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The Editing Myth

18 January 2014

From author Melissa Bowersock:

Periodically a new blog post or article surfaces that complains bitterly about the proliferation of indie authors, the inundation of the unwashed that is swamping Amazon and muddying the waters for the traditionally-published. This almost always boils down to two major points: (1) just ANYbody can self-publish (which obviously is very true but sounds suspiciously like sour grapes to me) and (2) indie books sometimes (maybe more than sometimes) need more editing than they get. Very often these posts bleat about the fact that if authors wait and work to be picked up by a traditional house, they will have the benefit of thoughtful, detailed, professional editing and will, therefore, produce better books.

I beg to differ.

My first book was published in 1984 by a New York house. The book was complete when they optioned it and they never suggested so much as a comma to me. The fact that they accepted the manuscript verbatim and had zero editorial suggestions seemed like a silent nod of approval, and on good days I could believe that if I wanted. On bad days, I might just believe they deemed the book “good enough” and were not interested in spending time polishing it. When I got a letter from them saying I needed to add 70 pages to get to the proper page count, there was no hint of what the content should be. Story line, plot points or character development all seemed to be of no concern whatsoever. I duly added the pages, resubmitted them, and the book went to publication without any other changes. Even my few typos went in exactly as my fingers mangled them.

A far cry from the cozy dinner-and-coffee tete-a-tetes we see between authors and their editors in the movies.

Meanwhile, I’d finished my second book and asked if they’d like to see it. Yes, indeedy; send it on in. I did, and as before, they never uttered a word of editorial wisdom, just accepted the book as written. Oh, except for the fact that for this one I needed to cut 50 pages. The dreaded page count reared its ugly head again. No other suggestions of what areas might be cut, just get the page count down.

. . . .

As an indie writer, I now get more editing input than I ever did when I was traditionally-published.

Back in the 80s when I was dealing with the New York house, this was the day of query letters via snail-mail and lugging 20-pound double-spaced manuscripts to the post office with a hand truck. I wrote in isolation, could count my willing beta-readers on one hand and exchanged terse letters with my publisher once or twice a year.

Link to the rest at Indies Unlimited and thanks to Patrice for the tip.

Big Publishing, Editing

55 Comments to “The Editing Myth”

  1. Great article!! I hear similar stories from many of my writer friends, they too were hoping for the movielike scenario of intensive sessions with inspired editors,. Instead they do most / all of the editing themselves. Same with marketing, another myth.

    • It’s funny. To me, that movie-like scenario just sounds…completely un-fun, something to be avoided.

      Seems like Melissa got the good deal, as far as that goes.

      🙂

      • Ditto. I’ve never quite understood why so many writers seem so eager to have their books edited by someone else.

        Certainly you need a second (or third, or fourth) pair of eyes to read the book and point out obvious problems, and copy-editing is so mind-numbingly tedious that I’d love to farm that out, but having someone go through and rewrite everything for me? No, thanks.

  2. My guess is what motivates most of the complaints has to do with the threat of competition. I would also venture a guess that most readers are savvy enough to pick and choose what they like and value having a wide selection to choose from. So yes, much of the complaining is probably sour grapes.

  3. Then there are the writers who attract readers with pedestrian prose but hard-charging action and story. Bad enough when James Patterson does it (listening to the audio book for the Alex Cross novel “London Bridges” drove that point home to me). But some podunk writer no one’s ever heard of? Pitchforks and tar!

    • “But some podunk writer no one’s ever heard of? Pitchforks and tar!”

      HACKS! Hacks, I say!

      Yeah, great analogy with Patterson. I’m no literary or genre snob by any means but I love the fact that so many Tradpub books I’ve read have had mediocre prose and style with plot and character by numbers but an indie work that’s less than some kind of masterpiece is drivel and an affront to our literary heritage.

      Haven’t hear an official press release yet but apparently Farrah Abrahams from Teen Mom has a Christian parenting book coming out. This is following her porn vid (with anal) which she did for Vivid.

      Oh well, readers continue to vote with their wallets hourly. BPH e-book and print sales continue to decline while, magically, the whole e-book pie is growing. It doesn’t take a team of Bloomberg analysts to figure out what’s going on. Let the legacy world think whatever they want.

  4. Bill, we’ve all seen good authors turned pedestrian by (most likely) the publisher saying, “More sex! More action! More of what you did before!” Instead of more of the same, deluging the public and diluting the market, how about something new? Something unheard of? There’s a thought!

