many self-published authors, those that do it right and those that don't. Research and target markets, review guidelines, create the cover/query letter and prepare a submission package, send it off and then wait for the likely rejection but possible request for more (the full novel). Keep doing it until it finds a home or all solid markets are exhausted.

It seems the attitude is to self-publish, and just get it out there and see what happens. Put it out there for others to read, not because it's ready, but simply because they can at no cost.

I think there is a cost. Their reputation as a writer. And in truth, they chip away at the reputation of others that self-publish too. I don't see that changing any time soon.
 

Telcontar

Staff
Moderator
It is true that many of the self-published novels are horrible, but as mentioned above those are not just for want of editing or anything else - those authors simply weren't ready to publish and jumped in too early.

I've heard enough professional authors (many of them self-published) sing the praises of professional editing to believe that yes, it would likely improve the quality of my work if I could afford to hire it. However, the estimate of $600 is a drastic lowballing from what I have found through reporting and my own research. The quote I keep in my head is $1500 for a 100k novel. I can't remember if that applies to line-by-line or only editing for content (or some combo of those and a the third type) but that's the figure I tagged as "needed" in my mind to hire a pro editor.
 

JCFarnham

Auror
A quote I found some where was "Developmental Editing for $0.06/word". Which when you add up for a decent sized novel begins to look really rather costly.

$0.06 * 120,000 words = $7200

Now even if I converted that to Pounds Sterling that's a huge outlay for something myself and a few trusted writer friends could do for free. And for 65k it's no better I'm sure you can see.

The rest of this editors fees are however flat rates of about $300 for anything except the "developmental" stuff. Whatever that means. She is however a well praised critiquer/beta reader/editor. And would like help no end if you could pay for her.

It seems to me that free lance editors price themselves to look worth it for publishing houses. That could explain some of the steep prices. They mustn't be working with any normal amatuers.

If we take my example editor the only thing someone like me COULD afford is what MS Word already does... a spell check.
 
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