Thursday, June 3, 2010

The worst mistake of authors who use self-publishing companies

Books that bear the name and logo of a "self-publishing company" are subject to immediate derision in the publishing business, even before the cover is opened and pages are turned. Reviewers often assume that the books will be unprofessional (or worse), and a writer must do everything possible to overcome the initial prejudice.

By far, the worst mistake of self-published authors is lack of editing or inadequate editing. Because editing is an option with self-publishing companies, some writers — either out of ego, ignorance, or economic necessity — skip editing.

This can be a fatal mistake.

No writer should be her own editor. Even professional editors who write books should hire other editors. It’s not just a matter of making spelling or grammatical errors. If you write a book, you may have words in your mind that you think are on the page, but are really not there. You may “fall in love” with a word, phrase or chapter that is really unlovable. A fresh set of eyes with a different point of view is critical. You need someone to make corrections and to ask, “Is that really what you meant to say?” and "Do you have to include this?"

I recently read an entertaining and inspirational book, written by a very talented storyteller. Unfortunately, the book was packed with errors. I thought the author had chosen a terrible editor, and I wrote this:

“There are many missing commas, improper capitalizations, and even wrong words (e.g.: laying instead of lying, badly instead of bad, dribble instead of drivel, loosing instead of losing, waving instead of wavy, that instead of who, crouch instead of crotch). There are also style inconsistencies in your use of numbers, and some formatting problems. I can't predict how other reviewers will react, but these errors (coupled with the Outskirts Press label) unfortunately brand the book as an amateur production, despite your professional writing talent. You are competing with a huge number of authors and books, and your book needs to be as good as possible to be successful.”

I was unprepared for the author’s response. The editor wasn’t terrible. The book had no editor.

But sometimes even having a “professional editor” will not lead to a professional quality book. I received this email (slightly shortened) from another author:

“I have had some scathing reviews due to the errors that were left in my book after I paid a small fortune for editing with the Outskirts editing team.

I was so excited when my book was first released, but after a few family members pointed out the mistakes left behind, I can’t describe the restraint it took for me not to explode. The marketing representative simply would not assume any responsibility for mistakes that Outskirts made.

Outskirts made me feel paranoid about not getting their editing service, but when I did it was as if I had no editing at all. The only consolation that I have, is that I have a few fans that were willing to give me a chance as a new author. They loved my book.

I’m sure other writers would hate to be scammed out of their money for a service as unreliable as Outskirts’ editing. I purchased the editing service for peace of mind, not to hold my breath each time a review comes out, only to be criticized for editing I paid for but did not receive.”



  1. It's a common mistake that self-published authors make. I skipped editing on my books in 2008 and the reviews were terrible. In 2009, I spent thousands on editing and peer review (7K) and the books have great reviews and and are selling double. Reviews can make or break a book, and a review that says "tons of typos" will really hurt sales.

    The editing was a great investment and I recovered the cost in the first month of release. It was worth it.

  2. I couldn't agree with you more. I cannot understand how people can consider themselves authors when they're unwilling to invest in professional editing. They tarnish the image for those of us with carefully crafted self-published works.