No, really, get an editor.

“Hi, I’m Cait, and I’m a writer.”

“Hiiiiiiii, Cait!”

“It’s been over 20 years since I started writing, and I acknowledge I need a higher power. I need an editor.”

People clap. Someone hugs me. An enthusiastic word-smith gives me tips on how I could have improved my confession. I am among writers who cannot write real good without an editor’s polish. I am home.

I just finished reading a few paragraphs of a book written by an independent author. Now, I might be an indie author myself if I don’t get picked up by a publisher, so I’m not about to slam people from my potential clan. However, I felt a wee bit of a sting while reading the work, because the writing could have been tighter.

ID-100236272One of the biggest complaints I hear from readers about indie books is that they are poorly written. You don’t know how many of my friends have wagged their fingers at me, saying, “Make sure you get your book professionally edited!” My response is always the same: “I wouldn’t dream of publishing anything without a proper edit.”

Writers, my homies, you might have original ideas and a cool style, but you’re never as good as you think you are. Take it from me. My work is so desperate for an editor’s eyes, the manuscript created a personal profile on eHarmony, listing “must like to rearrange words” as its turn-ons. I was paid for over two decades as a technical writer and in that time was subjected to Editing Bootcamp from the Dark Side. What I learned most of all is how blind I will become staring at my own work. I’ll stop seeing my own mistakes and my brain will tell me everything is perfect, when it’s not.

Unless your Auntie Sally is a book editor, don’t get friends or family with “a little editing experience” to do the final edit. This is where you should fork out some cash. I know, it’s hard when you are an unknown and the money is not there. Think of it as an investment in future book sales. Readers can be tough with their reviews and if your book is poorly edited, news of it will spread and your work will be dead in the water. Give your book a fighting chance. It’s your baby, after all.

Victoria Strauss for Writer Beware published the article, Vetting an Independent Editor, where she warns us to make sure any independent editor we hire is associated with professional organizations:

“Also, for individual editors, membership in the Editorial Freelancers Association (US), the Society of Freelance Editors and Proofreaders (UK), the Institute of Professional Editors (Australia), or the Editors’ Association of Canada are all indications of professionalism. (The websites of these organizations provide a lot of helpful information, including sample agreements and charts of recommended rates).”

~ Strauss, Victoria (2012). Vetting an Independent Editor. Writer Beware.

I’m currently having test readers go at my book, and the group includes avid readers and writers. I fully expect to get bombed with feedback. They are acting for me as my substantive editors and will tell me if the structure and content of my story gels. Even though I plan to query publishers, I feel this substantive peer review is vital. As for the copy edit, which checks grammar, typos, punctuation, and so on, I plan to do a two-step process. First, for querying publishers, I’ll get an editor I know to comb through the text, so it presents well. Then, if I’m not published traditionally, I will hire a professional book editor for a final copy edit.

It takes so much out of your soul to write a book, and I would rather people panned my work because they didn’t like it, rather than because it was poorly written. Presentation is everything, especially in alphabet arrangements.

Have you had bad reading or editing experiences? Let me know in the comments.

Happy word-writin’!

/cg


Cait Gordon has been a senior technical writer in high tech and government organizations. She is currently a Web Developer consultant for Dynamic Canvas Inc., and assistant to the Executive Director at H’Art of Ottawa. She also enjoys her crafting business, Cait Cards.

5 thoughts on “No, really, get an editor.

  1. I agree. Get an editor. Especially if, like me, you’re dyslexic. Ideally we’re all made of money and can afford three edits (often three different people) a structural edit, a copy edit and a proof edit. But realistically we cannot all afford that for our first titles so a structural and a copy edit can suffice. Zero outside edits are highly unlikely to suffice. Never say never… but… well… never.

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    • Yeah. When you’re super famous you I’ve can choose your awesome editor. In the meantime we have to be frugal yet produce a professional product. It ain’t easy. But the biggest criticism I hear is poor grammar, wrong use of words, and typos. So even a copy edit will polish those up.

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      • Definitely. I just had my first experience with a professional copy editor and my mind is officially blown. They do so much more than your grammar pedant friends can do. I still love my pedant friends but I won’t be going back to them when I have discovered the glory of a professional. I won’t name my professional cop editor in case people hate my book upon release. I don’t want to drag others down with me. BUT if people like it, I’ll be singing her praises on my blog. Not long until release. Fingers crossed for… songs of praise.

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  2. If my friends are reading this I was totally kidding. Of course you’re just as good as a professional. *whispers behind hand – they’re not, they’re really not.

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