Self-published books and sloppy editing

I’ve read quite number of self-published books—books with genuine merit—over the past year or so, and have been appalled by how poorly most of them are edited. And each one, without exception, has listed the name of the editor in question. I’ve run across misspelled words, misused words, malapropisms, misplaced apostrophes, and loads of typos.spelling

I confess that, being a bit of a grammar/spelling/punctuation Nazi, this kind of thing kind of freaks me out.

It’s one thing to say “Her and me went out,” if it’s in an actual conversation, but as part of the narrative…no, no, no. I can remember the days when you never found even the tiniest error in a printed book, but those days are long gone, I’m sorry to say.

And who are these editors? If the authors themselves were doing the editing it would be bad enough, but when the job is done by a person who actually calls him/herself an editor and then lets a string of egregious errors slip by? OK, I know how hard it is to edit and proofread—I’ve been doing it for years. And I can’t say I’ve never overlooked something, but from what I’ve seen of the books I’ve read lately, the overall editing of self-published books looks pretty dismal.grammarcartoon-blogSpan-300x218

I would think that if you’ve written a book of your own, you’d want it to be perfect—or at least as perfect as possible. Wouldn’t you go through it with a fine-toothed comb several times to make sure everything was exactly the way you wanted it? Or maybe I’m kidding myself and neither the authors nor the writers has sufficient knowledge of spelling, punctuation, and grammar to get it right?

I just want to make it clear that I’m not in favor of perfect texts just for the sake of being perfect, with no thought to cultural context, etc. I like conversational writing—in fact, you may have noticed that I’m a conversational writer myself. We can take certain liberties. We don’t have to write in a strait jacket (and please stop spelling it “straight!”), but we do have to write intelligently and not let mistakes slip by that we should have learned in grammar school.

OK, sorry for the grumpy rant—I think I’ve been holding it in for too long!

13 Comments

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13 responses to “Self-published books and sloppy editing

  1. I am still struggling with the rigid and formal writing I learned in grad school and the sloppy colloquialisms that I use when I speak. Still trying to find a balance (or my voice) in my writing.

    • You’ll find it, JC…forget the rigid, formal stuff and write from your heart the same way you would speak. I believe this can be done without making all kinds of grammatical/spelling/punctuation errors!

  2. igudger

    Well said, Amy. I know my wife has the same feelings. Although she is very new to this whole thing. She was very unhappy with the editor she paid to do a good job. She felt obligated to thank her for her work. However, after I read it, I found two errors (pretty minor ones, but I’m no editor). It drove Sam nuts. She uploaded a whole new version afterwards to make sure new readers didn’t have to deal with it. She read over her book like 10 times looking for the pesky errors that hide in the shadows. It bugs her to the point that now she is enrolled in an exclusive editing program at a major university near us, so she can better edit her own and other people’s writing. Anyway, I hear you.

    • Good for her, Ian. I did all my own editing for the most part, although I was fortunate to find some one good to help me toward the end. It seems as if a lot of editors are either sloppy and lacking in knowledge, or overly zealous and disrespectful of authors…this needs to change!

      • As the author, YOU are the boss–don’t be bullied by an editor! Professional editors and proofreaders are more than just English majors; don’t hire someone without first getting a sample edit AND having an in-depth conversation about your wants and needs and your vision for your book (even if you’re only hiring for a final proofread). I cover some of this in my blogs; here are two: “When Your Character is ‘Reaping Havoc,’ You NEED an Editor” http://wp.me/p2IvJd-9q and “I Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Editor! Or Do I?” http://wp.me/p2IvJd-8k. And don’t be afraid to ask for references–a good editor has many happy authors for you to talk to.

  3. Pingback: Self-published books and sloppy editing | finallygettingdowntobrasstacks « Hey Sweetheart, Get Me Rewrite!

  4. Good advice! After writing this blog post, it seems I have suddenly become an editor myself! :D

  5. I totally agree with you. I think part of the problem is that smart phone and online chattiness has disturbed and confused some people’s sense of right writing.[Or should that be "correct" writing?!:)] Part of of it, also, I’m sad to say, is as you said, “neither the authors nor the writers has sufficient knowledge.” So, as I see it, our job is to keep plugging away and letting people know good editing DOES matter.

  6. Totally agree with you about the smart phones and online chattiness…and it’s contagious!

  7. This no doubt will always be the issue with self- publishing. So many people dram of being writers and now they can see themselves in “print.” A majority of them shouldn’t be in print (certainly no excuse for typos!) but then there hopefully will be the pleasant surprises of writers worthy of print but turned down by publishing houses because they would not make best sellers I.e. the more literary.

  8. That’s why I’m grateful for self-publishing! Not bragging, but I have a very good, well-written book that probably no publisher would even look at because it’s an “autobiography” and I’m not “famous.” :)

  9. Amy, your latest on sloppy editing. I have noticed it too. You
    not only gave a grumpy rant, you gave a certified “Grammar Rant”,
    and that is actually quite fun to say!

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