Vetting your editor

Last night I emailed an author who asked me to review his short story for Author Alliance. For better or for worse, Author Alliance only posts reviews for books that meet a three star bar. Their policy is never to bash authors and to provide high quality reviews for high quality books.

(Note: I know a lot of folks who disagree with this policy, but I happen to like it. There are plenty of other sites out there who will post 1 and 2 star reviews and of course you can post them on Amazon and Goodreads. That’s just fine. But Author Alliance wants to be a source for good books and I think that’s an excellent goal.)

I read through this short story of twenty-four pages in about an hour. It wasn’t a bad plot, though it was rather predictable and shallow. However, for an erotica piece, sometimes predictable is fine. The major problem I had with it though, was that it appeared not to have been edited at all.

The dialog was never formatted properly. When you have a person speaking followed by a tag such as “she said”, the proper formatting is this.

“Do you want a drink?” she asked.

“No,” he replied, “but I’ll take a plate.”

The tag isn’t capitalized. If it’s not a question, there’s a comma after the last word, before the quote. These are basic grammar rules and were blatantly violated nearly every time someone spoke.

There were numerous other issues as well including misuse of the words to and too, improper possessives, and the use of were for “we were” instead of we’re. In at least a dozen instances, words were simply missing from the middle of sentences.

I explained several of these mistakes to the author and apologized for my inability to post my review. I suggested that he might want to have the book edited again and then he could feel free to resubmit it to me.

His response? “I’ve had the book professionally edited.”

Oh my. This grieves me. This is the second book in three months that claimed to be professionally edited but had so many mistakes I had to force myself to continue reading.

What I’ve taken away from this is that authors really need to vet their editors. The Internet makes it easy for anyone to hang out a virtual shingle and call themselves an editor.

If you’re new to the authoring game and you’re looking for an editor, do yourself a favor and ask potential editors for a sample edit of a page or two. Most will comply (though some will charge a nominal fee for this). Vet your editor just as much as you’d vet a cover designer. Spend an hour and do some basic grammar checking of what the potential editor sends back to you. The time you spend will ensure that when you do spend the money on editing, you’re going to end up with a quality product.

And there’s one more thing you should do. Listen to your editor. Most editors, depending on their services, will perform both a grammar edit and a developmental edit on a manuscript. What this means is that you’ll get suggestions like “amp up the emotion in this paragraph” as well as suggestions like “you need a comma here.”

You can ignore the suggestion about the emotion if you want. After all, you’re the author and you know what you want the paragraph to convey. But you can’t and shouldn’t ignore the grammar suggestions and changes.

Editing is expensive. In fact, it’s usually the single largest chunk of change you’ll spend when publishing your book. It’s worth it, but make sure you’re getting what you pay for.

For information about my editing services, see Editing.


Add Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *