Editor schmeditor! In today’s world of self-publishing, do we really need an editor? Donnell Bell is here to tell us – yes, yes we do.
It’s an exciting time to be an author. The brass ring thought to be unreachable, in the last few years, is within our grasp. Authors have options these days they never thought possible. Self-publishing a.k.a. Indy publishing, small presses, digital presses, traditional publishing, even Amazon has gotten into the publishing business. So many options.
But here’s one option you don’t have, at least if you want to build a career and be taken seriously. Are you taking notes? Every author out there needs a good editor.
No matter who you are; no matter how many books you’ve published.
Here’s what happens when you don’t, and, sadly, this is a story about a New York Times, multi-published, bestselling author.
I’m often called to substitute at my mother’s bridge game. Her friends are aware that I’m a writer, and newly published. They’re proud of me and act as though I have insider knowledge to the publishing world. Ha! As such, one of my mother’s friends, a woman named Pat, approached me, book in hand.
I recognized the publisher instantly. It was one that accepts only agented submissions, and authors covet selling to such a powerhouse. I also recognized the author’s name upon first glance. I’ve read her work; I’m a fan. But in this case, Pat was upset and after she showed me why, I have to admit, I saw her point.
She’d taken this book by this acclaimed publisher and author, read it, then finally became so frustrated, she went back and circled the numerous typos on the pages. She even pointed out that the hero’s name was XX, when in the later pages it switches to YY. Pat had paid good money for this book, and now she was asking me what she should do about it.
Now, Solomon, I’m not. But when a woman in her eighties asks such a question, you don’t argue that mistakes happen in every published book, because in this case, there were simply too many to claim that defense. I suggested that Pat write the publisher, perhaps even ship the book back, mistake-ridden and all, and let them know of her displeasure.
I don’t know if she did, but it was worth a shot. Thinking about what must have happened I suspect the author was on deadline. Her editor and copy editor were probably swamped as well. And because the author has a tremendous fan base, and no doubt turned in quality products before, I suspect the publisher cut corners, e.g. rushed this project through without the attention the book or the author deserves. Will this publisher and author survive? Probably. Like the banking industry and AIG, they’re too big to fail. So far.
I think we must acknowledge that bad editing happens at any level in this industry. In my opinion, authors are way too close to the work and no matter how conscientious, or detail oriented, they often sail over their mistakes.
Recently, I asked three debut authors what they had learned from their editors. If you’re interested you can read about here: http://tinyurl.com/3mjeepa
And finally, I consulted three traditionally published authors to test my theory.
Well, I’m delighted that I have a fabulous editor at Minotaur. She is great at paying attention to the tone my characters use. Sometimes when a person writes humor (which they say I do) it’s possible to skirt over the line from funny to offensive or from light-hearted to mean-spirited. My editor has more than once caught something that straddles that line. I distinctly remember a moment in SKATING OVER THE LINE that my editor flagged that made me first say “What’s wrong with that?” and then say “Oh…yeah, I need to change that.” The minute I did the scene became much funnier. It’s amazing how often that little change can alter the entire scene. An editor doesn’t have to suggest huge, sweeping changes to make all the difference in the world and a great editor is worth his or her weight in gold. (My editor is on the shorter side so she might be worth at least double her weight!)
One thing I really rely on my editors for is to help me keep my timeline and names straight. Because a full-time job prevents me from writing every day, and because I change things along the way, I sometimes have a story that skips from Tuesday to Saturday Or I decide to change a minor character’s name along the way and forget to change the others. More often I start spelling it differently toward the end. I appreciate the editors keeping these sorts of things straight for me!
I’ve been in this business over twenty years and have 46 books published. During that time I’ve worked with approximately 13 editors. I cannot think of one instance where I didn’t learn something from their input or benefit from their expertise. Every editor who has touched my work has made it better. A very few were a bit intrusive but even then, their comments and suggestions made me stop and rethink some of my decisions because in the end, their goal was my goal: to make the book as good as it could possibly be. On the rare occasions when I didn’t agree with editorial input, their suggestions still gave me new perspective and made me a better writer.
So the long and the short of it is, while an editor can’t take a bad book and make it a good book, in my humble opinion, a good editor can take a good book and make it sing, dance and wag its tail.
Darn it. Cindy took the words right off of my keyboard. Still she supports my theory. In my opinion, a good editor can take your work to a higher level. As for those overworked, deadline-filled, and inexperienced–as I talked about above, they just might hurt you more than they can help.
So how about you? Do you have faith in your ability to put out a quality product without an editor? Have a better system that works? Tell us what works for you.
And for those who comment, I’ll give away an ARC of The Past Came Hunting.
RU Crew – don’t forget to comment/question – Donnell’s giving away an ARC of her newest book!
Join us tomorrow for a special post from Karen Tabke
Excerpt: THE PAST CAME HUNTING
Shock made her numb.
It wasn’t possible. How had she missed the connection? She hadn’t thought of the man in years. The cop who’d arrested her, his name had been . . . Crandall.
Somehow Mel found the strength to look into his eyes. And when she did, she came face to face with what could only be a mutually shocked expression.
“You,” she whispered.
“You,” he replied.
Fifteen years ago a young Colorado Springs police officer arrested a teen runaway accused of aiding a convenience store robbery and attempted murder. She was innocent, but still served prison time briefly. Her testimony sent the real criminal to jail for much longer. Now she’s a young widow raising a son, and the man she put in prison is free and seeking revenge. She moves to a home in a new neighborhood—then learns that her next-door neighbor is the by-the-book officer who arrested her. Now he’s a Colorado Springs Police Lieutenant. Like it or not, he may be the only one who can protect her and her son from the past he helped create.
Bio: Donnell Ann Bell is the recipient of numerous awards for her fiction and a debut author for Bell Bridge Books. She co-owns Crimescenewriters, a Yahoo group for mystery/suspense writers, with retired veteran police officer, Wally Lind. A longtime volunteer for RWA’s Kiss of Death Chapter and the former Overall Coordinator for the Daphne du Maurier Award for Excellence in Mystery/Suspense, Donnell has been one of Romance University’s guests on the often-confusing topic of contests. She was raised in New Mexico’s Land of Enchantment and today calls Colorado home. www.donnellannbell.com
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