Saturday, August 27, 2011

A Rant About Editing: Authors Should Revolt!!

Yes, that's right!! I am on a tear!! As a book reviewer, among other things, I spend a lot of my time reading. I always have. Books are so much a part of my life now, as they have always been, that I have developed some serious feelings about the quality of writing, the attractiveness of the cover, the cost of books (especially ebook novellas and short stories) and so on and on. I think all this stems from my previous life as an English teacher and having to grade junior high and high school English essays. Even when I was in graduate school I taught part time and there were many occasions when I was sitting up at 2:00 am grading English essays and term papers. Believe me, I have seen everything from sentences that are strangely assembled, creatively misspelled words, and essay papers that were filled with cut and paste paragraphs that had little if anything to do with the subject assigned or the title of the paper.

So I come to the reviewing task with a fairly hefty set of prejudices about writing and publishing, and to be entirely truthful, I am thankful for all that experience. The down side, however, is that I spot some glaring difficulties in books, especially ebooks, that just drive me absolutely CRAZY! And my greatest concern is that I think authors are getting the "short end of the stick."

I feel deeply for authors who sit at their computers day after day, at the expense of their family involvement, losing sleep when deadlines approach, etc. I think authors work just as hard at their craft as do construction engineers at theirs. They then turn in their manuscripts to the publishing company editors and often there are two or three steps to that process. It is for the fact that editors appear to be working through a manuscript several times that heightens my upset over the sloppy editing I encounter in books. Either the editors are just letting a book lie in their in/out box and then returning it to the author or they are reviewing these manuscripts late at night and when they are not their sharpest, or for a variety of other reasons.

One ebook I read recently was so poorly written that I could hardly stand all the grammatical, spelling, and tense errors. OK, so I'm picky, but for crying out loud!! These are authors and editors who are supposed to be knowledgeable about the English language. If the author is that poorly versed in the fine points of writing in English, then it is the editor's job to make it look good, so someone really fell down on the job with this one. In a flash of pique that I usually don't give in to, I printed off a couple of chapters and got out my trusty old red pencil from teaching days, and started making corrections. I was absolutely appalled to see the number of errors I found.

Now I happen to know from conversations I have had with some blogger pals and other reviewers that this is not an isolated situation. My concern is that authors are being short-changed!! I know some publishers are better than others and I have found that Harlequin, Carina, Siren, Berkley, Kensington, and others in that class of publishing do a very good job. Yet even there I find extra words in sentences, bad tense use, possessives (there really is a difference between "there" and "their"), poor spelling, messy use of quotes, etc. It is really, as my grandmother used to say: "Enough to jar your mother's preserves."

So my feeling is that authors should revolt and insist on quality editing. After all, it is the author's persona and reputation that is hanging out for all to see. In the case of self publishing, I am not really sure what the process is there. But even then, I have found some self-published books to be very well done grammatically. If a writer spends the amount of time writing that they do, then editors owe them the time and effort--and I think courtesy is a part of this--to do a careful and comprehensive job of editing, not just to make the story flow better, or re-writing an erotic scene to make it hotter, or whatever the concern with the story may be. The words, the sentences, the tenses and possessives are all the packaging for an author's work. And it would be so much nicer for the readers, too.

Thanks for listening . . . I don't intend to step on anyone's toes specifically. I'm just tired of very good stories being showcased poorly. Nevertheless, keep those noses in those books.


Chris said...

Sloppy editing drives me nuts, too. But it's complicated - some books that appear to have come from a publisher are actually self-published, and no one other than the author edited the book. Some authors (I'm thinking of what I've been reading lately about Lora Leigh's latest few books) don't let anyone make changes to their books, or reject all the changes that are made. And some authors turn in books that are such a mess, they shouldn't go through the editorial process at all... but there's a deadline the publisher insists must be met...

Dr J said...

You are so right, Chris . . . it is a very complicated world and the relationship between authors and editors can be very difficult. But I think there are some standards that even need to be observed--just isn't fair to authors who do try to do well and for readers who deserve to be able to make sense out of books for which they pay a fair price.

JenM said...

I'm like you, grammar and spelling errors literally jump out at me when I look at a page, even though I've never taught English or done any formal editing. I think part of the problem though, at least in some cases, is the authors themselves. Any author who publishes through the reputable publishing houses has a right to expect decent editing. However many of the self-pubbed authors don't even seem to realize that their writing is not grammatically correct. They could go out and get at least an independent copy editor, but they are so unschooled that they don't see the obvious mistakes and don't think they need to spend the extra money.

The current glut of self-pubbed books is only contributing to a lowering of standards and it makes me sad. I've come to accept a certain amount of errors, but in some of these books, it's just egregious.

JenB said...

Often authors do revolt--against the editors, who authors believe are killing their babies.

Every day my colleagues and I deal with authors who insist that their words are too sacred to be changed, even if that means going to publication looking like a train wreck.

I believe that writers should be responsible for much of their own editing. Self-editing goes a long way. If you're in the word business, there's no excuse for not knowing basic grammar or writing skills. Editors can only do so much. We're not allowed to rewrite bad books, and it's tough to polish a turd.

Not that there aren't plenty of sloppy/lazy editors and copy editors. But I will say that they're rarer at the higher-paying houses. An editor or copy editor who's making minimum wage or less doesn't have much of a reason to work hard (and truly qualified editors rarely will work for that pay grade, so you end up with underqualified editors). There are exceptions, but the more you pay your editorial team, the better the product they can help you turn out.

Authors do enough whining. I think the readers and editors should lead this particular revolt.

Jason said...

I totally agree that errors jump off the page for me as well. But as an editor, I take offense to the idea that writers should revolt. Unless that means they should start taking responsibility for their writing, I think this statement is aimed in the wrong direction. If the writer takes an active role in editing, he or she can ensure a clean manuscript.

Some publishers have a better editing staff than others, that is true, but authors are ultimately responsible for their work and making sure it is polished before release.

Copyright © 2008-2011 Desert Island Keepers All Rights Reserved. Proudly powered by Blogger

  © Blogger template Starry by 2008 Modified by Lea

Back to TOP