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.

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