Random Thoughts: On Doing a Disservice to a Book


One of my biggest pet peeves when reading a book is poor editing. A weak storyline, undeveloped characters, mediocre writing will hinder my enjoyment of a book, but those things won’t necessarily prevent me from reading it. But when I encounter numerous mistakes that should have been corrected by a proper proof and copy edit, or inconsistencies and other substantive issues that should have been pointed out by an editor and fixed, I find it nearly impossible to read through a book that might otherwise be quite good.

I can’t see great characters past poor editing. I can’t get into a story when every other sentence is fraught with errors. I can’t look past the mistakes for the gems. And it’s such a shame.

Especially when the book has been “edited” by someone charging money for their services or published by someone that should have provided such a service.

It’s not okay to charge someone to “edit” their book and allow numerous errors through that should have been caught – from grammar, to punctuation, to consistency edits, to plot holes, and on. It’s not okay to be a publisher and allow a book to be published that is bound to garner negative reviews not because of its story but because of its lack of editing.

It is doing such a disservice to a book that might otherwise be good or great.

Taking money from a writer for a service should mean that service is provided. Editing a novel should result in numerous line edits and not simply a handful of fixes and a “that’s awesome.” Facts should be checked and not simply glossed over because the editor makes assumptions that they are correct. Just because a statement may sound good, doesn’t mean it actually makes sense.

Anyone can use spellcheck. An editor should not rely on it to catch all mistakes. Spellcheck is not a service that should be paid for since it comes standard on every word processing program.

The occasional typo or miss is acceptable and understandable. Even the most diligent of proofreaders, editors, publishers can miss a word here and there. But those misses should be the exception and not the rule. Not if an editor was paid to provide their services.

And the standard for editing should be higher for publishers. Anyone offering to publish a book for an author should provide them with an editing service. A poorly edited book not only reflects on the book but on the publisher of the book. It will likely result in bad reviews and fewer sales because of those negative reviews. I can’t imagine that any publisher would seek to have fewer sales because they didn’t take the time to provide an editor for one of their authors.

But apparently it happens. Which boggles my mind.

I recently read a book that had been “edited” and found innumerable missed edits. The editor was named in the book and it took everything I had not to reach out to them and say something. Because all those errors did affect my ability to connect with the story. And judging by some of the reviews, I wasn’t the only person who felt this way.

I also recently tried – I’m still trying, actually – to read a book that sounded super cute from its description. It was published by an independent press. But in the first few pages there were over forty-five mistakes, in the first two paragraphs alone there were ten – from spelling, to incorrectly used idioms, to grammar errors, to typos, to confusing or inconsistent statements. In the first three chapters I made 116 notes for errors that I just couldn’t get past.

And it’s so unfortunate. Because the description sounded so cute. The story itself has promise. But with all these errors that I just can’t see past, even if I were to finish the book, I couldn’t imagine it rating higher than 2-star. And that’s solely because I can’t connect with the story when every other sentence has me pulled away from it.

An author can be a great writer, but without a proper edit, their story could be the opposite of great. And when said author submits their book to an editor they are looking for that editor to do what they can’t do, having been so close to their story for so long. So when someone takes their money and does nothing more than a light read plus a spellcheck, they are doing great harm. When a publisher puts a book out for the world to see that hasn’t even been given a look by an editor or proofreader, they’re not only hurting the author but hurting themselves.

Negative reviews can sometimes be positives when the minuses are about the story and characters – everyone has their own tastes – but not one negative review for terrible editing would ever result in someone saying “I have to read this book” unless it’s to see just how horribly edited it is.

There will always be those out there calling themselves “editors” and putting their hands out for money. Some may even have testimonials or references. Their affordable prices may be very appealing. But just remember, you get what you pay for. Editing is a time-consuming process. Those who do the job that their clients pay for won’t likely promise a quick turnaround or do it for just a few dollars. They are good at what they do and take pride in their work and won’t promise something that is completely unrealistic.

And while a qualified editor may cost more at the outset, they will give you a finished product that you can be proud of, one that will hopefully result in a greater number of sales, and one that will hopefully result in reviews about the story itself and not about its lack of editing.

Before relying on testimonials, take a peek at one or two of the books they’ve “edited.” Think twice about handing over your money to someone who is more than happy to do a disservice to something you spent hours, days, weeks, months – or even years – laboring over. Don’t let the merits of what you’ve written be missed due to the “editor” who cares only about the money they received and not about having pride in their work.

