Indie Editing

In a comment to the last post, DallasE mentioned editing in Kindle books (thanks for the compliment, DE). I don’t know how many of you follow any threads on the Amazon forums or how many are interested in the subject of editing, but as it happens there have been some really nasty discussions of indie books and editing over there recently. For an indie author to pop up on those threads would be volunteering for a cyber-lynching, and I’ve already had a couple of those :-), so I’m not volunteering for more. But I do find the subject interesting and maybe some readers do too.

First of all I think every one of my books has at least one review that says something along the lines of “it would be better with an editor.” They also have some that agree with DE that the books have as good as or better editing than books by traditional publishers. Since none of these people specify, my guess is that what the negative reviewers are talking about (and most of them aren’t that negative, they make passing comments on decent reviews of the books) is what’s called content or structural editing. In other words if someone doesn’t like the family conflict in Eyes, they’re sure a content editor would have made me remove or revise it. If they didn’t like the long separation in Sing, they’re sure an editor would have made me “fix” it. Content editors work on the structure of a story.

Then there are copy or line editors, and they’re the ones who fix the affect/effect, reign/rein (as a horse person my pet peeve), bare/bear problems along with other grammar, punctuation, and style problems.

Finally there are proofreaders who are supposed to and never do catch every single typo.

I confess I’m one of the sinners that the anti-indies in those threads are ranting and raving about who ought to be STOPPED. Amazon should refuse to accept any books that aren’t “professionally” edited. I rely on beta readers for what would be content editing. My theory is several people familiar with the genre are better than one editor with one set of ideas and biases. The drawback to this is that not everybody agrees on everything, and I get to decide who to listen to about what, which brings my ideas and biases back in, but then I figure I’m entitled to that.

Copy editing and proofreading I do myself, and in spite of the fact that most people claim you can’t proof your own work, I don’t think many would claim my books have much of a problem in those areas.

I have a couple of times thought maybe it’s time to hire someone else to do this and every time I give up the idea because I see posts in the author forums I frequent like one plaintive one that has stuck with me by an author who said her book had been through three editors and she was still getting one-star reviews complaining about errors. For those who don’t know about her, Amanda Hocking, a wildly successful indie author of YA paranormal romances, took a traditional publishing deal and gave the fact that she’d paid several editors and still got complaints about poor editing as one of her reasons.

That’s the argument I’d like to shout out on those nasty threads. Anyone can set themselves up as an editor simply by putting out the word that’s what they’re doing and charging for it, whether they’re qualified or not. There are no certifications for “editors.” There are no licensing requirements. And if your knowledge of grammar, style, and punctuation isn’t good enough to do it yourself, how can you recognize whether or not the person you paid did it well? So requiring a “professional” editor is just requiring the author to pay someone for a service they may or may  not get.

I also admit I’ve tried samples of some indie books that are so bad there isn’t enough money in the world to pay me to edit them. Getting through a whole book with that many errors per page would take me the rest of my life even if I reach my goal of 105. So I don’t really have an answer to the editing problem for anyone else, but I’m pretty sure ranting and raving in the Amazon forums isn’t it. I also don’t understand their problem. They want books like that filtered out. A glance at the Look Inside feature lets you know instantly, and if they really want to filter us out, all they have to do is sort by price and not look at anything less than $9.99.

~Ellen

 

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17 Responses to Indie Editing

  1. MerviR says:

    I think that you are an excellent editor for your books. I don’t recall having seen any errors in Eyes or Sing. There are usually many more errors in books that are published by traditional publishing houses. Small infrequent typos don’t bother me much but errors in facts or contexts or in continuation or time durations are irritating.

    Waiting for the paperback edition to appear on Amazon…

    Mervi

  2. Anonymous says:

    I had no idea you were an “indie” writer or what an indie writer was until I recently read an article about Amazon making deals directly with writers instead of publishing houses. I’ve only read your Rottie Rescue book. Now I realize what made it refreshingly different! It hadn’t been smoothed and toned down by a pro!
    Linda B., Goose Creek, SC

  3. Anonymous says:

    I think you’re pretty perfect just the way you are and do so love your work. I also think you have the best call on editing your work. Waiting for paperback of DANCING ON COALS. Keep up the great work!
    Marcia

  4. DallasE says:

    I think that I was just starting the epilogue when it hit me that I had not run into ANY errors in the book. I’m a reader; even when I’m on the computer it’s usually just to read blogs, book reviews or maybe self-educate on Wikipedia!