  5. It’s blog posts like this that perpetuate the myth of ‘traditional publishers don’t edit.’

    They most definitely do.

    And I’m stating this fact as a book typesetter. I’ve worked with big New York publishers since 1980. Back then we rekeyed manuscripts into a dedicated computer system and those manuscripts were covered in red ink; green, too—sometimes even purple—which showed how many pairs of hands and eyes had polished and honed that manuscript.

    For the better.

    This wasn’t an isolated case. Every single manuscript we typeset had been edited, and edited well. They were usually a challenge to unscramble, trying to figure out what the editor(s) meant. Then came desktop equipment and word processing, and still those manuscripts were edited; some on paper because editors still preferred working that way; others electronically.

    But . . . they were all edited and copy edited.

    I’m also an author (women’s fiction with Macmillan; children’s books with Weekly Reader and Scholastic) and my books had two rounds of editing: the big picture stuff and then copy editing, both of which made my stories better.

    And now that I’m self-publishing my children’s horse books, I use a copy editor and a proofreader. Doctors don’t treat their own children. Neither should authors.

    • Ms. Dana

      You’ve obviously had effective editing efforts form your publisher and that’s great. There are however people like the OP who have not. It could be me but I don’t think I’ve seen any comments or posts indicting that trad-pub never edits. That they let everything fly out the door as is.

      Now, I’ve seen plenty of posts (like this one) where individual print authors cite poor, mismanaged and inept editing efforts on their behalf. And I think this gets perceived as an “indie meme” because we hear so many of these stories. Are some (or a lot) of these comments sour grapes from bitter writer’s, blaming their pub house for a failed title? Maybe. But there’s an awful lot of the same stories being repeated by former print authors. I think these writer’s feel the need to make these statements because of 2 BigPub propogated memes/myths:

      1- No indie book gets quality editing. Hence, tsunami of crap from talentless dreck peddlers. Which all indies are except for the 3 lottery winners the NYT has mentioned.

      2- Conversely, EVERY trad-pub author gets the full blown love treatment of peerless editing, undying collaboration, flawless packaging and tireless promo and marketing.

      Read through PG’s posts for the last year or so. There have been dozens of anti-SP articles from Salon, Huff and many others which endlessly tout these very two memes. They’re both BS and we all know it. That’s why they get fisked so badly here.

      “Doctors don’t treat their own children. Neither should authors.”

      I couldn’t agree more. I’ve mostly read indie books for the last two years and I’ll be the first to admit that there’s a lot of indie writer’s who love their ugly children too much.

      All the best with your SP children’s book.

    • You’re therefore saying that the blog post’s author (and the commenters who’ve had comparable experiences) are all liars, when they’re explicitly detailing their own experiences that prove the general belief false.

      Their point = Publishers don’t necessarily edit. That’s even been my own experience, between ghostwriting non-fiction articles and licensing short fiction to small presses.

      Doctors don’t treat their own children.

      Wrong. It is often recommended/advised that they don’t, but even in those provisions, there are usually caveats describing types of care that are acceptable. I just double-checked to make sure I wasn’t misremembering.

    • Is it possible perhaps that only the books that the publishing house really wanted to do well went to your august typesetting organization, and that books like the one described in the original post didn’t?

      All the books you saw may have been edited, but that doesn’t mean you saw all the books.

    • Those were copy-edited. Very different thing. Editors pick cover artists and harp about length. Copy-editors look for mistakes.

      Mind you, most copy-editors in the U.S. are not in-house. That’s a cottage industry where the publisher mails the book off. These people work to impress their employers. Yes, they make a million changes. Those changes are not always necessary or better or even correct. Most of my U.S. copy-editors have been fairly poor. My British copy-editor was very good, but she didn’t bleed all over my mss. either.

      • I agree with you, IJ.

        When looking for a freelance copy-editor, I came across one (USian) who essentially said, “I will find at least two errors per manuscript page. If I don’t, you get my editing for 50% off!” or something like that. I mean, okay, I know I make mistakes, but boasting that that editor is going to, a priori, find x errors per page just strikes me as off.

        My British copy-editor, on the other hand, does his job with humour, sans bragging and the need to fulfill some kind of “blue pencil” quota. I wouldn’t trade him for the world.

  6. I don’t know how editing works in traditional publishing houses and don’t care, because it’s irrelevant to readers.

    Readers judge the final product, and hold the author 100% responsible for it.

    But I do take the time to debunk this “indies don’t have access to good editing” meme whenever I come across it.

    Put frankly, it’s horseshit.

    • “indies don’t have access to good editing.”

