This past spring, I attended a semi-local writer’s conference. One of the speakers said that it was okay to publish a book that had errors in it. That it didn’t matter, because you could always upload a revised version any time you want. He also said if you were to get a bad review due to the errors, that was okay too. You just need to grow a tough skin and ignore it. Then he stated that if the reader likes your story, they will buy your next book, even with all the errors. By the time I recovered my senses, he’d gone on to promote his “how to write and publish a book in thirty days or less” book.
I don’t know about you, but I dislike a bunch of typos and grammar mistakes when trying to read. Sure, I understand a book will never be totally error-free, but we should strive to get as close as possible. I’m an avid reader and have returned books riddled with formatting issues and errors. And I certainly won’t be buying anything else from them.
Authors such as this are the reason self-publishing still leaves a bad taste in many reader’s mouths. And, I understand the legacy publishers aren’t perfect, but they do try.
As an editor for a medium-sized publisher, I see many submissions that really aren’t ready. Even though we require a professional edit before submitting, it’s amazing how many manuscripts still need editing when we get them.
One thing I often see at the start of a submission is page upon page of backstory. Naturally, the author needs to know their characters’ past. Especially since that character’s past tends to have a bearing on the story at hand. But, it needs to be woven in. A little bit here, a little bit there. Yes, it’s easier just to lump it all together, but many readers are going to skim over it or will close the book and find something more interesting.
Dialogue tags are another area where authors take the easy way. So many times, I see “he said angrily” or “she stated emphatically”. How much better it would be to add a beat such as “He slammed his fist into the wall.” Or “She stomped her sneaker-clad foot.” Yes, doing it this way is a lot of work, but so worth it.
I think a lot of the problem is many authors don’t study their craft. And it is a craft. A woodcarver doesn’t become a master craftsman overnight. He spends years practicing, making mistakes, starting over, and continues learning.
Same thing with musicians. Sure, there is the occasional genius who doesn’t need to practice, but those are few and far between. Most musicians start with the basics, practice and practice, then practice some more.
Writers must study our craft, too. We can’t be content with “okay”. When I read, I want to be transported into the story, to escape from my reality for a while. If I have to slog through ten or fifteen pages of backstory before something happens, I’ll find another book. If grammar issues keep jerking me out of the story, I’ll find one that doesn’t.
As writers, we can’t edit our own work. At least not well. We tend to read what we think should be there, what we meant to write. Many of us don’t know all the nuances a professional editor should. (I’m still trying to figure out commas.) A professional editor is a writer’s best friend and worth every penny they charge. A professional editor wants your book to be the best it can be and will work hard to make it so. And, that professional edit will get you an acceptance letter and publishing contract.
Meet me Under the Troll's Bridge
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