What Does Editing Mean?

Since I have gotten interested in becoming a part of the indie movement, and particularly since I’ve gotten into e-books, I have really tried to start reading more indie books because I want to support people.  Some I’ve read have been great–everything by Zoe Winters or Kerry Allen–others have been absolute stinkers (and I’ll be kind enough to refrain from naming names).  One I bought recently because part of the proceeds were being donated to a charity I believe in and the premise sounded interesting enough.  Plus, it was relatively short, which fits my free time right now.    Well I opened it to read this morning and couldn’t get past the first three pages.  Why?

This book had almost no commas.  Now I’m not talking missing Oxford commas, which some people consider to be optional (I don’t, but I can get past that in a book because it’s a stylistic thing).  I’m talking necessary commas between two independent clauses joined by and, but, or so.  And about every other necessary comma in the world, except for the ones you’d put at the end of dialogue before the tag.  Which meant that there were run-on sentences EVERYWHERE.

The kicker?  This book was small press.  In the credits at the start of the book it lists both an editor AND a line editor.  Clearly neither of these individuals or the author herself actually grasp the concept of proper punctuation.  And dude, if you fancy yourself an actual publisher, YOU SHOULD KNOW BETTER.  A lot of people would be able to move past this and just enjoy the story.  Not me.  Dude, I am a grammar Nazi.  If it’s not right, it pulls me out of the story.  If I’m reading along and get switched into editor mode 2 lines into your book, this is a major problem.  Because that means if I do actually manage to stick it out, I’m going to tear it apart.

Grammar and punctuation ARE NOT OPTIONAL people.  If you intend to self publish, do yourself a favor and pick up a copy of Eats Shoots and Leaves and, at the very least, the latest edition of Strunk and White’s Elements of Style.  While no writer should be the final editor for their own work, YOU as author should know this stuff.  They are the very basic, fundamental components of your craft.  I don’t care if you think it’s hard or that it’s the editor or copy editor’s job to fix.  It’s their job to catch it if you didn’t first.  YOU are the first line of defense.   Because if you put out a book that has been allegedly edited that definitely WASN’T (and you didn’t know any better), you’re going to make yourself a laughingstock and it’s going to reflect badly on the rest of us who strive to put out a professional product.  That’s just sheer laziness and stupidity.  It makes me want to come after you with the SPORK OF DOOM.  FEAR ME!

This is the kind of stuff that makes it REALLY hard for me to find GOOD indie published work and makes me much more likely to steer toward the New York published stuff.  Yes, they occasionally put out total drek, but at least that drek usually has commas.

3 thoughts on “What Does Editing Mean?

  1. I think the big problem is…. if an indie author doesn’t understand editing on some level, even if they hire a professional editor, they don’t KNOW if what their editor is doing is right or not. And since most indies are on a shoestring, even if they pay someone, they’ll likely be paying a low amount, which, let’s face it, could give them ANY quality of editor.

    Plenty of people with no facility with the language fancy themselves good editors, just like lots of people fancy themselves writers who suck and cover designers.

    It’s the same thing with cover art… If an indie doesn’t at least have an “eye for design” they are screwed. It’s one thing if you just don’t have the talent/skill to put it together for yourself. It’s another if you can’t look at it and see what’s wrong with it.

    You have to be able to tell good artists from bad artists, good editors from bad editors, etc. The buck stops with you.

    I think a lot of people aren’t cut out to be indie because either they don’t have the skills necessary or they’re too lazy.

  2. I would never be this picky if the subject were not editing, but my inner editor has to say “Hear, hear to you as well, Sherri”. 🙂

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