Many editors learned professional skills initially to support their own writing, but we quickly found out that we are not the best judge of our own work and probably the worst possible proofreader. All functions of our organic brain. Those biological functions we were born with that are impossible to disengage.
I recently saw a statistic on Twitter that most writers/authors are “editing” and “proofreading” their own work. And a large percentage of them aren’t editors or proofreaders . Yet, even if they were, doing it for yourself is a fool’s errand.
I get it … we have an idea; we start a book; it’s thrilling to be so engaged. But we have to make a living too. So we write at night, in the wee hours of the morning, get caught up in word counts and number of pages where “Haste makes waste” and quality may suffer.
Okay, then we think our book is finished. We think we have a best seller. Our friends and even our families sometimes support us. All good. Then, we supposedly start “editing”, finetuning. If I could change one inaccurate perception in the definition or connotation of one word, it would be this one.
You are not editing when you go through your own manuscript. You are “checking” your writing for all kinds of things. Yet, your brain sees what it expects to see, so missed words, wrong words, misspelled words, discrepancies in plot, inconsistencies can all go unnoticed. That doesn’t even take into consideration verb tenses, grammar, punctuation, and pace, flow, readability. But that’s okay since its accepted in the industry to have a few little flaws, isn’t it? We find them ourselves in other books, but not in “our books” because our brain reads right over them.
Those “little flaws” can stop an agent or publisher from reading any further. Reject it and move on because they have an inexhaustible supply of manuscripts to wade through.
I also get it that money is tight. We need to get this to press in a hurry, start making money right away so we can write full-time and become one of the great writers of our generation. If only that were true.
The most productive use of a writer’s time and investment is in using a professional editor. Editors who are also authors use other professional editors for their own work. It is so true that we need an unbiased second set of eyes.
Do I use a professional editor and proofreader other than myself after I am finished “checking” my manuscript?
I answer you with a definite, “YES”.
Don’t sell yourself or your writing short. The facts are out there. Your manuscript must be written to full industry standards. Your query letter professional. Format must be correct.
“What? You mean as an author I need to know how to format my own book? Isn’t that what the agent and publisher are for?”
Ah, no, the market is too clogged with books for an agent to do anything but look for the one diamond that may someday come across their desk.
It’s a totally different market out there than our predecessors knew. The competition is brutal. Everyone is writing a book because with current technology, they can. This was not true in the past. The sheer numbers are daunting.
My most important advice? “The market is oversaturated. Put yourself on an even playing field. Submit a professional product.”
I am willing to work with authors offering affordable rates on a case-by-case basis. A 5-page read/ professional critique is free. Questions are free. I’m trying to help writers become authors.
–Deborah A. Bowman, bowmaneditor