originally posted October 21, 2012
May 2021: reformatted; some links adjusted; text revised as noted
It’s difficult to believe that nearly three years have passed since my “landmark” blog post (aka, rant) “Reality Bites,” about having to find employment outside my chosen passion, the editorial services business. Chief among my explanatory rants were these two reasons:
- Just as people have come to think they can put together a brochure, a website, or a newsletter without the need of a trained, professional designer, now the presumption is that they can complete the task by clicking on the spell-check button and eliminate the need for an editor.
- A sad tangent of this phenomenon is that a majority of readers no longer even expect properly edited copy. They take in written text, mistakes and all, viewing it without acknowledging or analyzing what message is conveyed or how the message is conveyed.
As lingering evidence for my earlier frustrations, a few months ago, I was enticed to start reading a series of vampire novels because several of the folks I work with on my current assignment (in the accounting office of a banking firm) were raving about them. In particular, they spoke of the intricately interwoven story lines that connected each novel, and its characters and relationships, with the others. The premise of the series also sounded interesting. So, I borrowed the first volume and was poised to join in their excited, almost daily, discussions.
Now, while I haven’t been able to validate the information (and I don’t want to give out enough clues that you can figure out the title), the earlier volumes in the series were allegedly self-published and may have been initially released only in electronic form. For the record, I have no issue with either form of publishing; in fact, several of the authors I have worked with over the years chose to self-publish their works, primarily in electronic form, for a variety of reasons. My only caveat with either has always been that authors take enough pride in their work to continue following some semblance of the route to traditional publication, especially by not skipping over or cheating at the reviewing and editing and revising steps of the process.
Sadly, this book suffered greatly from what appears to have been a total disregard for those steps! I struggled to continue reading past the first few chapters . . . and I only forced myself to finish the book because my coworkers (accountants, by training and trade) would not stop encouraging me to keep reading. “It gets better,” they told me. They just could not comprehend my irritation over the distractions that were keeping me from enjoying the magic of the book.
Indeed, the story line might have been as intricate and well written as they thought it was. But, I couldn’t even notice the story line because of the grammatical errors and editorial blunders—and, believe me, this book had practically all of them! And, even if the story had been originally self-published and even if the advice of an editor had been side-stepped at that time (still a major mistake, in my opinion), the version I was reading had been commercially published by a division of the Penguin Group.
In no particular order, here are the distractions that drew my attention away from the author’s talents (as well as any interest in buying future books written by her or sold by Signet): comma splices, illogical arguments, misplaced modifiers, bad paragraph breaks, missing words, misused words, sentence fragments and broken clauses, out-of-place “cutesy” words and not-very-well-known slang (including abbreviations), and even misspelled words! I would dare to say, you could not read twenty pages without finding examples of each! Oh; and, I forgot to mention that a question mark is seldom used at the end of an obvious question.
A few other bits of information that feed the fear for editorial quality in my mind: (1) more than one title in this series has appeared on the New York Times best-seller list; (2) the author has won numerous other awards and is immensely popular among her fans; and (3) not one review or mention of her books or one interview even mentions the problems above . . . as if they don’t exist! One somewhat encouraging side note is that, as popular as the author and her different series are, none have been reviewed in the NYT—my hope is that this is because the editorial review board there feels that the reader’s experience suffers because of the book’s sloppiness.
Regardless, do I fear the end of professional editing for no reason? I can only hope not—for my sake and yours—but at this point, that is only a hope!
Wishing you better experiences,
editorial –at– Im Your Editor –dot– com
phone: 407-495-4801 (temporary)
text: 832-233-0041 (temporary)
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UPDATE: While double-checking some information for this post, I came across this interesting discussion— “Publishing Is Broken; We’re Drowning in Indie Books—And That’s a Good Thing,” in Forbes magazine—on publishing in 2012, as well as two annual analyses about the publishing industry that year: one by the Cooperative Children’s Book Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Education and another by theGuardian.com. Evidently, it was a big year!
image information: Featured image, via kindle-book-publishing.co.uk