      Yes, this is yet another layer to the myth. Not only do some people think indies don’t edit, they think we can’t. They don’t realize that professional freelance editors are only a google click away, and many of them used to work for the big publishers but were downsized out.

      • professional freelance editors are only a google click away, and many of them used to work for the big publishers…

        And the very best ones weren’t downsized out, either. They left, because they were good enough to make more money as a freelancer, and felt they would get more satisfaction out of their career by working directly for writers, too.

  7. D. L., Carradee, Paul and Margaret, you’ve all hit the nail on the head. There are no absolutes to this issue. Yes, obviously some trad publishers do a careful job; others do not. Some indie writers take great pains to edit, whether on their own or by contracting outside editors; some rush to publish and it’s just too soon. I think the argument gets sticky whenever anyone labels “all” writers/publishers doing anything exactly the same. My whole purpose in writing this post was to debunk that all or nothing position. There’s a wide range of processes and experiences out there. I would hope that any aspiring writer would investigate the options available and choose the ones that best fit their own individual talents, goals and processes. That’s the greatest gift of the burgeoning indie movement–we have EVERY possible scenario available to us. We are no longer confined by past practices or by any gatekeepers. As GBS says: “People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it.”

  8. …. the 1980’s …..
    those were the Good Old Days…..
    right?

  9. I’m curios about one poing: What was your genre in the 1980’s?

  10. To respond to Maggie Dana, above: I think the important point of the original post is that a book may be bought by traditional publishing, but *that’s no guarantee of editing.* It’s important to dispel the pervasive myth that all tradpub books get editorial input.

    Mine sure didn’t. (Beyond a very light copy-edit and galley proofs.)

    Sure, you can be dismissive and say that romance genre books are thrown out there, or that certain houses are notorious for not giving editorial input. Which can be true. But my debut novel went on to garner a RITA nomination for best first book, and I’m pretty damn proud that the book succeeded due to the collaborative efforts of my husband and myself, plus a couple other fine beta readers and a tiny bit of agent input.

    I’m sad that my second book didn’t get any input from the publishing house, AND that I thought that it would. I also didn’t have the luxury of 2 years to make it as strong as possible (as I did with the first). There’s a weakness in the ending that now (after completing 8 novels) I can see. An editor even bothering to read to the end of the book would have helped make it stronger. But, no. In fact, that book was orphaned at the publishing house, and a lot of things slipped through the cracks, including the fact that apparently I was supposed to be hitting other authors up for front-cover blurb praise (despite the fact the publishers did that for the first book.)

    This complete lack of substantive editorial input during my short time as a NY published author gave me two things:

    Trust in my own authorial voice, and the faith to strike out into indie publishing on my own, without an editor to hold my hand.

    Determination to do a better job than the traditional publishers, especially with regards to copy edits and proofreading. (Not that hard, really – I’d say my indie titles are cleaner and better-formatted overall than the NY ones.)

    Everyone will have different experiences along their publishing journey. However, I think it’s crucial for aspiring authors to understand that that their work MAY NOT get any substantive editorial input, even if picked up by a NY Publishing house.

    • Trust in my own authorial voice, and the faith to strike out into indie publishing on my own, without an editor to hold my hand.

      ^This^

      What’s beginning to irritate the hell out of me is this notion that writers can’t possibly put out a product that an audience will find enjoyable without “many pairs of hands and eyes to polish and hone the manuscript.” Oh, please. So, writing is the ONE art form in which the creator simply MUST commit his/her work to a committee in order to produce something of any quality? Really? Visual artists seem to do just fine creating works that express their personal vision without deferring to outside opinions. Musicians and composers, ditto. They create and let the audience decide if they like it. Why not writers?

      I will say that I’ve had manuscripts ruined by those “many pairs of hands and eyes.” As for making the manuscript better– better in whose opinion? Any art form, including writing, is far too subjective and prone to personal quirks and preferences to say that “better” is some kind of quantifiable term (once one has mastered grammar, spelling, etc.). What you think is better might, in my opinion, be worse.

      We’re so brainwashed by the propaganda the publishing industry has belched for years to justify its existence, we don’t even see it for what it is. We need to quit second-guessing and diluting our work to conform with others’ opinions and have some confidence in the vision we’re trying to communicate.

      • In non-fiction writing, a freelancer is often expected to be able to produce a completely acceptable piece of writing on his or her own. The client reads over it and determines if it’s acceptable or not.

