Hugh Howey
Hugh Howey

Bestselling author of Wool and other books. Currently sailing around the world.

The Publishing World Changes…Why Not the Editing World?

Hi! I’m not Hugh! I’m Lisa, aka “Hugh’s Erstwhile Editor.”

God bless David Vinjamuri, whose recent Forbes article reveals the naked truths about traditional vs. indie publishing. And thank you, Sue Grafton, for suggesting that indie authors are lazy and then not bothering to actually apologize when given the opportunity to do so (a friend of mine summarized her follow-up remarks thusly: “I didn’t understand what I was talking about when I said it, but now that I’ve learned more, I still don’t understand it”).

The nay-sayers (who mostly seem to have their interests entwined with The Big Publishers) need to get with the program. I’m a voracious reader, and 75% of what I read these days are works by indie authors. Sure, I pick up some for free, but I’m spending way more money on indie authors than authors affiliated with Those Other Guys these days. I’m loving the Psion series by Jacob Gowans and have pitched my hard-earned dollars toward Denise Grover Swank’s The Chosen series. They make me feel ashamed that I paid so much for the first in Michael Grant’s Gone series.

Now, back it up, you don’t have to tell me how much of the indie-offered works are absolute SHIT. I know this from many, many, many works I’ve downloaded for free and the many, many, many works for which I’ve taken advantage of the “Click to LOOK INSIDE!” button on Amazon.

Granted, the indie world offers some total crap. But if you can’t step around that fact and start checking into indie authors who might blow your mind and rock your world, you’re missing out.

Back to the point, Lisa.

Necessary repeat, although I suspect all three of you reading this already know this about me: I’m an academic editor by day and an indie editor by night/weekend.

It seems that the biggest gripe people have about indie authors is that their works need to be edited, and I admit to bailing on numerous indie titles when the typos and grammatical errors became too tedious. At the same time, I’m sympathetic: were I an indie author with no income as of yet from my work, how the hell could I afford an editor? Depending on the length of the work in question, we could be talking about a serious chunk of change.

You would think, then, that The Traditional Publishers would have this part of the game locked up. All those editors and proofreaders on staff, making sure the words that turn to ink on a page or pixels on your e-reader are flawless.

Mmmm. Not so much. Maybe they downsized or something, but you can no longer count on your $25 new release hardback being typo-free. (I have some examples I can share; feel free to post the ones you’ve found in the comments.)

At any rate, let’s cut to the chase.

As I’ve said, I edit for indie authors, and it distresses me to have to bill these folks for my time correcting common spelling and grammatical errors when they would be better served by me focusing on the story, the plot, the characters, the dialogue, etc. I created a guide with common errors to which indie authors can rely (holla at me if you want it), but it’s quite necessarily circumscribed (otherwise, I would’ve written a book).

Thus, I find myself at a place where I can give indie writers a reading list (ewwwww) or…or what?

Beta readers, that’s what.

I make this suggestion only because I regularly participate in Hugh’s forum. His fans are well-read, articulate, enthusiastic, and generous (and kudos to Hugh for setting the tone).

To that end, I posted in the forum, asking if any members would be interested in serving as beta readers. The job essentially would be to read an indie author’s work and report on what was liked and what was not liked (pointing out spelling and grammatical errors would be a good thing, too).

NINE. As of right now, nine members have quite enthusiastically tossed their hats in the ring.

I have already sent one manuscript to two betas (between the four of us–two betas, me, author–we’ve agreed that leaving the author anonymous is best) and am working on getting Author 2’s manuscript out to two betas.

“Nine” may not sound like much, but I’m talking about a relatively small community and the space of just a couple of days.

And right now, I have more betas than manuscripts that could use beta readers.

You see where I’m going with this, right?

 

16 replies to “The Publishing World Changes…Why Not the Editing World?”

I think what a lot of indie authors need to understand is that this is a business. So many of us are so passionate about getting our work in front of readers that we forget some basics of product quality control.

The day that more of us realize this than just are eager to publish before the work is ready, that’s the day indie publishing truly begins to overtake the traditional world.

