The Blame Game

One of my skills that I am most proud of is my shortsightedness.

Obviously, I am being sarcastic since shortsightedness, having no forethought about what might result from your actions, is not something of which to be proud. Especially for someone who creates art that is (hopefully) going to be on public display until the end of the human race.

As an indie author, I happen to run across a lot of thoughts and statements about indie authors in a variety of places. Social media, blogs, news articles, in YouTube videos, and even in real life. My favorite statements or reviews about indie authors and their books almost always involve problems with the editing and/or proofreading (these are often two separate things and have multiple stages).

Could really use a heavy hand from an editor.

So many spelling mistakes.

Ugh. Did the author even bother getting an editor?

First, to really understand where these statements are coming from, we’d have to educate indie reviewers and the general public on the difference in editing, proofing, and the multiple stages of both. A decent book is rarely edited and proofed just once. Of course, sometimes self-pub and indie authors (these don’t always mean the same thing) cannot afford much in regards to these services, so they have to do it themselves. It’s not ideal, but I always feel that unless I’m willing to pay for these services for these authors, I will just keep my mouth shut. The greater majority of self-pub and indie authors are doing the best they can (sometimes with very little or no money), with no intention of making a reader mad over spelling, grammar, and punctuation. Trust me. They’re just trying to achieve a dream with the means and talent that they possess. The publishing world can systematically exclude certain peoples. Whether it is intentional or not is another discussion, but often, anyone not white, LGBTQ+, women, people with physical or mental health issues, and the economically marginalized have to work so much harder to even get a book in print, let alone get it noticed. And so many wonderful storytellers with wonderful stories to tell, identify as being part of one or more of these groups. People often forget this, sometimes as it is convenient for them.

Let me explain to you my brand of insanity.

I wrote a book. I felt it was good. So I edited and proofed it myself.

Not a great job.

I wrote another book. I felt it was good, but had learned a lesson. I got an editor/proofreader. They did a great job. Then I changed some things after the final edit.

Those changes had grammar, spelling, and punctuation errors.

I wrote another book. I felt it was good, and I had learned two lessons. I went back to the same editor and he explained that if I change something, another edit/proof has to be done. He wouldn’t even charge me extra. Great. He edited/proofed my book and reminded me to tell him if I changed anything so the editing/proofing could be done a second time. I nodded, accepted my book back, then changed things. I didn’t tell him.

There were grammar, spelling, and punctuation errors.

Errors happen no matter how thorough and professional you are with your work. I recently got a letter from my lawyer (someone I’ve used for 7 years) and the letter had my name spelled wrong. It happens.

Now, I’ve gotten better over the years at having less of these types of errors in my work. That definitely doesn’t mean that I feel I can skip editing and proofreading. But I’ve only recently gotten it into my head that I need to really listen to and heed the advice of the people I pay to do a job. What’s the point of paying them otherwise?

Editors do not say something merely to hear themselves speak–most of them. They are receiving money from you and imparting their experience and wisdom, hoping you will receive it well, and are just trying to do the best job that they can. In the meantime, they hope that maybe they train you to have less errors in the future. The best editors teach you without saying a word about how they are teaching you.

It’s bothersome to me when someone arbitrarily decides that the editor is the problem.

None of the editors I’ve worked with are the problem. I, like a lot of writers, am my own problem. Editors and proofreaders do their best to wrangle us and help us achieve our dreams…and sometimes we stick our fingers in our ears and sing: Mary had a little lamb…

I’m not saying that I want people to spit on me in the streets for having these types of errors in my books. Nor do I want them to tell me: “it’s alright.” However, I would like to shift away from errors being something that triggers people into pointing fingers, assigning blame, and spewing negativity out into the literary world.

Simply put, stop assigning blame unless you have intimate knowledge of the author’s process. And, if you want to be super duper nice, maybe do like a lot of my amazing readers, and kindly, yet directly, tell them when you find a mistake in their book. That’s how boneheaded writers like me finally start to realize that they need to pay attention.

Will it ever make me or my books perfect?

Probably not. Well, actually, definitely not. But we’re all just doing our best and trying to make the world a more creative and interesting place. Sometimes imperfections shouldn’t be triggering. They can always be corrected.

Tremendous Love & Thanks,


2 thoughts on “The Blame Game

  1. Well put. I try not to go around telling people their work needs an editor. When I have thought this, though, I am thinking that they could have done with someone to help them be ruthless in culling the superfluous to let the real stuff shine. If it’s a proofing error, as long as the meaning is clear I ignore it. They happen in trad published books too, by the way. And personally I think some later books in famous series by big names would have benefited from the kind of edit I’m referring to above. What do you call that?
    Q. If it’s a typo that makes the reader pause, like using the wrong character’s name, as an author would you want to know about it?

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    1. To answer your “Q” – Yes. I can’t mention this enough. An email or DM from a reader about an error they saw is always appreciated so I can get it fixed for the next reader. Sometimes, I already know about an error when someone reaches out and it is in the process of being fixed, but I still appreciate it.

      Liked by 1 person

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