Lately I’ve been reading a lot as a beta reader and for review. When a book blurb catches my attention I also go read any samples I find to see if it will be a book I will enjoy. With all this reading I am always keeping in mind what makes a good book for me as a reader. Traditionally books have gone through a stringent process before a publisher ever released printed copies to the public. Readers in the public could reasonably expect a grammatically correct, error free book when they made a purchase or took it off the library shelf.
With the advent of electronic books and rising popularity of self publishing has come a trend of good stories with substandard editing. Now, I’m not an editor, but as a beta reader I believe it is my duty to point out both typographical and grammatical errors. Some authors do an excellent job self editing before they allow beta readers to see their work. Some are able to get professional editors to help them polish their stories. Honestly these are the ones that are generally most successful. But there are a lot of good stories that need attention to the technical details before they are ready for public viewing. Many do not get that attention to the degree needed before the author hastily self published. This is too bad because a good story is not given the chance to be a great book. An author who could be great is deemed mediocre because of quality of editing instead of the quality of the story itself.
I certainly cannot read every book that is being self published, but I can help a few polish up their work. Three to four books a month for beta reading is about my speed. Some of the books I read should have had a thorough edit before I read them. Still I plod through and point out typos and grammar errors. Occasionally I will even have a comment on how to make the story better. Though I do not feel qualified to be a story editor I think I could pass as a reasonably good copy editor, maybe.
One of the most common things I find are sentences that are just too long. Complete thoughts strung together that could easily be broken into two or more sentences. Breaking them down would make the reading flow so much better. I tend to get lost by the middle of a sentence with thirty or more words. I read once, for good writing, a sentence should not be more than about twenty words, shorter is even better. Another issue is the mixing of tense. These make reading confusing. Keeping tense consistent is important.
Occasionally an author will be so wrapped up in writing the story that they forget to identify the character in dialog and descriptive scenes. Too many “he, she, him, her, his and hers” for me to track. Authors have clearly in mind who is referenced, but as a reader, I sometimes get lost. It’s okay to use character names frequently. After all they are the main stars of the story.
Everyone will have typographical errors before the manuscript is polished. That is not a big deal. I point them out and move on. Sometimes the author changed something and parts of the previous version were not deleted. I just have to highlight that passage and say, “fix it.” That happens to me occasionally while writing my blog posts.
I think the thing that really bothers me the most is reading a ‘sample’ of an already published ebook and seeing glaring errors in the sample. Those errors tell the person reading the sample that this book has not been well edited. Many people will just pass on reading it because of the sample’s quality. The story may be a great one with a well developed plot and characters, but the quality of the editing will prevent people from buying the book.
Many new self publishing authors do not believe they can afford to pay an editor. Sure, it will take a lot of sales to recoup the expense. But if an author really wants people to read and come back for more, then an editor is essential. Scrimp, save, make payment arrangements, anything to get that first book well edited. It is amazing how much better the book will become when the advice of a good editor is taken and incorporated. There will be many hours of rewriting after that first edit comes back, but, the book will be better for it. The author will become a better writer. Don’t be so in love with your work that you can’t bear to change things as recommended by the editor. Love your story, but don’t be in love with it, be willing to make changes to make it better. Get an editor!
May all your books be well edited,
Here are some links: