Editing: It’s Not Just For Big Publisher Novels

I’ve been reading a great book lately. I am really enjoying its fresh and whimsical tone that keeps you from otherwise crying over what is a truly ghastly plot (ie. the plot is about something ghastly, not the plotting is ghastly). At the same time, however, I really wish there had been a more thorough editing job done on it before it went to print.

The book I’m reading is either small-press or indie-published. I understand that at this level the resources just aren’t there to catch every error. I get that. But there are an inordinate number of errors ranging from typos and missing words, to fragments of sentences fused together, to entire paragraphs being repeated within a few paragraphs of one another. It’s bad enough it throws me out of a story I really don’t want to be thrown out of.

As I said, the writing is so good I want to keep reading, so I overlook these errors and I move on. But deep down inside I resent being treated this way. It’s almost as if the writer is saying they don’t care about the reader, and that’s not the message an author wants to convey. I want so much to enjoy this book, but every time I encounter one of these errors it’s as if someone splashed mud across the page.

Self-publishing still has a reputation for poor quality; of books that are poorly written, poorly edited, poorly packaged and, as a result, poorly read. If this is ever to change we’re going to have to step up our game as writers. Readers will forgive a few small errors. Those even creep into top-published books. But if our readers begin to feel as though they are being asked to proof-read your book for you they probably won’t read another one. Proof-readers shouldn’t have to pay for the privilege of correcting your crap.

At the very least talk a conscientious friend into proof-reading your manuscript. And your ebook copy. And your POD copy. Not all errors are the fault of the writer–some software can make errors where none existed. But the writer still gets the blame. Sometimes you’ll get an Amazon review that points out your errors for you, but more often your potential fan will simply never become a fan–and you’ll never know about it–or why. You will only know you’re not selling as many books as you would like.


Thom Stratton

About Thom Stratton

Thom is a Utah transplant, works for a regional bank, and spends his lunch hours working on his latest novel. His wife, three kids, and four pets find him amusing and somewhat useful, so they keep him around.