Self-Publishing: Why It’s Often Treated with Suspicion

Have you fallen asleep or put a book down because you found it boring? The story wasn’t moving fast enough; the characters seemed flat—not people, just cut-outs; you were left wondering where did this character come from? First, you put it down as poor editing—you’re right. That’s only half of it—it’s really poor writing. The editor was “trying to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear”, so to speak. That doesn’t happen often. More than likely, it was a self-published book that was not properly edited.

It is not my intention to damn self-publishing. Far from it—it is the only sure way for an author to get a work into print. It is cheap and fast and, with a little work, it can be as good as any work published by “the Big Six”. The operative phase here is “with a little work”. This goes beyond an attractive cover and a nice picture of the author. This means having, usually paying, a professional editor to work over your writing. This editor must look at and beyond grammatical and spelling errors (those should have been caught by the author). This editor will analyze the story arc, character development and make sure everything is brought to a final, believable conclusion. A final note—a spouse, a parent or other relative rarely makes a good final editor. This editor should be unbiased by relationship or friendship.

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “Self-Publishing: Why It’s Often Treated with Suspicion

  1. To the contrary, I strongly believe that the most important editing an author can pay for is the copy-edit, with its attention to grammar and punctuation. A writer’s job is to understand storycraft; and editor’s to know the finer points of grammar. While it’s nice to have story editors as well, story is subjective, and what works for one person might not work for another. If an author has to choose between hiring a line-editor and a copy-editor, I’d say hire a copy-editor every time. As you said, someone (or better yet, several someones) who isn’t a professional can beta-read (not edit) a manuscript to help trouble-shoot problems with the story.

    • You are correct. I couldn’t agree more. Seeing spelling and grammatical errors in a “published” work is extremely distracting. A copy editor will fix that.
      I strongly recommend an author work with a critique group, online or local, or an editor, to work out story issues. These are more subtle. It’s not a matter of whether “it works for an individual” but whether or not it works for several readers.

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