Authors – please choose your editor carefully #writingcommunity #amwriting #selfpublishing

when kpis turn to poison

As I have said many times, I love my clients. I love working with them and I feel privileged that they choose to share their writing with me. I am often the first person to have read their work and I really appreciate how brave that can be.

So I do feel a little bit protective towards the writing community. And I am a little tired of seeing people taking advantage of these lovely writers.

I have seen lots and lots of people recently selling their services to writers. Not a problem – it’s what I do. But increasingly these people have no experience whatsoever – they just seem very, very good at giving the impression that they do.

Now, I have no problem with entrepreneurs, or people trying to make a living. What I do have a problem with is people who have maybe written one or two books (not necessarily good ones either) setting themselves up as experts. I have seen in the last few weeks the author of one book (a book that hasn’t sold many copies and has few reviews) pitching themselves as an editor, proofreader, and self-publishing advisor. This person also sells books on how to write.

Now, I may not be a wildly successful author. But, I do have  a first degree in English Language and Literature, a master’s degree in creative writing, I’m a qualified and experienced freelance journalist and copy writer, and have had hundreds of articles published. I have edited three hundred fiction and non-fiction books. I have plenty of testimonials. I know lots of other editors with similar backgrounds, all of whom provide excellent services.

We have qualifications and experience. We know what we’re talking about. We earn the money you lovely writers pay us.

Over the years I’ve been editing I have worked with so many clients who are paying me after they’ve already paid an inexperienced, unqualified person who has set themselves up in business. These manuscripts are often full of the most basic grammatical errors, unnatural dialogue, cliched descriptions and similes, and dreadful dialogue tags. In short, the author has been diddled.

And the big problem is that often new writers don’t realise they’re being given the wrong advice. They assume that what the editor is telling them is correct.

Please, lovely authors, you’re worth more than that. Look really carefully into your editor’s background. Ask for testimonials, look for experience and qualifications. Be very, very careful.

And arm yourselves with knowledge too. If you know basic grammar rules, understand what helps to make good writing, can punctuate properly, you’ll be able to tell if an editor is all they’re cracked up to be.

And would-be editors, proofreaders, ‘experts’ – I’m not saying that you’re excluded from some club if you lack these things. These skills can be learnt, after all. But don’t charge authors money for old rope. Learn your skills, practice, get experience first.

And remember – writing a book doesn’t make you an expert on writing.

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32 comments

  1. Excellent. This will be added to my list, of course! This has been making me angry for years, and especially one I saw recently – my first reaction was ‘how DARE they?’

    Fot anyone reading this, btw, Alison is also a terrific writer. I’ve just discovered that she’s taken her books down from Amazon; I was going to put on the link. I’m just glad I bought them long ago!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Terry 🙂 It makes me so angry – there just seem to be so many ways people are ripping off unsuspecting writers.
      Regarding the books, I just have no time to promote them, but I am still writing. Thinking of getting ‘The Black Hours’ out of retirement too!

      Like

      1. They should still be there, they’re both terrific books. Seems a shame not to have them available. Hell, I’ll promote the darn things for you!!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. We should not need reminding, but most of us are open honest and far too trusting. We are also making ourselves vulnerable … seen as desperate to publish at any cost. All the above puts us in the position to be taken advantage of. “I say, listen here ole chap … not me never.” Truth is we do need reminding, not everyone is genuine and some just truly believe they can skip the training and offer their services because they may be able to see that they at least know a little more than us. Thanm you for this post; timely reminder.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I couldn’t agree more, Alison. Speaking as a proofreader, rather than an editor, I have had quite a few clients who’ve come to me after their book has been ‘proofread’ by someone else – though you’d never know it. I always say to people, ask for recommendations from writers whom you can actually contact, and also ask the proofreader to provide a free sample. I offer to read 3,000 without obligation, free of charge, so that the author can see if what I do is what they are looking for. I’m not a writer, not at all, but have been proofreading for years. I get very angry with people who charge money for something that they’re not qualified to do.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I constantly marvel at people who write one or two books, self-publish, and set themselves up as an expert, holding out a hand for money from the unwary. This isn’t to say that such a person may not be an expert, but sad to say most aren’t. Thank you so much for this. It’s very valuable.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Absolutely. Inevitably it’s because they thought that writing may enable them to give up the day job, then, when the books don’t sell, they try this tack instead. All we can do is keep writing and tweeting posts like this, so that the unsuspecting don’t fall for the website promises.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. As much as I agree wholeheartedly with what you’re saying–authors being taken advantage of infuriates me!–it’s also why I’m self-conscious about marketing my editing business.

    I’ve taken courses in structural editing and copy editing at Simon Fraser University (a top university in Canada) and received marks in the 90s for my efforts. But I have very little practical experience. I’m in a few Facebook groups for writers looking for editors, and often when I read the qualifications of those, like you, who have been in the business for years, I just back away slowly and not bother.

    I do have testimonials from the authors I’ve worked with. I do have the training, and when I compare my work to that of other editors, I can see my competence.

    I suppose what I’m saying is that the writer-beware thing goes both ways. When I’m looking for a job, I always suggest that the author get a few free samples, including mine, to see what works for them. That allows the author to compare the amount of detail and explanation that goes into each editor’s work. If an editor can show why he or she is making the corrections, the author will have an indication that the editor knows what s/he is talking about.

    Thank you for this article, Alison!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Linda, you’ve taken the time (at, no doubt, some expense) to learn your craft, which surely puts you in the ‘proper editor’ category! As for rest of it, my sister took a while to build up her proofreading business, first with the odd client here and there, then she started to get word of mouth recommendations (which are always the best, of course) – but this didn’t happen overnight. Maybe it’s like anything – confidence and your reputation build up slowly, over a period of years, not months.

      What makes me angry is when naive writers believe the website blurb of people with little or no qualifications or experience, and hand over money for a poor job. It’s relatively easy to create a promising website; less so, to do the actual work.

      Good luck!

      Liked by 2 people

      1. What I love are the websites that are riddled with typos and grammatical errors. Unfortunately, many authors won’t notice. :/

        Thanks for sharing your sister’s story. Word of mouth is, indeed, important.

        Like

    2. Linda, you shouldn’t worry at all about putting yourself forward for these jobs. I can guarantee that you’re more qualified than a lot of others who will have no problem at all in doing so. You have taken the time and made the effort to learn how to do what you want to do, and you have every right to now take on clients. If you are honest about your relative inexperience and charge accordingly when starting out then there’s absolutely no need to back away!

      Like

  6. As an author, I do a bit or unpaid reading/proofing for other authors in exchange for the same service from them with my books, but I wouldn’t dare set myself up as an expert. My own editor is way smarter than I am and she trained as a proof-reader. Nuff said.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I’m one of the said “new writers” in your piece- and I’m really glad you talked about this. Oftentimes, I’m filled with doubt when I even begin considering how to get my story published. Who to go to for my book, what platform to use, what format to publish it in and how to get it promoted- these are all concerns for me that hammer away at my brain every night and day.

    And, as you’ve mentioned, I’m terrified that I’ll get taken advantage of if I don’t find the right person to help me- since I have no experience in this field yet. Looks like I can’t let my guard down! Thanks for sharing this. Just followed and looking forward to reading more of your content. It’s reassuring to see this topic be brought out into the open for people like me who have no idea what they’re doing or where to start.

    Liked by 1 person

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