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Old 09-01-2012, 12:05 AM   #61
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I think it is very important that "someone" look over a book, even if one can't afford an editor. As others have pointed out, a writer can get so close to his/her writing that problems that might be very obvious to someone else are not seen.

If nothing else, get some friends who are willing to point out what they see as possible problems to read the manuscript.

I am currently a "reader" for a book. Not exactly the same as an editor, but still. A friend is writing a history of a photographer active primarily during America's Great Depression. She got three people to read her manuscript. I was asked to because I helped catalog the collection of the photographer's negatives. So I was familiar with his work and the background history.

I read the manuscript and found what I thought were several problems in terms of structure, etc. I honestly did not feel as if I had been terribly insightful, but she reworked entire sections as a result and says they are improved. Will re-read again shortly.

Okay, obviously all of this does not apply to self-pubbed fiction, but at least get some friends who are not afraid to point out what they see as flaws. They shouldn't expect money, although they would probably appreciate getting a copy of the final product.

And yes, I think grammar/syntax/spelling does matter--at least to some of us. When I see such errors, I feel a writer is being sloppy. Of course I am a librarian, so I am overly detail-oriented at times.
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Old 09-01-2012, 09:28 AM   #62
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From The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (5th ed, p. 1690) usage note on split infinitives:

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The split infinitive has been present in English ever since the 1300s, but it was not until the 1800s that grammarians labeled and condemned the usage. The only rationale for condemining the construction is based on a false analogy with Latin. . . . But English is not Latin, and distinguished writers have split infinitives without giving it a thought. Noteworthy splitters include John Donne, Daniel DeFoe, George Eliot, Benjamin Franklon, Abraham Lincoln, William Wordsworth, and Willa Cather. . . .
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Old 09-01-2012, 09:42 AM   #63
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So we can split 'til the cows come home, unless you're writing litfic.
Fair'nough.
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Old 09-01-2012, 09:52 AM   #64
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First of all let me start off by saying, my stuff has been copyedited. It's also been beta read and several novels have had the benefit of a wonderful developmental editor.

That said, some authors can and do all their own editing. Jim Chambers did all his own editing for Recollections. I couldn't find a single error. Michelle Scott did some of her own editing (not on recent books) and I think I found one typo. Frank Tuttle has beta readers and he did a lot of his own editing on his self-published works. Personally I think he did a better job on his own than his publisher did on a couple of the works (by my error counting.) :>)

I'm not advocating "Not editing" or "no professional editing" but I've read many books with several typos. If the plot carries it, the plot carries it. Would that work for every reader? No. There are people who are very picky and it's going to bug them to no end.

Amanda Hocking started out with no editors and her reviews reflect that. *But in the end, her plot and characterization carried her to new levels. The audience loved her books enough to read them and keep reading them.* Her timing into the market wasn't bad either.

Her Hollowlands book (self-published) supposedly had an editor. It could have used another beta reader and there were multiple typos. I still enjoyed the story.

The fact is, there are MANY readers out there who don't care about an occasional misstated fact, a plot hole or multiple typos. They'll pick up a novel and they either like the content or not. Would an editor improve things? Quite probably. Can a writer get better and better at self-editing? Yes. Do beta readers improve things further? You betcha.

Editors can play an important role, but there are readers across the spectrum:

Far end: Aren't that good at grammar and don't notice
Middle: Just reading, don't care. See things, but go right by them (This is a large group, IMO.)
Far end: Every t must be crossed, and there better not be a single typo or I want my money back and schools must answer to me.

That middle ground is actually fairly large from what I've seen. It covers the casual reader all the way to some intense readers who notice the typos or even a plot hole and while they frown, if they are enjoying the book, they just keep on reading.

There are editors out there who have a particularly awesome talent. They can read a book and see areas where just a little tweaking (or a lot) can hugely improve a book. (Nancy Fulda, I'm looking at you.) There are editors who are great at copyediting, but don't really have a "feel" for the story. If a writer is lucky enough to find one, it's going to help her. You do have to be looking. You do have to form relationships and figure out how you're going to pay for it. It's part of clawing your way to the next level.

Accept that some editors are not going to be able to help you. They either don't have the experience or they possibly don't know enough about the genre or have no talent. You may waste some money on them. Move on. Always look for people that can help you be better and if it isn't working out, move on. Art work is the same way. I have a folder of art I can't use. I paid for it. Oh well. The artist (in some cases) told me he could do x and I got a stick figure that might be part of an "a."