RD Meyer, I love having an author’s perspective. I come at this with an editor’s perspective, and what I see are (1) authors who are so CONVINCED that they and their work is so brilliant that it cannot possibly need an editor and (2) authors who somehow are more terrified of an editor’s words than the words of the general readers who will be reviewing their works in the public sphere.

For the record, I think indie publishing is well on its way to overtaking the traditional world.

Hi Lisa, as a traditionally published author, indie author & now indie publisher I have my own editing checklist but I would be interested in a copy of your checklist of things to watch out for when editing.
We have to make a decision to use either US or UK or NZ English idiom and punctuation here and the differences make life interesting. To say the least!
We have recently used no less than 15 beta readers to assist with editing our latest book and found they were really good at picking up faults which had eluded us.
Or forcing us to make a decision on a firm house style and to stick with that.
Do you use a house style for your edits? Do you edit in different forms of English? I’m curious … Christine

Thus far my experience is with American authors and audiences only; I would probably recommend an author seeking assistance on another form to find an editor or betas will experience in that form.

Since I’m approaching this as a lone editor doing indie editing when I’m away from my full-time academic editing position, I don’t think it would be accurate to say that I have a “house style,” but I do have my own style that comes as a result of having read five or six style guides from cover-to-cover…and I make it a point to be flexible based on the author’s needs and desires.

Actually, you being part of a new indie publishing unit makes you ideally suited to get an array of folks with skills in various areas on board–very exciting!

Lisa, I’d be interested in the editing guide, hear me holla! ;) Also, I think beta readers are critical – especially for typos. I have some friends and family members who love me read my stories, so they aren’t going to be too critical about my plot, characters, etc. BUT, they love to find errors and this isn’t as intimidating to an author. Yes, we need the structural editor to help us tell the story, but I’d say use a friend or two (ones who can, um, spell) for typos. Lyn

“You see where I’m going with this, right?” —

To infinity and beyond!–

As far as our imaginations will allow.

You’re right. For me personally, it has been…and continues to be…so exciting to have any sort of role in the indie publishing biz! Every time I turn around, I find myself thinking, “Well, if we know that *this* is helpful, what if someone tried *that*?”

I am writing a fantasy series and when the time comes to publish, I would like to have some beta readers… Do you know how I may go about getting some?

There’s a thread in the forums about this, and I know of some other writing-oriented sites with similar threads.

My advice to authors looking for beta readers: Don’t rush into that phase of the process. Do several more revisions, first. You’ll introduce new typos if you start the process too early. More importantly, you want to give beta readers a work worth finishing! If it’s not ready, they won’t work with you in the future and they won’t want to beta read for anyone else. So give them your best effort. Think about the “reader” half of their duties, not the “beta” half.

https://hughhowey.com/forums/showthread.php?520-Beta-reader-applications-now-being-accepted

I’ve had a lot of fun on the Absolute Write forum, but I used beta readers I know for my first readers and am using teacher friends for a second pass.

I can understand the desire of some writers wanting to be done with their books and making money, but editing is key. You aren’t done with a baby after it spends nine months in the womb. No, that’s when the real work begins.

Based on the authors with whom I’ve worked, it seems that a good time to consider betas is when you’ve beaten, prodded, poked, kicked, gnawed on, and re-read your manuscript to the point that you hate it and never want to look at it again.

My impression is that receiving that first infusion of comments, questions, and concerns from an editor or beta revives the author’s interest and excitement in his or her work. (And it’s really fun to see happen.)

Wow, thanks for the feedback and interest! I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, considering how much enthusiasm forum members have shown, but it’s delightful to see nonetheless.

To access the “common errors” document, go to the “Edit” tab at my Web site (put www. before and .com after “lisakellywilson”).

More importantly, come hang out with us in Hugh’s forum, where you’ll find other authors, betas, enthusiastic readers, and some damned fine people.

I am super interested in finding an editor/beta reader to review my manuscript. Any help/info would be so appreciated. Thanks so much!

Lisa

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