24 September 2010

Printing Truth...

I keep an eye on all the discussions on getting published, alternate means of publishing your own book, companies that offer various level of author services, etc.

There just isn't any feeling that compares with getting signed by a literary agent, signing a contract on your book with a major publisher, and seeing it come out. I can't vouch for that because I have yet to hit each of those plateaus. Yet, I often work in the publishing industry and recently was Chief Editor. (I've taken a medical and personal leave.)

In the various processes I continually see manuscripts that are not ready to be seen by an agent or publisher and I see books coming off a variety of presses that should not yet have been printed. It is really bad, in my view, to see mistakes in books published by the major publishers. I think an author apology for any errors is stupid. It is more understandable in a small publisher to see some mistakes slip by. But that should be the limit. Books should not have come out of the press, whether it is off-set or print-on-demand with all of the mistakes that we are seeing, and this holds true in epublishing as well.

The problem is that so many people are writing and expecting to be published that the mass is letting mistakes go through to press because they aren't being edited. Combine the non-edited manuscript with a vanity press or a subsidized press and the number of poor books increases astronomically.

Having friends, crit-partners, writing groups, beta readers, et al is worthwhile but that is not a finished edit for your manuscript. I have never, (and I will repeat that), NEVER, seen a manuscript edited by friends and family that was able to go straight to press. I have had to edit material that several editors have looked at, that beta readers have read, or that the family English expert has passed as okay. In all honesty I have to have my own writings edited. I know a retired grammar teacher who has her stories edited by 5-6 editors, and sometimes 3-4 times for each one.

Unless you are just dying to give copies of your book to friends there is no reason to give your book to a vanity press and pay them for publishing. You can do the same with a number of printing on demand services (the same services many major and small publishers use)and have the same results for less money. And also, the unedited manuscript will still be the same unedited manuscript.

If you are proud of your work then get it edited. There is nothing wrong with a subsidy press if what they offer is what you want. It will cost you in different ways, but as long as you determine their offering is acceptable to you then there is no valid stigma - unless your manuscript is not edited.

There are subsidy printers that operate more like a small publisher, providing full editing services to their authors if, IF, their submission is accepted. They can be very good but just need author assistance to afford the publishing costs, marketing included. And best yet, they edit with the authors. They won't accept an unfit work.

You can not complain about being unable to find an agent, or a major publisher, if you have not had your manuscript fully edited: not family, friends, volunteer aspiring authors. You can not adequately edit your own manuscript in today's market and expect to be sought by publishers and readers.

I took a 700 page book back for a refund because it was missing a page. I returned a 500 page book because there were four errors on the first page. I've seen enough ebooks filled with errors, and no way to return them, that I've not yet ventured into ebooks. If I wish to buy poorly edited books I can do that easily enough. But I don't want poor quality books.

Stop and think about your favorite books -- how many errors are in them? The odds are that you will find very few errors in such books -- why would you consider publishing your own books without having made sure your error level is on a par with the books you most enjoy?

Disclaimer: I am an editor. I am for hire. I own a co-op publishing company; a cross between a flat-rate subsidy publisher and the full services of a small publishing house. I'll edit anything. I will only publish what is well written and well edited.

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