        Yet writers of fiction are told that they can’t possibly produce something acceptable for the client without a myriad of helpers. I work as a line editor, okay, and some self-edited books have fewer errors than ones that have hired an editor—sometimes because the author doesn’t learn the tools of their own trade, and the editor has to try to interpret their intentions so what’s on the page is what they meant.

      • What I like about indie publishing is that I get to decide which editorial suggestions make the book better. My editor was very helpful.

  11. Different experiences for different authors, changing over time, clearly. And if anything, the number of people working on most books in a trad pub situation has lessened.

    A friend published (writing fantasy, paranormal romance) between 1992 and 2009, across eleven books and four houses, tells me that my volunteer editing of her manuscripts before they went in to the publisher was essentially the only editing they got. Now I publish her, and get a percentage for my efforts!

    To date, I haven’t paid for an editor for my books. I’m a very clean writer, and use beta readers. At some point, I may consider investing the money to see what someone else would do with my writing.

    • I also haven’t used a paid editor. I use beta readers, and I’ve put a lot of time and effort into learning and improving my revision/editing skills. And I’ve always been pretty meticulous about spelling/grammar/punctuation/word usage.

      My philosophy on using an editor is that writers should not rely on an editor to do their job for them. My job as a writer is to produce work that is enjoyable and well-written. To me, there’s no excuse for an attitude like that of John Green from the post yesterday, where basically he was saying that he couldn’t write a competent novel without the help of his editor. If he can’t write a competent novel on his own, then he isn’t doing his job.

      Once you the writer have done your best to produce the highest-quality work you can, then hiring an editor can be a good way to get a second set of eyes on your story and to catch mistakes you missed. (Though hiring a professional editor certainly isn’t the only way to get that help.) But all that stuff about knowing how to structure a novel, how to write description and dialogue and engaging characters and conflict and prose that gets your meaning across – that’s the writer’s job, and shouldn’t be left to the editor.

      *gets down off of soapbox*

  12. Like others have noted, the “editing” offered by a traditional publisher is like playing Russian roulette. You may work with an editor who just gets you, your book, your way of communicating via text. Bully for you. But it isn’t always that way, and you can’t tell what you will get before you’re stuck with it.

    You may find out that the lovely editor you thought you were going to work with has moved onto another position or company, and now a newly-hired recent grad (with no editorial training) has the responsibility of bringing your book to print. Or, you find that your mega-editor is so saddled with meetings and travel that he or she cannot get to your book (as has happened to more than one colleague of mine). Or you find out that your editor is constantly overridden by decisions made in the marketing department. You just cannot know until it is too late.

    And one last thing to remember: once you sign that contract, publishers feel that your book is theirs, bought and paid for. You are at their mercy. The things I have done as an editor on staff, at a production house, and as a freelancer to other people’s work at the behest of publishers would give you nightmares.

  13. My first two books, romances, were trad-published with no editing by them whatsoever. The first was voted “best” by their readers. I do some SP now and have a critique group and beta readers who are helpful.
    D.L.: Your comment is right on, but please stop putting apostrophes in plurals. It’s “these writers” not “these writer’s.” Yes, I admit it: Such things leap out at me and cause head-on-desk pain.

  14. About ten years ago, the editor from Tor came to a convention I attended, and he said that the big publishing houses rarely edited anybody anymore, except for some first-time book writers, and some big famous writers. You were lucky if anybody had time to copy edit in-house, because all the editors were kept busy in meetings most of the day. He was reading the slush pile on the train just to keep up.

    IIRC, but I remembered it very strongly because it shocked me.

  15. Alberto Manguel, in his essay ‘The Secret Sharer’ (no relation to the Conrad story), points out that before the 20th century, there was no such thing as a book editor in the modern sense, and outside the English-speaking world, there still was no such thing until the (relatively recent) introduction of American business methods into European publishing:

    Editing understood as “a search for the author’s intention” is practised almost exclusively in the Anglo-Saxon world, and less in the United Kingdom than in North America. In the rest of the world, by and large, editing means only copy-editing, a function of publishing, and even this is done with a caution that would send hundreds of editors in Chicago and Toronto in search of more challenging careers. I have worked for publishing companies in Argentina, Spain, France, Italy and Tahiti, and have visited publishing companies in Brazil, Uruguay, Japan, Germany and Sweden. Nowhere else is there such a job as our North American editors describe, and the literatures of those other countries have, to the best of my knowledge, survived very nicely.