    One thing I’ve been noticing through the years is that even in the print books the editing has been sliding downhill. My personal opinion on that is attrition; as the older editors retire, they are replaced by younger ones who were not taught proper english the way those of us who are (a bit) older were taught. I also think that too many people who have been using computers for awhile have started to depend on spell check, which can’t tell the difference between there/their, etc. This is not to say that I’m perfect; I’m sure there are several errors to be found just in this posting, lol.

    Ellen, you’ve become an auto-buy for me when it comes to romance. Thank you for the many hours of enjoyable reading.

    DallasE

  5. Marcia and Mervi – Thanks. I hope I haven’t made a mistake with the paperback. I got the first proof and did need to fix some things. Did that, sent the revised files back to Create Space and rather than go through the whole order a proof, get it, approve it process again, I went ahead and released the paperback without seeing it again. So it should be up on Amazon maybe 10 days sooner than if I’d gone through the proof process again, but I have my fingers crossed that it’s going to be right and by saving those 10 days I’m not letting something out that will make readers – and me – unhappy. I can fix errors again, of course, but that won’t help anyone who gets a book with a crooked cover or something like that before the fix.

    Linda B – You make me laugh. Rottweiler Rescue is the one of my books that went through a very good critique group chapter by chapter. No, it didn’t have an editor to make me change the title or the breed of dog, but it did have a group that included 2 people who got traditional publishing deals while I was with them and a career journalist constantly telling me to tone down my heroine. They often felt I crossed the line from “strong heroine” to “bitch.” We had conversations like this:

    Group Member: “You can’t have her do that. No woman in real life would do that.”

    Me. “But I’m a woman, and I HAVE done that.”

    In the end I did tone the heroine down, but never quite so much as the group wanted. Now that Dancing on Coals is out, I’m going to be going like mad on Rottweiler Railroad. I probably can’t get it done and out during the holiday rush season, but I’m going to try.

    DallasE – I think you’re right that the quality of editing is down all over. I see some things in newspapers that make me shudder. Less education on the subject is part of it, but tight budgets also come into it, I think. I once saw something by an old time romance writer saying that her editors would go through her books and if she wrote say about a soldier in a certain era and army, they’d make sure she got the description of the uniform right. I really doubt budgets cover investing time on that kind of checking up these days. Horses and dogs are what I know best, and the errors I see concerning them are numerous, basic, and stupid.

    ~Ellen

  6. McD says:

    I’ve finished Dancing on Coals, Ellen. And it gets my vote as favorite of your westerns! And Gaetan as the sexiest uber-alpha ever to walk the earth.

    And as other posters have mentioned the formatting is excellent.
    Well done!

  7. mesadallas says:

    Ellen, you really do have a talent for proof reading your material. Most people really can’t do their own and catch everything. I too am finding more mistakes than I used to in books put out by national publishing firms. I can tell you for a fact that correct grammar and writing machanics are NOT being taught as were when I was in school during the last century. (sarcasm there) Our school has started teaching students to diagram sentences- something most school haven’t done for the last thirty years or more. The problem with this is that our young teachers do not have a clue about diagraming themselves, so the “old lady” teachers such as myself must teach them so they can then teach their own students.

    Just wish I could think of a tactful way to correct one of my coworkers who repeatedly says “uncorrect” when she means to say “incorrect.” Every time I hear her say this it drives me crazy- and this woman is a teacher for crying out loud!

  8. mesadallas says:

    …… and I should have proofread my own post before hitting that button. I sure put my foot in my mouth there.

  9. Ah, see? Yay, McD, one person who says Dancing is her fave.

    mesadallas – I don’t think a comment on a blog is quite the same thing for needing a standard of proofing that say a report or a book does. And I’m with you on the diagramming – it was one of my favorite exercises in English class. We were lucky, I guess, to have teachers who forced us to learn such things. I had a friend, daughter of a lawyer no less, who was a user of the “Me and So and So” did some action sentence construction. It’s a relief to no longer see her – the bloody bite wounds on my tongue have all healed. My parents were among those who moved from working to middle class in the last century, and they were determined that we would speak correctly because they knew we’d be judged by things like that. They never foresaw a time when no one would dare judge anyone for such things and the world they knew would be falling apart. ~Ellen

  10. mesadallas says:

    Thanks, Ellen. I always try to write correctly no matter where or what I’m typing, but it seems to be getting harder each day to type without wearing my reading glasses. I hate wearing them in front of the computer but if I don’t I find too many typos and corrections I should have made but missed.

