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So is most self-published material poorly edited?

Discussion in 'Publishing' started by Zero Angel, Aug 28, 2012.

  1. Stuart John Evison

    Stuart John Evison Minstrel

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    This post is to show that editors have been winding authors up for at least 300 years. I have a reprint of the first edition(1726) of "Travels into several remote nations of the world in four parts by Lemuel Gulliver" , "Gulliver's Travels" to thee and me. There is a footnote at the beginning in "A letter from Captain Gulliver to his cousin Sympson."
    "The publishers of this edition have thought it advisable to follow the text of the first edition, but the following note will be of interest:-
    'That the original copy of these Travels was altered by the person through whose hands it was conveyed to the press is a fact; but the passages of which Mr Gulliver complains in this letter are to be found only in the first editions; ---------. There is, however, scarce one of these alterations in which he has not committed a blunder; though while he was busy in defacing the parts that were perfect, he suffered the accidental blemishes of others to remain.' "
    This letter to Sympson was written tongue in cheek as part of the fantasy itself. However the point is that it is obvious here Swift is complaining about editors and the way their input in his own journey to get published has wound him up.
    P.S. If Swift's manuscript was submitted to publishers today his archaic eighteenth century prose, which I find refreshingly different and long winded would be totally obliterated by an editor. What they would do to Shakespeare if he time traveled and submitted a new play today does not bear thinking about, though that idea itself might make a good novel.
    Stu.E.
     
  2. Zero Angel

    Zero Angel Auror

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    This reminds me of an anecdote I've heard a few times. Here is the quote (from multiple sources):
    Although this was more to illustrate the results of unsolicited/unagented submissions than anything about luck in getting published.
     
  3. Do the people who try that stuff ever think to consider that MAYBE these editors have actually READ all these famous books, and think "oh, great, another guy is trying to plagarize a classic" and just throw it in the trash bin?

    The most famous example of this is the guy who tried to do the same with Pride and Prejudice.

    NOTE TO IDIOTS: EVERY EDITOR WHO WORKS FOR A PUBLISHING COMPANY HAS READ PRIDE AND PREJUDICE. IF THEY HAVEN'T THEIR SLUSH READERS HAVE.

    It makes me want to bang my head into a wall until the hurting stops.
     
    Ghost likes this.
  4. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

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    Assuming that a few of the publishers did recognize the book, and that a few more might have priorities that keep from them giving it their full attention (and what did the query letter say I wonder?), I find it pretty telling that 1 in 20 did say publish. If that test was conducted to prove that old successful books would never get published today, I call bull.
     
  5. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

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    I think the take home point is that even good, highly successful books have a low acceptance rate, so don't be discouraged.
     
  6. MichaelSullivan

    MichaelSullivan Maester

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    If you are "buying" free books is it any wonder that they aren't edited to your satisfaction? Remember the old adage you get what you pay for? Personally I don't think that putting a whole novel out for free (other than for a short period as a promotion) is a good idea. Writers need to value their work and put a price tag on it...and yes edit it properly.
     
  7. MichaelSullivan

    MichaelSullivan Maester

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    Prices can vary wildly I've gotten quotes for $350 - $5,000. I've "tested" the editors I've used with a few sample pages and I've been able to get very similar quality at the lower end as the upper end. You just have to shop it around.
     
  8. Stuart John Evison

    Stuart John Evison Minstrel

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    I think I prefer to think that editors should stick to checking the spelling and the grammar, agents and publishers and it is they who employ the good editors, are too often driven by the idea of commercialism not by the art of the storyteller. Story telling was an oral art for far longer than it has been a written one and as such is still practiced today especially in places like the Irish Republic.
    I would advise anyone to read their work out loud as if they were reading for the benefit of another, edit and punctuate it as you go. If it trips off the tongue and sounds good, chances are it is good.
    If you look at my profile you'll see I'm an artist first and best, a writer second and I'm a fen born and educated Englishman, I write how I illustrate and talk. Shakespeare, Swift, Steinbeck and Twain they all speak for their times and place, commercialism has nothing to do with them; its just art.
    Not so long ago an agent expressed interest in my own "Muddle Puddle" except first of all he wanted to exclude the illustration of the pregnant naked lady and all reference that two of the characters (one of them a leprechaun) might be 'gay' . That's not editorial licence, that's misogynist homophobia; needless to say I told him what he could do with his consideration.
     