    The dirty little secret, of course, which Ms. Bowersock reveals to the public, but which anybody with a smattering of inside information knew already, is that even in North America, editors give the full treatment to very few of the books they acquire. They simply haven’t got time. It has, I believe, been at least a decade since I first heard a publishing professional recommend that authors hire freelance editors at their own expense to edit their manuscripts before submitting to a publisher, on the grounds that the publisher wouldn’t do the job and would only buy books that were ready to send to press as is.

    • Indeed, the first time I heard about developmental editing in the US sense, I was horrified. So in the US, editors didn’t just acquire manuscripts, correct errors and occasionally offered moral support to the authors, but they actually meddled with the story? And the authors didn’t just tolerate this, but were actively grateful, because they genuinely believed that the meddling was making the story better?

      Coming from the European perspective, this made no sense at all. Besides, if a recent university graduate had tried to tell some of our more crotchety old men authors like Günther Grass or Martin Walser (who even got to ignore the spelling reform of the 1990s) how to write, there would have been blood spilled. There is more intrusive editing in German publishing now (there was an example given recently of a lyrical paragraph describing a sunrise in Scandinavia being reduced to “The sun rose and light fell onto the porch” by the editor), but it’s mostly confined to new writers who lack the experience or power to object.

      Indeed, when I was still seeking traditional publishing, I promised myself that should I ever sell a novel, I would transfer the advance onto a blocked account, so I could pay it back, should any editor try to change my manuscript in ways that were not acceptable to me, and to hell with being blacklisted.

  16. Thanks to all who have weighed in here, especially the ones who do their own editing. When I finish my first draft of a book, I consider it about 95-98% done; all the rest is tweaking the details, which I accomplish with my many beta-readers. Yes, an indie writer CAN do it all. And we do. Every day. Thanks very much for your input, your insight and your support. Indies rock!

  17. What is really needed is a statistical analysis, comparing a selection of “professionally edited” books to a control group on books that weren’t professionally edited, using necessary statistical controls, proper experimental design, etc., with sales as the outcome measure.

    It is possible that big publishing houses have done so with their books, and that’s why most of them get very little editing. It probably just doesn’t have any statistically significant impact on sales.

    The editing that mega best sellers still supposedly get would then mostly be a PR thing, meant to imply to the public (readers and writers) that they have an expensive and difficult process, requiring much expertise, that adds value. Doing unnecessary things to add some sort of mystique to your organization’s activities is a common enough activity. Arguably, it is the basis for formal religion, dictatorial government and the majority of big corporate advertising.

    • Hi Daleo,

      I’m sure that “professional editing” by a mediocre editor won’t move the sales needle at all. And the majority of editors are mediocre.

      I fired two before I found the perfect one.

      Some editors, if you follow their suggestions, will actually make your book sell worse.

      But when an editor is a truly topnotch one, a writer can be at any level of expertise and still learn something from whatever he or she points out or suggests changing.

      The key is for the editor to tell you why they suggest changing it.

      Then you decide whether to:
      1) Disagree, and leave it as-is
      2) Accept the editor’s proposed wording change
      3) Discover you now see the problem, too, once it’s been pointed out to you by a pro. But you don’t like the editor’s proposed solution, so instead you find a different solution of your own.

      Think of a writer as an Olympic athlete, and hiring a great editor as hiring a renowned training coach to help up their game.

      What writer wouldn’t want that?

      • Some of the things a truly great editor sees and proposes changes to, which many “professionally edited” books do a poor job of.

        – Inapt alliterations (“pulpy pumpkin” – say it aloud, and you’ll see how awkward it reads)
        – Inapt rhymes (“let this psycho go” – say it aloud, and you’ll “hear” the clunk)
        – The order of clauses in a sentence to change emphasis. (“I dove to the floor, drawing my gun.” versus “Drawing my gun, I dove to the door.”)
        – Flat scene endings without the necessary emotional shift
        – Too-clever, self-conscious use of language that distracts from the story (“Raising my gun and my voice, I said, “XXXXXXXXX”)
        – Repetitive motifs and actions (“That’s enough shrugging for now. In real life, people don’t shrug this much.”
        – Reader-emotional cues (“By now the reader has connected facts A and B. If your protagonist hasn’t yet, the reader will lose sympathy for him because he’s displaying stupidity.”
        – Things a writer thinks resonate with meaning that will actually be lost on most readers. (“Scaly smile” doesn’t convey to the reader whatever you thought it would.)

        A great editor’s changes make a writer think:

        “Oh, wow, that’s actually what I meant to say but didn’t quite get right.”

        And next time, you do get it right. Perfectly.

