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.