Sunday, 17 June 2012

Tip of the week: editing services, spot the unprofessional

I'm really pissed off. Yes, you gathered, this is a half-rant, turning into a tip. I just read the opening of a book which apparently has been edited by an editing & proofreading service. Now, I've seen post of the person behind that editing service who regularly leaves out the commas before names when addressing another person, which lead me to conclude the person doesn't know that there belongs a comma. And promptly, in said book, there are no commas before names in dialogue. That book also has an overuse on italics, almost every paragraph contained one -- to emphasise words, which is not wrong, but unnecessary and an editor should know that. I also found an incident of  'Running down the stairs, she pulled on her jeans.' Other situation, same principle. An editor should pick up on that and correct it. In addition to that I came across a lower case letter in direct speech when it should have been upper case, etc. Not happy, I'm not happy at all. You know why?
Because people have their doubts about my being able to edit their ms because I'm not an English native, while that editor is an English native and does it wrongly! I don't offer copy editing and proofing for that reason, I'm still learning, but I'm a damn good editor when it comes to story line and characters. And I know all the things listed above! There! I said it.

As you know I've been criticising self-published authors/books for a while because of the poor quality. A good quality book has everything correct: the characterisation, the story line, the pace and the grammar -- and that with consistency. With all the complaints left, right and centre from readers, authors finally realised they have to work harder and get outside help. But what use is an outside help if they just can't do the job properly? It doesn't help the reputation of self-published book either. The problem is, that everyone can call themselves an editor or proofreader. I did it, too. Editor, that is. But I know my limits and will not go beyond them. Others do and will announce they're proofreaders when in fact, they only spot some typos, but are clueless regarding the real proofreader's job. It angers me that those people take advantage of authors who don't know better.

My advice: learn as much as you can yourself. Let someone knowledgeable check the editor/proofreader, if they have done a good job. Or even better: test them beforehand. They should be able to correct all the things I've listed in the first paragraph. I have a feeling that most authors are just too lazy to learn the tools themselves, shrug it off, saying, but that's why I hire an editor/proofreader. To me, that's not the right way to go about it. The problem is that if you don't know how it's done right, you'll walk into the trap of paying money to an unprofessional. Plus, the more you know, the less an editor/proofreader has to do. Especially the latter should mainly pick up on a few typos or other errors you've made. The basics should be learned by the author and come as naturally as breathing while writing.

Here are some post I did in the past for you to learn the basics every author should know. That would sort out half the complaints readers make:

A rant about the impossible, authors, editors...


  1. My advice when selecting an editor: 1 - Get recommendations from writers you know and trust; 2 - get references, and make sure those are references you can trust; 3 - check their work from published writers; 4 - get a free sample edit of at least 10 pages or so, with no cost and no obligation; 5 - do #1-#4 with at least 3 or 4 editors before deciding.

    Compare not just price, but also accuracy, if the suggestions they give make sense, check turnaround times, and just look for an editor who feels like the right 'fit' for what you're looking for, someone who gets your work and your voice and will work to enhance that (as opposed to an editor who will try to rewrite your work the way he/she would have written it).

    The most expensive editors out there aren't always the best, and you can find great editors for more reasonable prices. But also be careful of too cheap. Too low a bid for editing, and the editor might be tempted to rush through your manuscript as quickly as possible.

    Last point -- keep in mind that with indie authors and freelance editors, just because a writer hired an editor doesn't mean the writer made all the changes and corrections the editor suggested before publishing. I've seen many instances where a writer chose not to make a change the editor had marked, which if it was a mistake, really makes the editor look bad.

    1. "Last point -- keep in mind that with indie authors and freelance editors, just because a writer hired an editor doesn't mean the writer made all the changes and corrections the editor suggested before publishing. I've seen many instances where a writer chose not to make a change the editor had marked, which if it was a mistake, really makes the editor look bad."

      Agree, really difficult. Content editing is another thing I'll talk about. Your first paragraph becomes redundant if the author doesn't know what's wrong or right. So if the author has no clue about dialogue attributes or that particular comma, how would s/he be able to check if the editor/proofreader did a good job? The editor I'm referring to gets recommendations by other author and that bugs me. Haven't read another book yet. Will keep an eye on it. :-)

  2. I agree, Stella. There will always be editing to do, so the cleaner the copy the writer can hand in, the more attention can be paid to things the writer can't see by virtue of being the author.

    (I do know some spot-on editors if anyone is interested in referrals.)

    An important distinction that some newer writers don't seem to be making is the difference between developmental editing and copy editing. I see a lot of focus on 'mistakes' and I'm not saying those things aren't important...but I am saying they're relatively easy. Read WOE IS I, read Strunk & White, learn your rules of grammar.

    But then get a highly talented someone--better yet, a crew of highly talented someones--who can spot all the plot holes, character weaknesses, wooden, on-the-nose dialog, purple prose, and how to transform an okay structure from one that is as perfect as a row of dominoes falling.

    Then revise in response, and then do it again. And again. 22 times if you're well, as slow as me. Sorry, as slow as I.

    Then your manuscript will be done.

    1. Hi, Jenny, read your comment on FB and it made me laugh.

      Yes, I see that a lot, too. Development editing is the first step in the whole process (which I do). I mostly need someone to copy edit my ms, for English isn't my mother tongue (which, I have been told, shows in the post). And proof-reading is the very last one.

  3. Yes, lots of cowboy editors out there, Stella. From one ed to another, what can you do except laugh... Okay, you can rant - it is annoying!

    1. I find it terrible. Hi, Nick, by the way.

      The problem is the self-published authors are suffering as it is and now, when they go to do it all right, they walk into that trap and get knocked over the head by readers who complain.

      If a few more authors read the rants, they may actually go and learn the basics so they can check an editor. :-)

      And ranting is good for the soul.

  4. I find it impossible to edit myself on every little detail. It needs a fresh eye.

    1. That's because it's almost impossible. I know one person who can do it, but it's certainly not me. lol

      I went very slowly through my novel No Wings Attached and didn't see some obvious errors. A friend told me a few which I corrected and just recently someone handed me a list with 35 errors (missing speech marks, apostrophe: I''m), spaces missing after a full stop, words missing/too many. It's not major, but I was pissed off that the ms still had errors. Though it wasn't anyone's fault, apart my own.