My point is, no one size fits all and some writers are going to claw their way out there any way they can. Sometimes it works. Some writers are constantly improving. Some aren't. People are different and the great thing about this time in history is that a lot of readers and writers are getting an opportunity to create and experience outside the normal "standards."

It's going to evolve and become pigeonholed again. That's just the way it is. Copyediting and other editing is important, but the most important thing of all is the story. Either you do a good job of telling it or you don't and you should do everything in your power to keep the reader focused on that story--including copyediting to the best of your financial ability. If you work with the right people, the sum can be greater than the individual parts. Just going through a traditional publisher in no way guarantees a better product. It might up the chances, but going self-published doesn't mean you have to do without the expertise.
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Old 09-01-2012, 10:24 AM   #65
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Originally Posted by BearMountainBooks View Post
My point is, no one size fits all and some writers are going to claw their way out there any way they can. Sometimes it works. Some writers are constantly improving. Some aren't. People are different and the great thing about this time in history is that a lot of readers and writers are getting an opportunity to create and experience outside the normal "standards."
And in the end it is the author who is accountable for the final product.
It is their name and their brand at stake, not the (usually) nameless editor, proofreader, etc.
*They* get to make their own choices and their own decisions and live with the outcome; even if they choose to go traditional and trust the universe to take care of them.
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Old 09-01-2012, 10:34 AM   #66
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Originally Posted by fjtorres View Post
And in the end it is the author who is accountable for the final product.
It is their name and their brand at stake, not the (usually) nameless editor, proofreader, etc.
*They* get to make their own choices and their own decisions and live with the outcome; even if they choose to go traditional and trust the universe to take care of them.
That sums it up.
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Old 09-01-2012, 10:57 AM   #67
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And in the end it is the author who is accountable for the final product.
It is their name and their brand at stake, not the (usually) nameless editor, proofreader, etc.
*They* get to make their own choices and their own decisions and live with the outcome; even if they choose to go traditional and trust the universe to take care of them.
No, the publisher is the one that is mostly accountable for the final product. The publisher is the one that put there stamp of approval on the book.
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Old 09-01-2012, 11:20 AM   #68
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No, the publisher is the one that is mostly accountable for the final product. The publisher is the one that put there stamp of approval on the book.
Readers don't blame the publishers--it's the author's name staring them in the face. Sure, readers here know the drill and who does what, but the average reader doesn't even NOTICE publishing imprints. They don't care. They are just after a story and if that fails them, they generally write the author. In the internet age, more readers are more aware, but talk to five patrons at the library about publishing and you'll get blank stares. Ask who their favorite authors are? They can name them. Most don't *have* favorite publishers.
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Old 09-01-2012, 11:37 AM   #69
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Well, the beauty of e-books and crowd sourcing is that once an error has been found and reported, it can be fixed and the book can be republished.
Yes, but technically, it shouldn't be - unless the errors are very small (in which case, why would you bother?), then that's now a new edition. This distinction would be very clear if it were a print book, but obviously is less so for an e-book, particularly if it's self-published, as most people outside the publishing industry wouldn't have a clue about editions. It does seem likely that the distinction between different editions is likely to become very blurred.

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Correct grammar and punctuation aren't just little niceties; they make the story understandable. You're right that readers don't see it when it's there, but when it's not, not only does the story look sloppy, but the reader has to guess at meanings and attempt to decipher sentences by filling in missing words and punctuation. Grammar is the structure that supports the story, and without it, the story collapses.
A very succinct description, and how true!

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Originally Posted by teh603 View Post
I dunno, I've found that only the worst grammar mistakes can really break a story apart. Split infinitives, dangling participles, lie/lay, its/it's, hanged/hung, starting with a conjunction, and the like are relatively minor annoyances that don't really hurt a story.
Depends on your bugbears, I suppose. A lot of these woudn't be a problem for me (and as mentioned below, some of these aren't really mistakes either) but its/it's really grates on me, as does 'should of'.

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Originally Posted by RHWright View Post
It comes down to this for me: if you expect to be paid like a professional, put out a professional quality product.
[snip]
What counts are the results. And, sorry, as a consumer with $$ in my pocket, I find that spelling errors, typos, and gross grammar errors (its/it's, your/you're, there/their/they're) are signs of sloppiness and lack of attention to detail that I do not expect from a professional.
My feelings exactly - if you're going to sell a product, you owe it to the customer to make it the best that it can be.