    Last edited: Sep 8, 2012
  9. Rosered

    Rosered Dreamer

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    Apologies for the long post. It's my first one on this forum (or any forum to that matter) and I'm on a roll.
    I'm an arts editor and trained as a sub-editor for a Scottish newspaper. I can't read even a menu without finding a spelling mistake.
    Quite a few self-published novels of local writers land on my desk for review. Out of 20, perhaps one is possibly readable; most are so poorly written, the grammar and spelling errors so profuse, that I find it impossible to read on. It's a pity because many of the plots sound really interesting and the synopses promise a great read.
    That's not to say that all self-published works are bad. On the contrary, there are some very fine works out there that buck a depressing trend and there are very many highly successful self-published authors who produce wonderful work.
    New writers, and even well-published ones, face a downwardly spiralling chance of having their precious work accepted by mainstream publishers who, in turn, are battling to keep their shareholders happy. Publishers are more reluctant to take on new work than ever before because the risk factor outweighs a healthy bank balance.
    Self-publishing, and particularly e-publishing, is becoming increasingly popular for an author who would not otherwise have a chance of seeing their manuscripts in print or in the public domain.
    Someone on this thread spoke of the need to maintain quality and professionalism in any work. Books are a product and I think there's the rub. Just because an author has gone down the self-publishing route does not mean that the standards of their product should be any lower than that expected from a professionally published book. They should be the same: well-written; well-edited; and packaged professionally.
    No matter how much I try to edit my own work, there's always a mistake I've missed. Unfortunately, once it's printed, it's there forever. It's always best to get someone to edit any work properly. Notwithstanding the need to correct typos and grammatical irregularities, a good editor will tell you which bits are too rambling; which parts of the plot are weak; which bits are difficult to understand, the list is endless. Of course, it's always down to their opinion but you pay them to be the ones who know what sells and what doesn't.
    In my humble opinion, if you feel your work is worthy of publication and you can't attract the interest of an agent or publisher (or even if you just fancy cutting out the middle-men and publishing your book yourself), then someone's got to invest in it so why not you?
    That said, $600 (even in British pounds) is such a lot of money and most people put themselves at the bottom of the list of financial priorities when they are juggling meagre household funds.
    I think the idea of beta readers sounds like a good compromise. There is also a number of websites where authors help each other by reading each other's work and critiquing it. Failing that, most people at least know someone who reads a lot and is good at English.
    As authors, we all want to produce as near to a perfect product as possible because, believe me, there's nothing worse than seeing errors in your writing after it's been published.
     
    Chilari likes this.
  10. BWFoster78

    BWFoster78 Myth Weaver

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    I agree for the most part but do have a minor quibble.

    Even with a professional editor, I think it's almost impossible to eliminate every mistake. I find typos in professionally published books all the time.
     
  11. Zero Angel

    Zero Angel Auror

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    Agreed.

    But don't you also generally find it incredibly jarring when you come across those? I do.
     
  12. MichaelSullivan

    MichaelSullivan Maester

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    You are quite right. But there is an expectation that a self-publsihed book will be poorly edited so you have to be twice as good to get half the credit. A typo in my traditionally published books is looked upon as, "Oh someone missed something, no biggie." Whereas the same mistake in my self-pubished work would be met with, "I can't believe anyone would release something without taking the bother to have it edited."
     
  13. Rosered

    Rosered Dreamer

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    Mistakes are, sadly, an occupational hazard!
     
  14. Chilari

    Chilari Staff Moderator

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    Rosered, thanks for your very informative first post. It sounds like you read a lot of self-pubbed books. What would you say is the most common problem with them besides grammar and spelling? Would you say hiring an editor is a worthwhile investment? Can you make the case for using our hard-earned cash on hiring an editor?
     