13 thoughts on “Random Thoughts: On Doing a Disservice to a Book

  1. All of this!!! I also hate when a book is poorly edited but not one review mentions it. That is one thing I do look for in a review of a new-to-me author. If I’m spending money on a book, I want to enjoy it. Poor editing is the quickest way to ruin a book for me, so I’ll look at reviews before I buy. A poorly edited ARC is different, but a finished book? No way.

    1. I always mention editing if it affects my reading in my reviews. Though most times it prevents me from even reading the book, so I never get to that point. If I read a review which talked about poor editing that would be a flag and I wouldn’t give the book a chance. That kind of info is so helpful.

      I am a touch more lenient when I know it’s a self-published author who didn’t have an editor and it’s known they didn’t have one or couldn’t afford one. But if it affects my read so much I just can’t finish the book.

      But what gets me so mad is when someone pays to have their book edited and the author gets a bad deal. They clearly tried to do something good for their book and are taken advantage of. Boo.

      As far as badly edited ARCs I won’t comment on them because they’re an ARC. But if it’s so bad, I sometimes have to just set the book aside because I can’t enjoy the story. Which is unfortunate. ARCs should have some basic editing IMO.

  2. I agree. It bothers me so much to see errors. But I always wonder what to do. Is there someone to tell? Is that rude or helpful?

    1. It’s tough. If it’s a book you received from the author, or publicist, or publisher, I think a private word would be acceptable. If it’s something you bought, where there is a publisher, I think emailing the publisher and mentioning the errors would be fine. I’m considering that for that second book I’d linked to above.

      Reaching out to the editor probably is not a good idea. They either know they’re cheating the author and don’t care or they don’t know they’re a bad editor and they’ll just get defensive.

      It’s also not always a bad thing to reach out to the author to say you purchased their book because it very much interested you, and that you enjoy the story but can’t love it due to the editing (if you see an editor was listed in the book). Perhaps for future books they won’t use that editor again which is a plus for them.

  3. Dear God, you are so right about everything here! I support Indie authors, but I absolutely hate it when their books rack my nerves with grammatical errors. Recently, I’ve started to not give any f**cks about how I review a poorly written book. I will not be the cause for someone purchasing a book based off my dishonest review about that book being great. I’ve not read one in a while because I’m decreasing my one-clicks on self pub books. This is a great post and lots of people need to read it.

    1. Good for you! Perhaps that will get the author to find a new publisher or editor! A mention about the bad editing is the ONLY thing that will absolutely have me running from reading/purchasing a book so that’s a HUGE help.

      I usually can’t get past the first page of a book that has bad editing like the one I linked to above from “mistakes” – as that’s the first two paragraphs of the book. So I wouldn’t review it or rate it typically because I haven’t read it in its entirety. But I am starting to think I should add a note about it on goodreads without a review/rating and just focusing on why it’s a DNF, having nothing to do with the story.

      I don’t do the one-click myself anymore either. I do the “look inside” and read the first few pages. It’s usually pretty telling as to how the editing is for the entire book.

  4. I hate improperly edited books too! I’ve never found one that was as bad as the one you mentioned. My worst was about 150 mistakes in a 250 page book, which is still awful. I might be a bit OCD so I always highlight errors. I’ve actually sent my highlights to a couple of authors to help them out. They were really pleased. I always feel terrible asking though. I was just trying to write a discussion like this. Guess I don’t have to now. 😉

    1. I’ve read a few poorly edited books. But some were books that had no editor. It affected my enjoyment of the book but it didn’t make me as angry because there it was the author’s fault for not paying an editor and therefore any negative feedback was on them.

      I hate giving negative reviews to books where it wasn’t necessarily the fault of the author. They paid someone to do a job and it wasn’t done. While the author should have noticed at some point, it might have beyond their control if it was a publisher that pushed the book out. So I’m forced to give a negative review due to something other than what can be attributed to the author. And that ticks me off.

      And OMG I’m totally OCD. I highlight every error, then I get mad because I have to take so much time highlighting. Then I read three words and highlight again. Then get even madder.

      Good for you reaching out to the author. If they did self-publish then they can make those changes and “re-publish” it and have a better book out there because of that. But if they had paid an editor, I’d hope that they never use them again!

  5. You are so right Rachel! My second language is English and if I can tell there are errors, then I cannot imagine what you might think. The same happens to me when a book includes bits of Spanish and they’re wrong. It makes me wonder why didn’t the author/editor asked a native speaker to check it first.

  6. This post is awesome. Thank you so much for writing and sharing about it sweetie 🙂 I’m not sure I have read books where writing like that is the problem.. more that I just don’t like the way it has been written, lol. And that very often ruins what I think about a book :p Sigh. Love reading what you have to say about it all 🙂

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