Monday, November 4, 2013

Random Thought: Why Editors (Official Ones, Not Beta Readers) Are Still Really Important

Just a thought rambling through my head about how editors - official editors working for publishing companies, or paying editors of collections - are still really, really important. It popped into my head after chatting back and forth on a FB thread about the pros and cons of self-publishing, because one thing that didn't seem to get mentioned in that thread: how "official" editors with some sort of authority are far more valuable than just "beta readers" - in my opinion, anyway.

Don't get me wrong, beta readers are important. A second or third or even fourth set of eyes can spot lots of blemishes before a story is sent off. Beta readers really helped me with the collection and the last several short stories I sold. The thing is...beta readers, as valuable as they are...can be ignored, if we choose to. We can dismiss their advice, if we don't agree with it.

And paying an editor to check over your work...does that really have as much weight as an official editor? A good freelance editor will do a good job, no matter what. Their reputation rests on it. But even so - a freelance editor works for you, if you self-publish and pay a freelance editor to treat your manuscript.

An editor of a publishing company or anthology, however...they're more official. Carry more authority. And most of us are more likely to listen to that authority and take their advice seriously. 

For example: several beta-readers made suggestions for the story I recently sold. Some of them I liked, some of them I dismissed. However, the editor who purchased the story made a suggestion before accepting it. NOW, important point: editor did NOT hold this over my head, making my acceptance contingent on my heeding his advice. 

However, I took a careful look at his suggestion, and saw made my story better. Stronger. Gave it more emotional punch. Even more important, the editor had highlighted one of more annoying tendencies, to over-explain. And even though I'm self aware of this tendency, I'd still committed this "sin" and I needed an editor with some sort of authority to pick that out.

Enter my upcoming collection. After several line-by-line edits from my editor, he made a suggestion about the ending...again, curbing my instinct to over-explain. I saw how the collection would be improved by this suggestion, and based on reader response so far...I am SO glad an editor with authority pointed that at to me.

To be sure, there are bad, controlling, manipulative editors out there. Maybe I've just been very blessed to  have not encountered them. And maybe when I become a more experienced writer, I'll be able spot these quirks of mine easier, and won't need an editor as much. And maybe readers don't even care or notice these small things.

But I do

And I know, right now, I need an editor with authority, an I editor I need to listen to. Of course, I'm a very authority-driven person. Was raised in an authority-driven household, and in all my jobs, I've functioned better under strong authorities. So maybe it's a personal quirk. However, it was just a thought that popped up, something important to consider in all the rush to self publish. As usual, your mileage may vary...