    Getting old sucks.

  11. NorCal Reader says:

    Dear Ellen,

    I am a huge fan of yours, has been since I read Eyes. Of course the first thing I did when I woke up on Halloween was logging on Amazon and bought Dancing on Coals. I finished it within a day. It was as I expected, just wonderful as all your other books. If I have any complaint, it seemed a bit short. Maybe because the H/h didn’t offically become a couple until the later half of the book. Now it is going to be a long wait until your next novel. My favorite is still Sing. You created several interesting characters in that book. I always thought Beau deserved his own story. I know you don’t want to write the same story, but is there any chance you will give Beau his own book?

  12. mesadallas – Yes, getting old sucks, but as a friend of mine who is an estate planning and administration attorney always says, it’s better than the alternative.

    NorCal Reader – Thanks for commenting and letting me know you liked Dancing on Coals. It is shorter than the previous romances – 92,000 words vs. 118,000 for Eyes, but that’s still longer than a lot of romances, and I’d rather have you think it was too short than too long. 🙂

    I do plan to write stories for both Roddy and Beau from Sing My Name, but I have one more standalone story that’s almost worked out in my mind and ready to write that will come first. I also hope to be able to get books out more quickly than the 11 months between Sing and Dancing from now on. Maybe my discipline won’t last, but I have myself talked into a certain minimum numbers of words per day at the moment that would result in doing better.

    ~Ellen

  13. NorCal Reader says:

    Ellen, you made my day. Now I can’t wait for Roddy and Beau’s stories. but will welcome any book in between. Just so you know, I created an ” O’Connell ” collection on my kindle. and I look forward to filling it up. If you ever run out of ideas (which I doubt,) you can always do a follow up book on Dancing. I don’t think your fans want to say good bye to Gaetan and Katherine just yet. I would love to read about their journey to and their life in Co.

    I am an avid romance reader, but never felt compelled to write to any author until now. Your books lingered in my mind long after I finished reading. I’ve read Eyes and Sing 3 times now and each time I enjoyed details I had glossed over in previous readings. I rarely read a book twice unless it’s a really good book. Only Gone w/ the Wind, Jamaica Inn, Jane Eyre and Count of Monte Christo have been reread more than 3 times. So you see, I rate your books as high as these literary classics.

    Thank you for entertaining us with wonderful stories, and please stick to your writing disciphine.

  14. NorCal – You certainly know how to repay in spades. If I made your day, you made mine plus. ~Ellen

  15. DallasE says:

    Ellen, they’re talking about the book on All About Romance in the Let’s Talk Romance Forum. Of course, they’re talking about how much they like it!

  16. mesadallas says:

    Dallas, we must have esp or something. I just left ABR not more than ten seconds ago. It looks like Coals is going to be a hit.

    Ellen, just wondering- how has the first week been? It seems as if news about the latest OConnell release is spreading very quickly!

  17. Hi Ladies – Yes, I saw the AAR thread. Ever since they gave Sing My Name such a boost with the DIK review last year, I’ve been an AAR fan and follower. Some of the Goodreads people are also saying nice things and posting enthusiastic reviews both there and on Amazon.

    mesadallas – It’s exceeding what Sing sold the first week by quite a bit. I released Sing the last week of November, and it didn’t sell this well until the third week. Then it got a boost from the AAR review at the end of December and that seemed to extend to Eyes too. The two of them (and I) had a glorious January. However, I’m not sure how much of that was just holiday sales. The best months for book sales are November, December, January and February. The worst are July, August, September, and October.

    Pretty much everyone in the author forums reported great sales in January and everyone thinks it was all those new Christmas Kindles. The sales pattern makes no sense to me. You’d think the summer months when people vacation would be the best, but that’s not how it works. So I don’t know how much of Sing’s early sales were good reviews and word of mouth and how much was timing. Supposedly each book should do better than the last as more readers who like an author’s books find her.

    ~Ellen

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