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To some they might not be regarded as errors, but to most erudite people they most definitely are regarded as errors. I regard them as errors, and so do most of the professionals I work with - even American professionals.
Perhaps 'especially' rather than 'even' - I certainly find that American publishers are far more likely than British publishers to clamp down on split infiinitives. My personal feeling is that this is because British publishers are more familiar with the classic languages, and therefore accept that the fact that justt because people believe a 'cherished superstition' (good phrase, that, BTW!) is no reason to follow it if there isn't a firm basis for it, which in those cases, there isn't. There's no point forcing a perfectly rounded sentence into a square box labelled 'correct grammar' just because someone whose own knowledge of grammar is incomplete thinks that this is the way it should be written.
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Old 09-01-2012, 12:21 PM   #70
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Readers don't blame the publishers--it's the author's name staring them in the face. Sure, readers here know the drill and who does what, but the average reader doesn't even NOTICE publishing imprints. They don't care. They are just after a story and if that fails them, they generally write the author. In the internet age, more readers are more aware, but talk to five patrons at the library about publishing and you'll get blank stares. Ask who their favorite authors are? They can name them. Most don't *have* favorite publishers.
But the editor can loose his job. The publisher can loose money. And so on.

Also I talked about who is accountable in the sense of who to blame when you have all information. Not uninformed opinions about it.
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Old 09-01-2012, 01:25 PM   #71
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And in the end it is the author who is accountable for the final product.
It is their name and their brand at stake, not the (usually) nameless editor, proofreader, etc.
*They* get to make their own choices and their own decisions and live with the outcome; even if they choose to go traditional and trust the universe to take care of them.
And in traditional publishing, when an author adamantly refuses to fix a grammatical error or to accept a revision of a particularly clunky sentence, who gets blamed by the reader? The copyeditor and proofreader, of course.
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Old 09-01-2012, 04:12 PM   #72
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Who are these writers? I work in this industry and I have yet to hear of a recognised publisher failing to to edit work.
Then you should read more writing forums and author blogs. I've seen plenty of posts over the years saying their publisher didn't edit their book; which could mean they're a great writer or could mean they're with a lousy publisher. And complaints in the other direction that the editors 'corrected' words they thought were misspelt by replacing them with similar words that made no sense in context.
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Old 09-01-2012, 04:21 PM   #73
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I think it's quite arrogant of a writer to assume they don't need an editor (by which I mean copyeditor at the very least).
Most books* need copy editing; if a writer is going to pay for one thing on their book then that's probably what they should spend the money on because it requires a mindset that most writers don't have. Despite that, I still find typos, duplicate words and misused words in most trade-published novels I read.

But a competent writer really shouldn't need much story editing beyond finding a few people to read the story and tell them whether it makes sense and works as a story.

* - I'm trying to imagine what Finnegan's Wake would look like if the publisher had forced Joyce to have it copy edited.
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Old 09-01-2012, 04:41 PM   #74
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Then you should read more writing forums and author blogs. I've seen plenty of posts over the years saying their publisher didn't edit their book; which could mean they're a great writer or could mean they're with a lousy publisher. And complaints in the other direction that the editors 'corrected' words they thought were misspelt by replacing them with similar words that made no sense in context.
Fine, if you can't name the authors, then who are the publishers?

I'm tired of hearing the same claim about lack of editing made over and over without a shred of evidence.

Poor editing is not the same thing as no editing.
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Old 09-01-2012, 04:50 PM   #75
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Originally Posted by Edward M. Grant View Post
Most books* need copy editing; if a writer is going to pay for one thing on their book then that's probably what they should spend the money on because it requires a mindset that most writers don't have. Despite that, I still find typos, duplicate words and misused words in most trade-published novels I read.

But a competent writer really shouldn't need much story editing beyond finding a few people to read the story and tell them whether it makes sense and works as a story.

* - I'm trying to imagine what Finnegan's Wake would look like if the publisher had forced Joyce to have it copy edited.
Keyword being COMPETENT. What makes you think that the vast army of self-professed writers is competent?

Re Finnegan's Wake: What makes you think a copyeditor is incapable of following an author's quirks and foibles and idiosyncrasies? Do you really think a copyeditor just slavishly imposes rules of grammar and squeezes the creativity and originality out of every sentence?
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