  15. Rosered

    Rosered Dreamer

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    Thanks Chilari. It's fun to be here and I'm getting so much out of this site.
    The most common problem I find with first time authors is that, although most have good plots and a great story to tell, their writing lets them down. It's really common when you first venture out into the world of novel writing to get the story down as you see it and not to trust the reader to draw his or her own conclusions: ie showing and not telling. I have also noticed a popular tendency to ramble (a bit like I'm doing now!) - overuse of hyperbole - and saying in two paragraphs (and, in one book a whole chapter) what could be said in one sentence.
    There is a pressure on authors to keep their writing tight - every word must count. Sometimes simply removing most of the unnecessary "had"s and "was"s and "that"s makes a huge difference to the flow of the narrative and the ultimate interest of the reader.
    Poorly crafted multiple points of view is also a common mistake (one that I was very guilty of when I first started writing). Head-hopping can work with some novels but often causes chaos if used badly, completely confusing the reader.
    From what I've seen from much self-published work, the authors haven't invested in themselves. That does not necessarily mean financial investment, but perhaps taking "time" to read up on the craft of creative writing or heed some of the solid free advice on the web. This site, for instance, is filled with really good advice from authors across the publishing spectrum who don't tell you anything more than a professional editor will.
    I truly don't believe that a professional editor is going to make much difference to the quality of your work if you can't write in the first place. What an editor will do is point out the weak points and the errors to make your project commercially viable. That said, all works of art and imagination are subjective and not all people who put themselves out as professional editors are necessarily helpful to all authors.
    Editors follow trends and, like publishers, work to a formula that may not suit a particular writer who is not interested in his or her works being moulded and compromised just to serve an artificially conceived market.
    I wouldn't pay for an editor simply because I am fortunate enough to work in the business. I know authors who swear by them but have also read many seemingly professionally edited books that have made me shudder.
    I've just been looking through the forum posts and the "showcase" does a better job than any professional editor will. It puts writers who are struggling with confidence on the right track and the advice will ultimately make them better writers.
     
    Last edited: Sep 9, 2012
    Chilari likes this.
  16. D.P. Prior

    D.P. Prior New Member

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    Absolutely. I'd add things like pace, voice, atmosphere, character development, plot structure, immediacy, consistency of style ...

    More and more indie authors are using editors these days, but not all editors are created equal.
     
  17. ALB2012

    ALB2012 Maester

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    Yep. Book I am reading at the moment- "closing" spelled "clsoing," odd paragraph splits and also the same person was described at the beginning of the paragraph as "young and respectable looking family man," then later as "scruffy and sullen-looking." What is he?

    I find typos, odd grammar etc in pretty much every book, waffling text, info dumps whatever you want to call it. I read a lot of 19th Century books and they have more archaic language and ways of writing. Tastes change.

    I agree an editor- be it the author him/herself, a professional paid editor, a critique group should do the best they can but no book is perfect, no book will please or be enjoyed by everyone, no book is beyond criticism but I do feel people are too picky. Surely it should be about the story far more than whether someone accidently put a comma in the wrong place.
    Everyone has to start somewhere and not everyone has the money to hire an editor, confidence to submit to traditional publishers who receive so many submissions but are talented and have a good story to share.

    Personally I couldn't care a toss if someone is Self Published if I like the book. I have read very many traditional books I have thought were crap. As I said you can't please everyone.

    I agree there are some dreadful self published books around, but there are also some good ones, some enjoyable ones. Would someone say they wouldn't listen to a song because the singer wasn't with a main stream music house?
     
  18. yachtcaptcolby

    yachtcaptcolby Minstrel

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    A friend and I have been debating if there's a market for a "seal of quality" service for self-published authors. The idea is that self-published authors would pay a small fee to submit their work to the service for review. All this service does is make sure the formatting is consistent, that it's mostly free of grammar and spelling mistakes, and that it's written at a reasonable level. Basically, that the work is professional; the service wouldn't comment on whether the book is enjoyable to read, just that it's technically sound. Works that pass would receive a seal they could attach to their cover art and would be listed on the service's site.

    We don't really have the time or the money to set anything like this up, but it's been a fun thing to talk about.
     
  19. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

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    There's definitely an opening. But if you don't already have a reputation in the industry, you'd have real trouble getting enough good books using your service to build one.

    Also, there's a big difference between editing and proofreading. At the very least you'd need to work on the narrative's flow and not just grammatical issues.
     
  20. Zero Angel

    Zero Angel Auror

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    I think paying for a review would be worth a lot more of the author's money.
     
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