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Editing Woes

February 11, 2010

Aaron Polson brought up an interesting issue on his blog the other day. This issue concerns the big publishing houses and their editing policies. How many times have you read a book produced by a major publishing company and come across errors such as typos, grammar, missing words, and structure problems?

There’s almost this stereotype with publishing companies. You almost expect these mistakes from small companies (depending on which one) but not from the larger ones. They are suppose to have an abundance of resources and money to catch such typos, right? Well, maybe not. I’m sure the publishing companies were hit as hard as other businesses thanks to our economy. Some say the copy editors jobs were some to go. I guess that leaves the editing up to the writer and perhaps their agent (if they have one).

I hate editing my own work. I usually miss all the technical structure/grammar/spelling errors. I can determine what works or doesn’t work within the plot and characters. For right now, I’m almost relying on others to point out the little things. I don’t think writers can spot every tiny problem with a story. Sometimes you need that 2nd or even 3rd set of eyes.

So, this I ask of you. Do you think editing a manuscript should be the sole responsibility of the writer? Due to cut backs (or whatever the reason may be), do you think the larger publishing houses are slacking off on publishing quality material?

Andrea thinks the product should reflect the brand. Slacking off on the little things can easily turn in to something much bigger.
  1. February 11, 2010 3:32 am

    I think it’s exactly right what you say, it’s very difficult to edit your own work, especially a whole novel. Your eyes are bound to skim over some parts since you know what’s there – or should be there.

    I would also add that copyediting is a profession that is very different from writing. A brilliant copyeditors doesn’t have to be a great writer, and while it’s certainly useful for a writer to have good copyediting skills, it’s unreasonable to ask them to produce a perfectly edited product at the end. Otherwise we end up with the kind of poorly edited books that you mention above, which, sadly, we are seeing a lot more of.

  2. February 11, 2010 9:27 am

    I am reminded of something my teachers used to say when I was in school a hundred years ago, “Spelling and punctuation count.”

    Maybe more errors wouldn’t slip through if writers knew the rules of grammar and spelling and applied them rather than leaving it for somebody else? That would make the copy-editors job much easier, I would think.

  3. February 11, 2010 9:45 am

    I’m actually finding _much_ better copyediting from small presses than from major publishers these days.

  4. adampb permalink
    February 11, 2010 5:35 pm

    Despite being an English teacher, I only know some of the very basic rules of grammar. My curriculum is not focused on the mechanics of language, although we are bringing parts of it back into our lessons. Teaching is always about learning.

  5. February 11, 2010 10:46 pm

    I think the writer should have caught most of the errors. I usually have a few people read my works before committing to a final copy. But they should definitely be caught by the publishers before publication.

  6. February 12, 2010 4:38 pm

    Speaking on behalf of a ‘tiny’ publishing house… a clean text matters.

    I know there are probably one or two small errors which got through when we were editing The Red Book – but we got more than half a dozen eyes over the entire text – including a hardcore line editing session between Paul and myself in a four hour period (via skype)

    I’ve had to come to embrace both of my creative sides – which are mirroed in the work of a writer – we are both writer and editor, just as I am both an Author and an Editor. Learning to edit your own work is a hard slog, but I do believe it is ultimately worth taking the time to do it… and to work with a group of writers who can put an eye over your work.

    In our writing group we’ve gone through two novels I think- and one before my time.

    Writers were never intended to ‘work alone’ but at the same time, I do strongly believe they must take full responsibility for their work.

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