As any reader with a Kindle, Nook or iPad will tell you, publishing is at a crossroads. Readers are changing the way they get their books, and paper isn’t that important any more. Being attached to a publisher isn’t as important anymore. What remains important – in fact, may be even more important now – is editing. And all too often, it’s being overlooked by indie and traditional publishers alike. The problem is, readers won’t be repeat buyers if the quality of the book is garbage.
I have a friend who recently bought her favorite author’s book electronically. She was mildly irritated over the price, but she didn’t complain about the Might As Well Have Bought It Hardcover Price until… she started counting the typos. Now she’s vowed never to spend money on the author again.
Before you say something like that’s what happens when you buy an unknown, it was a big name author from a big name publisher.
Today, anyone can publish a book. The playing field has been leveled. Which means each of us needs to do everything we can to ensure the books we write are as clean as possible. Yes, even if you’re sending it to a publisher and you have an editor because it’s your name that appears on the cover. Readers don’t hold publishers responsible.
I have three people I hand my books over to for editing. Each one catches different things. One is great at punctuation, one catches plotting issues and one catches crazy things that I have to look up to understand what he’s talking about like past perfect contractions (which I’m horrible about).
The good news is every manuscript I write is cleaner than the previous one because I know what my big issues are so I’m more aware of them as I write. But that doesn’t mean I get to stop editing or proofreading. Spellcheck only catches things that are misspelled, so it’s not going to notice that the heroine’s cat from chapter one became a dog in chapter two.
Only proofreaders catch things like that, and as authors, we’re too close to the story. I once read that you have to wait eight weeks between editing rounds for your own work to be “new” to your eyes. In today’s market, writers don’t have that kind of time. But with more books available than ever before, we also can’t afford to alienate readers because we rushed a book out the door.
So whatever else you do, make sure you’re sending your book out the door as clean as possible. Readers are always looking for a reason to read one book over another. Don’t send them away from an otherwise great story simply because your manuscript isn’t typo-free. If it’s work for the reader to make it through the typos, it’s not worth the effort. Or the money. While you may have gotten the sale today, you’ll lose the future sales on your next release because readers remember.