I used to be an editor. Not that long ago for a publishing house, and actually I made quite a bit of money on the side during my undergrad degree helping out Grad Students with their thesis papers. It was tough work, but it gave me a fairly decent foundation in my writing skill, especially when I decided to leave my job and head into the publishing world.
Those of you who know me from social media probably remember my ancient tumblr rants about how awful the job was–and it was, trust me. I think what it offered more than experience was perspective, and that’s not something a lot of readers have if they haven’t been exposed to the inside world of publishing.
The other day I pulled up Summer Palace, by C.S. Pacat on my kindle. Pacat is an author who has both won awards, and is published through one of the Big Five, as they’re known. I bought the book as a pre-order, so the moment it was available, it downloaded straight to my kindle. It’s a first edition, if you want to think of it that way.
And funny thing–it’s riddled with errors. Typos and missing words, etc. Not enough that I was put off by them, but enough that I noticed.
The thing is, a few of my books have the same errors. A missing word, or typo here or there. Verismo probably has a handful at least, and the bloody thing has been through two editors. People on amazon don’t hesitate, ever, to comment when they see a typo in my book. I get reviews like, “The story was good, but the author really could have used an editor.”
Fun Fact: I have one. Actually, I have two.
But the assumption is there-if an indie novel goes to print with even a single typo, the author clearly didn’t use an editor.
My books probably have more passes by more people than Pacat’s, and I pay for them out of pocket. While she likely enjoys the luxury of her editors getting royalty portions and a salary paid by multi-billion dollar companies, I’m scrimping and saving for the money it takes to pay a person to use their skills and find errors where they can. And believe me, errors slip by. Editors are only human, whether they work for the Big Five, or whether they work freelance on the side.
But readers never hesitate to point out where my editing eye (and the eye of my editors) has failed me, and even go so far as to assume and accuse me of not following the proper steps before publishing my novel.
Out of curiosity, I meandered to Pacat’s review page to see if anyone noticed the typos.
Most didn’t. Or if they did, they didn’t see fit to mention them in the reviews.
When they did decide to say something, it was along the lines of, “The story was so wonderful, the few typos didn’t take away from that.”
Now personally, I agree with that. I loved Summer Palace and a handful of typos didn’t change that. But it made me laugh a little, and it made me wonder why Indie authors are held to such a higher standard than someone who has nearly unlimited editing resources at their fingertips.
They have individuals paid–very decent salaries, might I add– to find these typos. To ensure the cleanest and sharpest version is going to print. How do I know this? Because I used to be one of those people responsible for clean copies being handed off.
You would think it would matter more that people with those resources have cleaner copies than people who are paying out of their own pocket, and praying that in the first year they make enough money to break even on the cost for editing, formatting, and marketing.
But that doesn’t seem to be the case. It’s interesting. It’s telling, of both the publishing market, and readers. It’s a little depressing, as an indie author, and it can be discouraging to know that although my books are at the same level and same quality, because Pacat has a name like Penguin House behind her, it means her quality is better without it actually being better. It means that her typos–in spite of the resources she has to ensure she has a cleaner copy than mine–are more forgivable.
It’s not something I expect to change, really. It’s more food for thought.