The Importance of Editing – From an Editor’s Viewpoint
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|Editor and Writer Jennifer Moody|
I have been proofing other people’s work since 1999. When you edit for a living, you don’t get to turn it off at 5pm and go on with everyday life. The editor-eye is always searching. I have seen more errors on things that I don’t give a darn about… billboards on highways, banners on buildings, signs on doors… mistakes are everywhere. When I see one of these, I think, “Good LORD, didn’t you have somebody READ that before you made it 50 feet tall???” …Guess not.
When I’m editing to-be-published material (that would be the stuff I DO care about), it’s a whole different story. As a writer myself, I can relate to the writer’s position. I know from experience that no matter how many times you read through your own work, you’re going to miss something. (Right now I’m re-reading all this, thinking… if I have a mistake in this blog about editing that will look pretty sad! I probably will though, since it won’t be professionally edited. Whatchagonnado.)
While I offer a variety of editorial services, my bread-n-butter work is monthly national magazines. My normal editing process for a magazine feature goes something like this:
· Read-1: I read through it first, just getting a feel for its flow. (I make corrections as I see them, but it’s not the point of the first-read.)
· Read-2: Second read is done as a word-for-word, not really taking in the story on this round. (I catch a few more this way.)
· Read-3: Then I officially turn on the eagle-eye and read again – fixing any errors I catch along the way. (This is also the round where sentence restructuring is done, should the client want heavy copy-editing, which my magazine clients do.)
· Read-4: This round is done as a safety-net, because even editors miss things once in a while. (Hard to believe, I know; but alas, it is true.)
· Read-5: Final round – I sit back and read it as a READER. (Usually there is some sentence restructuring here too.)
Five rounds of proofing for each feature—with perfection as the ultimate goal—is how you get a beautiful “book” (as they call it in the magazine world) in the end.
When editing a book to be submitted for publisher consideration, the process is a bit different, but the goal is the same… perfection. Because the last thing a publisher wants to see when considering a book, is a book filled with errors. If you didn’t care, why should they? There are too many people out there begging for their book to be considered, for the publisher to invest their time reading a book that the author didn’t invest in. You have to do your job first, or they’re going to put it down and pick up the next one. And what you end up with is a rejection letter…and a reputation.
Professional book editing runs about 1.5-2 cents per word (more if rewriting or ghost writing is involved). If you’re serious about getting your book published, it is the best investment you’ll ever make. When the publisher reads through your work, they won’t be putting it down and grabbing the next one. They’ll keep reading. That’s the goal—to keep ‘em reading—all the way to the end!
If you are self-publishing an e-book, the importance of proper editing is not lessened. Sure, it will be published either way; but now, instead of a publisher stumbling over errors, it’s the reader. And if your first readers are tripping and falling, they won’t finish it, they won’t recommend it to their friends, and they won’t write a good review (or even worse, they’ll write a bad one). If that happens, ALL your blood, sweat, and tears you put into your work was for nothing. Because it will sit on Amazon or Smashwords for months, with a handful of sales (at a few bucks each) and a couple of bad reviews. At that point it’s dead in the water. And not just that book… any book that e-publishes after that with the same author’s name, already has a strike against it. Readers won’t hit that “buy” button if they’ve already been bitten.
When you have invested so much into your work, do not skip the last step. Have an editor go through it with a fine-tooth comb, giving it that final polish so it shines. THEN publish it. If money is an issue, shop around. There are good editors out there offering slightly lower than average rates to build up their business. And know your options… such as paying for a chapter at a time rather than the entire book at once. When you get to pay for it in pieces it becomes way more affordable. You won’t get the editor’s input on the entire book’s flow, but you’ll get each chapter edited, which is a big step in itself.
Another option, if money is really tight, is joining a book writing group. I belong to one that meets twice a month. Writers bring single chapters of books they’re working on, and read them out loud (while the rest of the group follows along with their own printout). After the reading, we go around the table giving our input… page 3’s second paragraph is confusing, consider changing such-and-such so it flows better, etc. As an editor in a writers group, I sit there marking up my copy as I listen to the author read… editorial freebies.
Whichever editing route you take, it’s better than not taking it at all. The important thing is to make the investment in your work so it pays off. With any kind of product, if the quality isn’t high it won’t sell, or at least, not for long. A book is no different.
T Denise Clary