Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Who Needs an Editor?

If I hear one more author claim they don't need an editor, I'm going to scream. No, I won't actually scream, but I will put their name on my 'list' of authors not to buy. Pretentious? Elitist? How about thrifty? Yes, thrifty. Books cost money, and I, for one, am not willing to download a million books to find that one author that 'doesn't need an editor'. Not even if the books are free.

I have an MFA and I don't think that qualifies me to edit my own work effectively. Sure, I do a great job on other peoples manuscripts, and a decent job on my own. But decent isn't good enough. I've never read a review for a New York Times bestseller that said, "It was decent." And I've never heard a New York Times bestselling author say, "my book would have been so much better without an editor."

Maybe, however, some authors don't have a desire to be a NYT bestseller. Maybe an Amazon ranking is enough for them. That's fine for them. But not for me, and I won't be one of those buying their books to get them that coveted Amazon award.

Don't get me wrong, I am not demeaning self published authors. I have several whose work I love and I wait patiently for their next novel.  But I guarantee you those are authors who understand the value of an editor and don't just slap their name on a book they wrote last night that their dog and their mother thinks is the Great American Novel. In fact, most of them will be the first to tell you that the unedited excrement that is published online is a detriment to the business of self publishing. And that is what it is: a business.

Maybe Amazon could have a system that tells a reader what books have been edited? Or maybe a section of 'hobbyist' authors, those that don't take it seriously as a business? Maybe, maybe, maybe.

Here are some of the reasons I've heard in the past week for not hiring an editor:
1. It costs too much- So does my landscaper, but I like my yard to look professionally done.
2. An editor is no more than a co-author and should be listed as such-If your book requires so much work that the editor becomes a 'co-author' then maybe you should consider listing them.
3. They change your work and it is no longer 'your book'-I think it's important for an author to have an editor that 'gets' their book. Editors make your book stronger, saleable and see the entire picture as well as the fine details. They didn't write it, so they can 'see' it from another perspective.
4. I have a BA in English. I don't need one-Great. You can spell and make a complete sentence. It takes more than that, really.
5. I have an MFA and can edit my own work-Getting my MFA was one of the best things I ever did for myself; as a writer and as a human being. But edit my own work and call it done? Not a chance.

They Call Me Crazy went through 10 critical readers, my agent and two editors. Ragtown has been through four mentors, 20 critical readers, my agent and two editors. Every one of these people brought something of value to my work. Do I consider them done? No. I am chomping at the bit for an editor from a publishing house to chime in. Are the two novels still my work? Most definitely, but they are a lot stronger than they were.

And lastly, why would I spend money, go through all the readers/mentors/editors, subject myself to the criticism and the time involved in edits? Because this IS a business to me. And because my goal IS the bestseller list. 
Lofty, I know, but I've never been satisfied with a participant ribbon. I'm in it to win it.


Stacey Roberts said...

I couldn't agree more. Indie authors get tarred with the brush of being amateurs. How do you not be an amateur? Work like a professional. That means write well, rewrite well, have it edited by a professional, and have other people read it in beta before you publish. Let's quit giving traditional publishing the ammo it needs to deride us. We ARE better: time to step up and prove it.

Christopher Chik said...

So true. We can't always see the forest for the trees. Someone has to look at it with fresh eyes. If no one ever read my stuff before I sent it out, I would never have any idea if the emotional weight was there or not.

Susan E. Kennedy said...

Thanks so much for this post, Kelly. No one can edit her or his own work. I'm a freelance editor, also with an MFA. I edit for a living, and I can't edit my own work. As authors, we are all too close to what we've written. We skip over typos, insert words that aren't there, and a whole host of other things, big and small. Fresh eyes are essential for everyone. Kudos to you, Kelly, for not only realizing it but being humble enough to seek and work with editors. I think a lot of resistance to editors are the result of misguided or inflated egos. Each writer has to decide which is more important: her book or her ego. I think the results of each choice are obvious.

Fyre Curl said...

Editirs sre a god send no matter how good we think we are, improvements can be made. Dint laugh. Thus id hoe bad we look to an editir. And to discriminstin' readers.

Kelly Stone Gamble said...

I try to work like a professional in everything I do. Why should writing, something I take so seriously, be any different?

Kelly Stone Gamble said...

Agreed, Chris. I have written 'brilliant' scenes that 10 people had no reaction to. So much for brilliant.

Kelly Stone Gamble said...

I've always said the revision process is probably my favorite part of writing (I've been called a weirdo). I love making it shine and editors and readers help me do that.

Kelly Stone Gamble said...

U mak a geud pont, Fyre. It May luk perfct 2 us, butt 2 uthers...

tmycann said...

Amen, sister!
And...by way of a whine... Why are so many non-edited works selling so well???

Kelly Stone Gamble said...

Although many sell, I would think the repeat business would be slower. I have bought several but I won't buy a second by that author.

Elizabeth Twist said...

It saddens me when a book is good but poorly proofread.

Kelly Stone Gamble said...

Me, too, Elizabeth. Maybe I'm a little different, but to me, the story is the easy part. I've got a file box full of stories. It's making them good, readable and market ready that takes the work.

Rob Greene said...

Editors and enemas start with the same letter and have much the same purpose.

Kelly Stone Gamble said...

The ever eloquent Rob Greene, speaking words of wisdom. Beautifully said.

Ciara Ballintyne said...

There should be a section for hobbyists. I've had these debates and it goes like this:

Indie Author: I can't afford an editor
Me: It's a business, if you can't sell enough of it to make back what you invest, then it's a BAD business proposition and you shouldn't be doing it.
Indie Author: I don't regard it as a business, I am happy to break even
Me: Then why are you publishing at all?
Indie Author: I want to share my work
Me: then share it for free on your blog, don't expect people to pay for a sub-standard product.

This annoys me so much. I have not self-published for a long time because of the bad reputation indie authors have, and the fact it's so hard to find the good stuff in amongst piles of crap. I'm about to, though - not my novel, I'm keeping that to shop around, but a novella that doesn't have much market elsewhere. It'll go through a half dozen betas and two editors before I hit go.

Ciara Ballintyne said...

This is so true. It amazes me that more people don't realise this. We read what we know should be there, not what is there. It's true of any written work. Hell, that Facebook post that goes around with words made out of numbers, or the one where every letter of a word is wrong except the first and last letter, but our brains can still read it, just proves the point doesn't it?

Kelly Stone Gamble said...

I've had the same conversation, Ciara.

Stuck At Home Mom said...

OHGOSH! I need 4 or 5 editors just to keep up with me. My text messages along are enough to cause my editor best friend to have a melt down in the middle of Starbucks. I'm so grammatically illiterate I cause English majors to succumb to sporadic mental fits.
I now out source all important writing just so I don't have to worry about where the comma goes!
My blogs motto is: Good information rarely comes from a spell check grammar proficient source.

Kelly Stone Gamble said...


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