Saturday, March 26, 2011

Kiss Your Editor

Yes, kiss your editor - but only if she’s (he’s) good. And, if not a kiss, then a sinful box of chocolate or a really nice bottle of wine.

Hi, I’m Patricia Morrison, Acquisitions Editor of PENUMBRA PUBLISHING. I recently finished reading Amanda Hocking’s first book in her TRYLLE series, SWITCHED, on my Kindle, and saw her blog address at the end. I turned on my wireless connection for the Kindle and jumped from the book to the blog, and after some painful Kindle adjustments, started reading her current post. (Believe me, reading web content on a Kindle is not the easiest thing in the world to do – so keep that in mind when deciding to plunk down $150 or more for a dedicated ereader that just does text and line art. But it is cool to get books downloaded in under a minute while riding down the road on a trip – and no, I wasn’t driving while downloading; I was a passenger!)

Anyway, back to Ms. Hocking and her blog post. If you’re not already aware, Amanda Hocking is a screamingly successful self-published paranormal-teen-romance author who, by her own admission in her most recent blog post, has sold over a million copies of her books and made over two million in royalties from those sales. She’s young (apparently in her twenties), and is a prolific writer with a couple series and some standalone books, all paranormal romance or urban fantasy. I believe her latest urban fantasy series features zombies, for those of you who are following that trend. (As a side note, I’d like to point out that, although there are obvious comparisons to Ms. Hocking’s teen vampire romance series and the wildly popular TWILIGHT series, the comparison really stops with the subject matter. Ms. Hocking’s writing style is very face-paced and quite different from Stephanie Meyers'. I enjoyed both writers’ books, but they are nevertheless as different as I’m sure the two writers are.)

And now, again, back to the point of this post. (I must have attention-deficit today – sorry!) The point is ... (drum roll please) ... yes ... wait for it ... wait for it–

Oh, wait a minute. I have to tell you something else first about Ms. Hocking’s blog post, if you haven’t already heard the news...

(Spoiler alert!)

She just signed a seven-figure deal (?,???,??? – yep, that’s in the millions) with St. Martin’s Press to publish her next new paranormal romance series – to the obvious surprise of her many, many readers who, over the course of the past few years, have witnessed her rise to fame and fortune as one of a few SUCCESSFUL self-published authors. (And by successful, I mean she’s made enough money from sales of her self-published books to hire a lawyer and have an agent, so she’s not doing too shabby.)

The whole point of her blog was to reassure people that she was not ‘selling out’ by going with a big traditional publisher for her next series. Her number one reason was not money, although a seven-figure advance is quite a coup for a four-book deal. Her number one reason was not because she was tired of self-publishing and self-marketing and wanted to spend more time writing – although that was a strong contender. Her number one reason was...


Editing. Yes, editing. For the sake of her readers.

Apparently she’d had several people do edits on her books, but still got poor reviews from many readers who were astounded by the number of grammatical errors and typos in her books. So she decided to let some ‘professionals’ handle it, who’d been doing it well for years while still offering up a nice living to their most successful authors.

And, after reading her first books in two of her series, I can unequivocally agree that some professional editing really would have enhanced the reading experience for me. I winced at almost every dialog sentence that had a comma joining the dialog to a non-speech-delivery clause. (For example: “I don’t understand,” he turned away.) There are so many things wrong with that kind of sentence structure from a grammatical standpoint, I’m not going to bore you by diagramming the sentence and explaining it. But a good editor would not have let that unbridled horse out of the barn for a ride around the paddock.

That’s not to say the story as a whole was not well written and entertaining – it was. But when the typical reader sees errors like that in nearly every sentence, it becomes tedious to ignore and still focus on the story.

Now don’t get me wrong – you can probably find some kind of typo or other error in just about any published book, no matter who published it and no matter how many times it was edited. The truth is, typographical errors are like magic little imps, hiding in plain sight until the book comes out. Then, right there on page two, you see a real stinker of an error, dancing on the page to taunt the book’s editors and the author. But, when the whole book is full of them, it’s a signal that everyone associated with the book project – from the author to the editor, and everyone in between who looked at the text – lacked a clear understanding of basic grammatical rules. Ultimately, that reflects poorly on the author.

So, whether you plan to self-publish or to engage an agent or publisher – whatever – make sure you clean up your book, or your query letter and sample chapters, so they look as good as they possibly can. You don’t want your introduction to your readers or your agent or your editor to broadcast your writing flaws and inattention to the basics of writing. Because really that’s what editing is all about – getting the basics right so that readers focus on your story, not your lack of writing ability. If you’re terrible at spelling and word usage and grammar rules, please bother to take the time to find out about a few of them, so that when you misuse them, at least you’ll be doing it on purpose for a reason other than ignorance or indifference. And if you can’t be bothered with that, then at least make the effort to find someone who does know about such things – someone you can trust to do the job reasonably well and look over your work to fix obvious errors. In the long run, your readers will thank you – and so will I.

By the way, if you’re interested in reading Ms. Hocking’s blog, that address is

Pat Morrison
Penumbra Publishing


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