Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Welcome to Ella Graeme, editor, with her first post to the 'Editor's Opinion'

This is my first post for the blog. Thank you for inviting me.
Today I'm talking about editing in a general way and just giving an opinion.

It's become apparent to me the way to beat indie authors up now, is to criticise their editing. Time and again I read forum threads, blog posts, review site posts, and Amazon reviews, which use editing as a reason to give a perfectly good story a low rating.

This might come as a surprise to some readers, but there's a lot of trolling goes on against authors. Some authors engage in it. 

A few years ago I never read anything written by an indie. I stuck to the big publisher authors, because as an editor with a large company I believed the attacks on indies.

No longer. These days I often prefer books by indie authors, and to my great surprise, the editing in general is no worse than some mainstream big publishing house editing. In the past three weeks I've read two paperbacks and two eBooks. The paperbacks published by two of the big six publishers had two or three, 'editing errors' per chapter. The eBooks, by bestselling, big name authors, and published by huge publishing houses were the same. One had the main female character's name spelt differently every other page in two of the chapters. I'm now halfway through another indie authored book. It's a great story. There's been one comma missing from where I might have put one so far. It hasn't spoilt the story for me.

What's my point?
As an academic, who has also been editing for a long time, I honestly believe it's time to stop beating indies up with this catch cry of bad editing. I work with indies now and find eighty percent of them send their work to me very well self-edited.

Not all editors are equal. Sometimes an author will come to me saying their work was edited and they are still being told it's badly edited. 
A few scenarios have emerged as I've worked with indies recently.

1. The work does need some attention, but it's not a travesty, and doesn't deserve one star ratings.
2. There's little wrong with it and the author is being trolled. Sometimes by reading the review I can tell it's been put up to stop the book selling if possible.
3. There's next to nothing wrong with it and readers have cultural expectations that will not bend to the dialogue style, writing style, or the character development. (Sometimes a 'style manual' approach has produced an eBook that is chock full of commas and em dashes.)
4. It needs work.

I'm not perfect. Who is? When I review a book, which is rarely these days, because I believe the review systems are tainted, I review objectively about the story.
I will not low rate a book because an author didn't use the serial comma method. I will not low rate a book because I didn't like the ending. I will not low rate a book because the author used ... instead of em dash. I have a long list. 

I will stop reading a book I'm not enjoying and start a new one, ditto for a movie. I will not go on Amazon or any other review site, and review with a low rating, or having only read ten pages.

There are so many weird reasons given by readers for low rating a book. I browse often and I've seen some horrendous reviews.
To my great horror I've seen low ratings given to authors because of their nationality. There are people who didn't like the story, or 'it's not my cup of tea' they will chant, before assigning the one or two stars.
Do they go to the collected works of Shakespeare and do this? Do they go to an art gallery, find they don't care for an old master, and proclaim it bad art?

I went to university and I have degrees for my profession. It doesn't make me any better than any other reader. What it does mean is that I ask myself who these herds of readers are that think they have the skills to criticise author's and editor's work to such an extent. 
 About a month ago I was browsing for an eBook. I read a blurb that caught my attention. The book had eleven one stars. It had a number of higher star ratings. I sampled the book, bought it and loved the story.
There were two words missing and a sprinkle of serial comma's, (Oxford commas) that could have been put in the descriptive passages, in the whole book. There was no reason to rate it as a one star for editing. What's going on? 

I was invited to join the blog and write a tri-weekly post if possible, with a perspective on editing. I still practice as an editor, though now I'm freelance. In the last few years I've changed the way I edit because the book world has changed. I don't engage in creative editing, mine is purely mechanical. I see a lot of great stories and deal with many lovely people who are artists. Writers are artists just as much as painters and musicians.

An author I recently worked with told me, "In the end you've put your art out there and if you've done your best, and it's what you want it to be, and then readers slate it, well roll with it, you're an artist." 
I think he's right, but all the same troll behavior can, and does, wound deeply.

I'd love to find the trend of allowing subjective, misdirected, or troll one and two star reviews to block, or hinder a writer's career stop, but then who am I? I'm just an editor.


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