Friday, May 25, 2012

Why Do Indie Writers Need Editors?

Guest Post by Valerie Douglas

Here is a simple math question, and one of my favorite examples to illustrate why you need an editor. 

28. A train is blowing its whistle while traveling at a speed of 33.0 m/s. The speed of sound is 343 m/s. Observer A is directly in front of the train, while observer B is directly in behind it. Find the whistle frequency heard by A and that heard by B. 

Looks perfectly fine doesn’t it? 

Until an editor looks at it. Then a good editor will comment: If Observer A was (standing, lying down?) directly in front of the train Observer A would be dead. (Hit by fast moving train. Plot hole, please fix.) You capitalized Observer the first time in reference to A, but not to B. Be consistent, choose one or the other. We could also use more information about the train, Observer A (was he afraid before he was run down?) and Observer B. 

That’s what a good editor does, they pick up what you miss; the inconsistencies, the plot holes, the lack of information or overuse of the same, typos, words you consistently misspell - convinced that you spelled them correctly or never knew you were spelling or using incorrectly. There are many, many of those. So many there are books devoted to helping you find them. Ex. Strunk and White’s Elements of Style. 

Why, though, do Indie writers specifically need an editor? Besides the fact that they don’t use any of the above, either editor or editing books? The reason is simple, Indie writers have a reputation for publishing unedited crap…and it’s not entirely undeserved. Go to almost any Indie writer’s listing of their book(s) and look at their reviews. Unless those reviews were written by family and friends you’ll frequently find comments like this ‘One of the poorest-written novels I've read in a long time’, ‘Better proofreading please’, etc., or ‘the emotions are told instead of demonstrated, the characters are two-dimensional and the finale happens too quickly’. That last is from a best-selling Indie romance author. All of those examples could have been fixed by a good editor. Sure your story is good, but don’t you want it to be great

I think I’ve heard a million times, ‘but I read a traditionally published novel and it had lot of mistakes in it’. Yes, we’re held to a higher standard than traditional publishers. Aren’t we trying to be different, though - aren’t we trying to be better? 

Yes, being edited is tough. *grins* I cringe every time my editor points out something like ‘there’s too much nodding going on’ and then points it out every time (nod, here… and here.) *ack!*. Sometimes I want to shout at her – enough already with the nodding!!! – and then I think again. If it happened enough for her to notice, then readers will, too. If she doesn’t point it out, might I miss a few?

I’m sure some of you are saying, “I don’t really need to use an editor, my English is perfectly fine, no one has ever corrected me. In fact, most people come to me for spelling/grammar/English help.” Well, I hate to disabuse you of the notion, but my editors LOVE me. Both of them claim I’m a dream to edit… my spelling is great, my grammar is better by far than most. They can sometimes go a whole page without a single correction. BUT. I’ve got this thing with comma splices. And…well, there’s that nodding thing. 

Every author has quirks, bad habits and words they habitually use wrong. An editor’s job is to catch those errors before the reader does. Your job, as an Indie writer, is to make the suggested corrections. That’s also the advantage of being an Indie author, choice. And if you choose not to take your editor’s advice? Don’t blame your editor.

Some of you are no doubt crying “Editors are expensive.” Yep, they are. So, at the very least, go out and spend a few bucks on the Strunk and White book. Get some Beta readers, and not friends or family, but people you don’t know. There are sites on Facebook to find them, or use other authors you know. There are also a number of Indie Editor/Writer sites on Facebook that offer first chapter edits. Take advantage of them. You’ll probably be surprised – or if you’re honest, shocked and horrified – at what they find. 

Don’t like the reputation that Indie writers have for writing unedited crap? Then change it. Get an editor. (There are places on-line to find those, too.) 

About the author:
Valerie Douglas is a prolific writer and a genre-crosser, much to the delight of her fans. A fan of authors from almost every genre from Isaac Asimov to Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, she writes classic fantasy, romance, suspense, and as V.J. Devereaux, erotic romance. Who knows what will pop up down the road!

Happily married, she's companion to two dogs, four cats and an African clawed frog named Hopper.

Visit her website to find out more about Valerie Douglas.