        • And… don’t forget superb fact checking.

          Some amazing detailed things my editor caught and pointed out:

          1) The surf-washed rocks near Ano Nuevo Island should be riddled with purple sea urchins that make them dangerous to grab bare-handed.
          2) Two medications for bipolar disorder I had a psychiatrist prescribe actually shouldn’t be prescribed together because of a drug interaction between them
          3) A blood circle won’t spread in beach sand. Blood will be absorbed straight down.
          4) Zalophus Californicus is not in fact the scientific name for the Stellar’s Sea Lion. It’s the California sea lion.
          5) A misused piece of rock-climbing gear.
          6) Rock climbers’ wrists don’t ache. Their forearms do.
          7) I got the position of the cyclic in an AH-64 helicopter cockpit wrong.
          8) A bad acronym for a secret clearance – the “C” in a TS/SCI stands for “Compartmented”, not “Compartmentalized”

          ….

        • Actually, I think “scaly smile” is a pretty cool metaphor.

    • In my suggested analysis, we would first have to come up with agreement about how to operational isle the concept “professionally edited”. In practise, that might simply amount to some books being assigned an active editor and some books not.

      A publishing company could do an in-house version of this experiment fairly easily. It would have to include proper experimental procedures, namely randomization, adequate sample sizes, and double blinding. Think of it as the equivalent of a medical clinical trial, where the absence/presence of editing would be the treatment and sales would be the outcome of interest.

      I take your point, that good editing can catch a lot of potential writing problems. I am just saying that it is an open question whether readers really care about them, and a well designed statistical experiment could shed a lot of light on the matter.

      • The phrase operational isle above should be operationalize. iPad makes these funny changes to one’s words, then sometimes makes it hard to edit the post. Speaking of editors…

      • …good editing can catch a lot of potential writing problems. I am just saying that it is an open question whether readers really care about them…

        Great point, Daleo.

        • …good editing can catch a lot of potential writing problems. I am just saying that it is an open question whether readers really care about them…

          Daleo, that’s a great point. I don’t know. I’ve had 2-3% of my reader reviews specifically compliment the quality of editing, but that only says that 2-3% of readers who write reviews (maybe not a representative sample) noticed it and felt strongly enough about it to mention that in their review.

          But I do know that *I* cared about the things my editor pointed out. And I wanted to change them, because *I* liked my book better after I changed them.

          And the process of working with an editor made me a far better writer in a very short time.

          • “I’ve had 2-3% of my reader reviews specifically compliment the quality of editing …”

            I’d suggest that what editing *means* varies from reader to reader as well as what they’re going to notice. To some, it means a minimum of typos and grammar issues. To some it also means no loose story threads, facts wrong about something they’re familiar with, the story is internally consistent, and anything else that you’d hope an editor, beta reader, or other sets of eyes would catch if it got past your self-edit. That 2-3% of your reviews specifically mention something positive about your “editing” indicates two things to me. First, that those readers have had at least some books with issues. Second, that you probably do have good editing.

            I think most readers expect a certain level of quality in a book and are more likely to mention editing problems if a book doesn’t meet that quality level, which is going to vary from reader to reader. If I’m right about that then a certain level of editing is something many readers expect (more than the 2-3% who mention when it is right), but don’t notice it unless it isn’t done, because “that’s the way it should be.”

  18. My experience with five mysteries published by Berkley was just like Melissa’s, and if you’d asked me a few years ago, I would have agreed that editors don’t edit. But I had a vastly different experience with “The Tin Horse,” a mainstream novel published by Random House last year. The first editorial letter I got from Kendra Harpster at RH was 18 pages long and reflected a deep, smart, loving engagement with my work … and it got better from there. I was so delighted with my experience working with Kendra – and felt it made my book so much stronger – that I wrote about it in a piece for the Wall Street Journal, “Scenes from an Editing Marriage.”

    • Janice, what a great story. It’s nice to know there ARE those editors out there who have the same passion that we writers do. Obviously there’s a whole range of experiences. Thanks for a happy-ending tale!

  19. The other day, I started reading a book by a certain well-known, NYT best-selling author.

    It started out excellent with great writing, and I could see why the author was so popular in the romance genre.

    Then toward the middle of the book, it started to get boring… and boring… and…

    Very disappointing.

    The point is: well-edited (or not so much) trade-pubbed books are NOT necessarily better than self-pubbed books.

    • EC, my point exactly; just because something is trad-pubbed does not make it gold. Just because something is indie-pubbed does not make it trash. The range of possibilities is endless.

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