Friday, March 15, 2013

Indie editors can change the landscape.

Every so often, an article gets posted about editing. Now, I don't want to get in to how many poorly edited, typo-ridden books are being pumped out with the self-pub revolution in full swing. We already know about them and can choose to steer clear. Chances are, if you read "Book A" by author Blibbidy Blob and it reads like a poorly written grade school exposition, you will not pick up "The Chilling Sequel...Book B" by the same author. That is a dead horse we can beat at a later date. What I want to offer is what I believe the responsibilities of the Indie editor are in this changing landscape. 

So often I hear from one author or another who is scooped up by a big publisher. The work that got them picked up must then undergo reconstructive surgery. I am all about cleaning up a product to make it better. However, I do think that larger houses will seek a certain degree of -- for lack of a better term -- homogenization.

I believe that the goal of an indie editor differs highly in that regard. I work for a few rather prolific authors. I have over 70 titles to my editing credit. And guess what? That makes me an expert on absolutely nothing. Still, I have generated an opinion. (Big surprise?) The people I work for are just as talented (more so in some cases) as anybody that you will read from one of the "Big Six". They have crafted some amazing stories. I will name drop here and offer up a teaser. Mark Tufo has a new book coming out soon. It is Timothy 2, the sequel to (gasp!) Timothy.

It is horrifying. It is shocking. It is (probably to some) offensive. And above is brilliant. What it is not is "commercial" or, to make it perhaps more clear, politically correct. Big shock! But folks, Mark writes HORROR! And let me tell you, he hits this one out of the park. As his editor, my job is this:
  1. Check the spelling.
  2. Clean up the punctuation.
  3. Fix repetition (i.e. use of the same word 5 times in one paragraph) if needed.
  4. Try to ensure continuity. (Characters can sometimes change names in mid-scene.)
Beyond that, if I see something really off, I let Mark know. Maybe I make a suggestion. However, this is HIS book. My job is to make sure he does not leave the room with toilet paper on his shoe...unless he wants it there.

Indie editors have a tougher job in some respects than their "professional" counterparts. They are more like the groundskeeper at a stadium. Nobody notices them unless the field is a mess. They are not architects...

So, if you are hunting for an editor, perhaps you should open a dialog with your prospect. Let them know what YOU want. How honest do you want them to be with you? If you have a scene that sticks out, (weakens the story in the OPINION of your editor) should they tell you? Offer suggestions? 

We are entering a new era. Change is hard. But I believe the strength of the Indie writer is in his or her ability to tell the story THEIR way.


  1. Some great points, and if you haven't read a Mark Tufo story yet, you need to... especially since they are actually edited, lol

    Armand Rosamilia

  2. Good thoughts! Readers never suspect the utter awfulness of an author's submitted ms. That's one of the few good uses of a reputable publisher. Their copy editors tidy it up. But still a few snafus slip through. The classic author Ruth Rendell is often guilty of accidental word repetitions that I yearn to strike out. Plus two different characters with the same initials appearing on the same page..

  3. Good point. After its waters down loses flavor and is unrecognisable as your own writing. Best of both worlds by self publishing, but may never be seen in a library or on Barns and Noble book shelf.

  4. What's really interesting is that this new world is working both ways -- for the author to get what they want out of an editor and for an editor to know just what is expected of them.
    Really interesting points, Todd. Thanks for this!

  5. Good post, Todd. I agree. My role as editor for Angelic Knight Press differs from my freelance work. As the press editor, I have a tendency to be more "my way is the only way" when it comes to editing, although I never try to change the author's "voice." More along the lines of oxford commas are not up for discussion, the press uses them. Whereas when I edit freelance--the author can choose to use them or tell me to stop sticking those damn commas everywhere. It's a bit of a different relationship. I still do my best, but a lot more of what I suggest and what they use is up to the author.