  1. Great post, Valerie. Professional editing was something I couldn't afford when I was first starting out, but then I switched jobs and am in the process of doing everything "the right way." It really does make a difference, not only in the presentation to your readers but in your own self confidence knowing what you put out there is truly ready. Having a good editor at your back is well worth it. (winks at Krazy Book Lady)

    By the way KBL, I see you're reading 'Masque of the Red Death.' I'm interested in reading your review; you know I dig darker fiction, and I've been excited for this one since I first caught wind of it a few months back. Saw it in the bookstore the other day. Love the deckle edges; it really makes it look "spooky."

  2. EDITING is absolutely essential and your train analogy is as good as it gets. At the very least line editing. You apparently have access to some great editors.
    I heard James W. Hall author of HIT LIT; Cracking the code of the Twentieth Century's Bigest Bestsellers that he was hired to write the book after an interview on the Diane Rehm show caught the publisher's attention.
    He was given a VERY young editor whom he refered to as one of the brightest people I have ever worked with.
    Long story short...she deleted 100 pages from the book! Talk about editing.
    I recommend you google JAMES W> HALL and with his CV if he needs an editor, I can only say we ALL DO!
    M.C.V. EGAN

  3. This article is SOOOO needed!!! Thank you for writing it!
    I can think of SOOO many Indie Authors who have asked me to review their books and have found they have skimped on an Editor, such as using a Locaol Librarian to edit their books! YES! Then bring in the family and friends, have them write a 5-star review, throw your book out there, FOR FREE or at 99cents, and you've just given Indie Authors a BAD NAME!
    This article was badly needed!
    Thank you for bringing this point up!
    Highly needed!
    Thank you!]
    Laurie Carlson

  4. I love this post! As a reader, it makes me sad that more indie authors don't get editors. I've come across books with GREAT characters and GREAT plots but seriously, I just can't put up with the typos and or missing words or the wrong character's name being used. It's a shame that so many great books are being ruined just because nobody looked over them probably.

    I don't think some authors realize how hard it is to catch your own mistakes. I know as a blogger that I can read over a post of mine 10 times and only then realize I've spelled something incorrectly. It's because we *know* what it should say so we just assume we're seeing the right thing.

    Anyway, excellent post! :)

  5. You make some really good points! As a reader, I have a hard time reading books that have many errors. I would love to check out the facebook for Beta Readers. I would love to do that and help. I love Indie writers. There are so many good stories that need to be told.
    bournmelissa at hotmail dot com

  6. I'd love a professional editor and will do all I can to make it possible. But for some of us, it goes way beyond our egos. I only wish it was that simple for me. My boyfriend and I are way below the poverty level and I've seen editors charge as much as a thousand dollars. Unless my parents agree to help me (which so far they have declined), this might not be possible for me for my first book.

    I do promise to have many critique partners look it over though. I've already had five do this very thing with my current WIP and give amazing feedback. I'll just see if I can save up for that editor by the time I finish correcting everything my critique partners told me to.

    1. Just an FYI: There are tons of great editing and style guides, including Strunk & White, available for free on Amazon. (You don't need a Kindle, just the app on your computer--also free.)

      Get a real editor when you can afford it, but study up until then. Best of luck with your first book.

  7. Man, I wholeheartedly agree. Great post.

  8. YES! Awesome post. When I read a book, I want to lose myself in it, not question words or punctuation or timing or colours or seasons or names or ... anything! I cannot read Indie books for that reason - and it's sad because so many Indie authors HAVE hired editors, but are being painted with the same brush. It may be the best book ever, but if my mind is so consumed with fixing things, I can't enjoy myself.

    Please, authors. Hire an editor. I'm an author, and I'm an editor. But I'm also a reader. Don't let them read your rough draft!

    And E.B., I know it can be expensive, but a good editor will offer payment plans. In the meantime, find a critical beta reader. Not someone who will limit their review to praise.

    Off to share this post! Thanks, Valerie!

  9. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you so much for this post! I am an editor. I write because I love to write. What little I publish goes to MY editor before it goes anywhere else.

    It is virtually impossible to be your own editor and still turn out as high a quality piece as an editor can help you produce.

    I just finished reading the Fifty Shades trilogy. (I had to.) I was appalled at the typos, the grammar, the repetition. I thoroughly enjoyed the story and the characters, but the writing... UGH! I was ashamed for Random House. No book should hit the shelves in that condition. But it's a NYT bestseller. As indies, we can't use that as an excuse not to put out a better product. We MUST be better if we are to be taken seriously.



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