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Thursday, August 1, 2013

Thursday Thoughts - Editing

I just finished reading a fabulous book by a New York Times bestselling author. I won't mention the name of the author or the book. While I loved the storyline, the characters, and the backdrop and history of Scotland during the 15th century, I found errors jumping out at me on almost every page.

It's become customary for authors who have had their backlist discontinued by the original publishers to reissue them as eBooks themselves. And it appears that this particular author must have released a draft of her work and not the final, edited version. It's possible that her publisher gave her the rights to her unedited backlisted books but perhaps claimed the rights of the final, edited version - especially if there were extensive edits and the publisher paid a lot for those services.

Before any author releases a book - whether it's self-published or through a traditional publisher - they owe it to their audience to issue as close to an error-free book as possible. Some of the errors that jumped out at me in this book were common punctuation errors - sentences missing periods, too many commas in the middle of a sentence, open quotations without closed quotes, and colons or semi-colons hanging in sentences like they were dropped from outer-space. Others were the use of the wrong word - such as the phrase "he was on her tale" when he should have been "on her tail" - there were so many of those errors it became quite comical. These errors should have been picked up by any decent editor and fixed immediately.

But reading this book by this very well known, New York Times bestselling author gave me a glimpse into something I very rarely see: how horrible a successful author's writing can be without the polishing every manuscript should go through. The last time I saw something like this was when another NYT bestselling author offered to sell his first draft, chapter by chapter, to anyone who wanted to read it. I admit I purchased the first two (I think they were going for a dollar a chapter) and they were so God-awful, I couldn't get through them. He stopped selling the rough draft at chapter four.

You have to wonder: why are most mainstream authors told that publishers want good writing when those publishers must do so much editing and polishing to make their chosen few acceptable? How did those authors ever get a reading? How did all those errors ever make it past their literary agent?

Reading this book made me feel even better about my own writing, and I am not a literary genius by any means.

Have you encountered this problem? Is it more prevalent with eBooks as authors self-publish, even if the original release was terrific?