Where Have All The Editors Gone?

Okay, okay, I know that all the editors have not gone away. I know that there are many dedicated editors out there slaving away in the word mines to help writers wrangle their manuscripts into things of beauty. I do not want the entire Internet editorial community to descend upon me, angrily wielding their blue and red pens as weapons of vengeance.

But.

I detect a noticeable lack of editorial input in far too many of the books I read these days.

If you follow me on Goodreads or take note of my occasional reading update posts hereabouts, you’ll know that I am not a snob when it comes to reading. I read traditionally published books, I read self-published books, I read e-only books, I listen to audiobooks and self-produced audiobooks. If it sounds interesting to me, I don’t quibble about the format or the provenance, I’ll give it a try.

In fact, I will even cut some slack to the authors who are self-pubbing, to a certain extent. If the writing and plotting and characterization and ideas are strong overall, I can forgive a few little grammatical or syntactical missteps. I usually find it a bit sad when a story fails to reach its full potential due mainly to a lack of editing, but it won’t make me bail on the story.

But traditional publishers, I have to say: I hold you to a higher standard. I expect that you will have given your authors the benefit of proper editorial input. You are supposed to be the “gatekeepers”, after all; the setters-of-standards. This is not to say that I expect to love every traditionally published book–there’s no accounting for taste, and there are plenty of (IMHO) bad tradpub books. But regardless of how far they fall short of my expectations in story or plot, I expect them to be line edited.

And I am disappointed, with increasing frequency of late.

I expect words to be used properly. “Occupied” is not the same thing as “preoccupied”.

I expect you to weed out repetitions. When the word “faience” comes up five times in three pages, it’s kind of noticeable.

I expect that characters’ names will remain the same throughout the story.

(Sadly) I could go on. But I won’t. Maybe I’m just in an editorial frame of mind lately, having recently finished an intense bout of line editing for Unearthed. And I won’t say I caught everything there, either. But if traditional publishers want to continue to publish good authors–if they want to be thought of as some kind of legitimizing force in publishing, I think they owe their authors something. And their readers, too.

I think they need to spill a little more corrective ink on those manuscripts. Or soon there’ll be nothing at all setting them apart. And then where will they be?

Image courtesty of jppi.

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4 Comments

  1. I know what you mean! It’s especially bad with the “old hat” type authors, I find. Like they’ve had so many books published that their mistake-loaded first drafts go straight to the presses, no questions asked. I’m sorry, but if I’m going to pay $30 for a hardcover, I expect it to be freaking spell checked!

  2. I’ve also been bothered by this lately. One book I read recently was pretty well line-edited (I only found one major typo in the first 100 pages) its content could have used some serious slashing and burning — it just would have been better with more editorial input. I get the sense that authors — whether self-published or with most established publishers — are increasingly on their own when it comes to big-picture editing, unless they hire their own freelance editor, which is a major expense.

  3. I agree. Some of the 800-lb gorilla authors have been getting away without proper editing for some time, but now it seems as though anyone who is selling doesn’t get a proper edit.

    And like you say, I’m willing to give the indies some slack, but only a little. Books published by so called “professional” presses have no excuse, and they seem to be guilty of this as much as the indies.

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