I recently received an email from a writer who had self-published his book but had decided against professional editing because of the extra cost that was involved. I got the feeling that he later regretted his decision.
He asked me this: “With a professional edit and help promoting it, I think the book has potential. I’m stuck on what to do next? I hope you can help?”
Of course, I emailed him back my initial thoughts, and I referred him to a recent post Master the Craft of Writing by my agent, Rachelle Gardner. Basically, she said that most traditional publishers are offering less editing. And as more writers try self-publishing, the levels of editing will vary depending upon how much a person is willing to invest.
In other words, overall, there are more books hitting shelves that have NOT had the intense scrutiny and depth of professional editing that has been typical in the past.
At the same time, there’s been an explosion of online review sites. Readers are becoming more vocal—about both the good and the bad in books. In fact some reviewers are very blunt—they say exactly what they like and don’t like about our stories, down to the tiniest detail.
As the quality of editing is decreasing and reader reviews are increasing, the NEED for editing is becoming more critical in today’s market. Whether we self publish or go the traditional route, we can’t afford to sit back, put our manuscripts out there, and hope for the best. We only hurt ourselves by NOT investing time (and money) into editing.
So what are the benefits of editing?
1. Editing helps please our readers.
We definitely can’t neglect the line and copy edits. Readers don’t want to be taken out of the story because of simple grammar, spelling, or punctuation mistakes. Even worse is when we neglect the substantive edit that can solidify our plot and characters. If our story lacks the pizzazz that comes from the big substantive (or content/macro edit,) readers may not exactly know why they don’t like the book, just that they don’t.
My books have undergone many, many intense edits (read about it here and here). And readers still find faults. I can’t imagine the feedback from readers if my books hadn’t been through all of the various levels of editing.
2. Editing helps us grow in our writing skill.
Every time I have an edit, either from my critique partner or my in-house editors, you can be sure I learn something new. Each tough edit pushes me to examine my weaknesses and then to work at improving them. Without that critical feedback, I wouldn’t have known what areas I needed to grow in. Editing has been one of the best things for my writing career in helping make my books successful. The tough feedback has challenged me to move beyond mediocre and to make my stories really shine.
3. Editing helps us maintain professionalism.
We have a lot of competition for our reader’s attention (internet, movies, video games, busyness of life, etc). We risk pushing readers into their love affair with the competition even more if we rush to put poorly edited books out there. As a writing community, don’t we want to work together to keep our readers and maintain a high standard for our work that sets us apart as professionals? If we consistently put sub-standard work in front of readers, we risk diminishing our profession altogether.
So what do you think? Have you ever skimped on editing because you were in a hurry or didn’t want to invest in the time or money? How do you think editing benefits writers?