I am amazed at the number of self-publishing authors who still believe their work doesn’t need editing or proofing, then bemoan when a reviewer criticises and gives their novel a low rating. These are often the same writers who grumble and grouse that publishers aren’t interested in their work, that they cannot get an agent, and that nobody takes them seriously hence they have self-published; quite a self-defeating circle. If they would only stop and think for a moment.
There are also a lot of self-publishing authors and other writers who use editors or proofers and then complain that their editor doesn’t understand their work, has hacked it to bits, doesn’t know what they are doing and charged a fortune for the privilege. Oh boy! Is it any wonder many self-publishers don’t sell many copies and never recoup, let alone see any profit, on books they have often paid to have published?
What, I wonder, would these writers make of it should ever they find themselves in the fortunate position of being taken on by a “proper” publisher? Would they still rant and rave that their work is having to be edited, and checked, and proofed? Of course they wouldn’t! Let’s be honest, even the best authors have to have their work edited. You simply cannot write a novel and expect it to be perfect after only one draft, but it seems some writers think they can. Why? What does it prove? What does it gain? Usually nothing, other than dissatisfied readers and disgruntled authors. What is the point of writing a novel and publishing it if that is the outcome?
Ask any self-respecting author who has been down this route and they will all tell you the same: edit, edit, edit, proof, proof, proof to the enth degree and then have your work properly edited by a professional. Heed what the editor suggests, listen, learn. You might not agree with the comments, but remember these words written by Maeve Binchy to an author friend of mine when she was struggling through yet another round of edits for her publisher:
“It’s long and hard, isn’t it? I know, I know. but stick with it to the end. … Remember, agents and editors are not gods. They care like ourselves. They are human and they want so much for us to succeed.”
Yes, doing rewrites and editing is hard. No one said it was ever going to be easy! Editors and proofers are human. And like all other human beings, make mistakes, miss things, are sometimes wrong. The vast majority of them do care, do take pride in what they do and only want to help see an author succeed. That other pair of eyes sees most of what a writer misses in their own work, they know about punctuation, spelling, grammar, layout.
Punctuation is probably the biggest problem, yet correct punctuation is vital. It conveys meaning, tone, pace. And if any author cannot see the difference between, for example, “Come and see Uncle Fred” and “Come and see, Uncle Fred”, they are the ones who most definitely do need an editor and proofreader.