Writers – Respect Your Readers #WritingCommunity #WritingTips

I’ve seen a few tweets recently about the need for writers to hire professionals, be it editors, proofreaders, formatters or book cover designers. The reactions to these tweets seem to be split 50/50.

As an editor, obviously I believe that authors benefit from having their work professionally edited. I appreciate that the cost of this can be prohibitive. I’m not suggesting that authors shouldn’t write because they can’t afford to hire professionals. But that doesn’t mean you should publish.

I know this is going to be controversial, but I’m going to say it anyway. Unless you are 100% capable of editing, proofreading, formatting or design, then you should hire someone to do those things for you, because if you are expecting someone to pay for your books, then your books should be worth paying for.

Authors – the people who buy your books are not your critique group. They are not your beta readers. They are not your editors or proofreaders. They do not owe you anything. Your readers work to earn the money that they spend on your books. They deserve for those books to be worth what they’ve paid. I hear of far too many authors who say they can’t afford to pay professionals but they’ll publish anyway. I hear of far too many authors who think they don’t need advice. They think they can turn out a perfectly-formed book, without any feedback, any advice, any help. 

You don’t have some god-given right to publish a book and expect people to pay for it. And anyone in the creative fields has to expect to spend a little money. Artist have to buy their paints and canvasses. They may have to hire a venue if they want to exhibit. Musicians have to buy recording equipment, instruments, maybe hire a recording studio. They all have to work at their craft. Confectioners and bakers and dressmakers and potters and wood carvers and sculptors, they all have to invest and practise and learn. Why do some authors think they don’t?

Just because you can type a manuscript, put together a basic cover and download it onto Amazon doesn’t mean you should or that you should expect other people to pay for the privilege of reading it.

Now this might come across as if I have something against self-publishing. I absolutely don’t. I’ve self-published. I work every day with authors that self-publish. Some of them are brilliant. Most of them write gripping, entertaining, fabulous books that I would choose to spend money on – but none of them would publish a first draft. And they’re always the ones who take advice, are willing to learn, who respect their readers. 

I am heartily fed up of authors on Twitter saying that they can write what they want, how they want, and if people don’t like it, so what? Okay, that’s fine, until you expect people to pay for it. 

Getting a traditional publishing deal is hard, and often not the best way for a writer to publish anyway. There is absolutely nothing wrong with self-publishing. There are thousands of hard-working, talented, wonderful independent authors out there. They deserve to be successful, to have thousands of readers. They work at their craft. And they’re being let down by those other self-publishers who throw out sub-standard work. 

One indie author told me that she can’t afford to hire an editor, or a proof reader. So she’s publishing as many books as she can, and using the reviews as free feedback. I find such disregard for your reader and their hard-earned cash hard to fathom. 

Bad indie authors tarnish the reputation of all indie authors. Have some pride in your work, some pride in your industry. And above all, have some respect for your readers.

30 comments

  1. I wish I could afford to hand over my first drafts to a qualified editor, but unfortunately, I can’t. Over the years, I have learned what I needed to know to help me do the best I can, but my debut novel still makes me squirm.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks 🙂 I find with a lot of my clients too that with each manuscript they write, the writing gets better and better as they incorporate everything they’ve learned from their previous edits and each subsequent edit needs less work. It’s all learning process.

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  2. Thank you, Alison. I completely agree. I won’t publish my books until I’ve had my critique partners go over my story, revised and edited many times, then hire my editor for a professional edit, formatting, and putting together my book cover design. I want my book in the absolute best polished shape when it goes out. I also did a blog post on this a few months ago: https://dotluvs2write.com/2020/02/09/what-it-means-to-be-a-credible-and-professional-writer/

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  3. “They deserve for those books to be worth what they’ve paid.” So true. even if it is $0.99, that doesn’t mean a reader should expect sub-par work.
    “Bad indie authors tarnish the reputation of all indie authors.” Once bitten, twice shy is appropriate here. I think many readers can be easily turned off if they experience a poorly written book, which often forces indie authors to discount their books to help boost sales. But readers might equate a $0.99 price as being poor quality. What’s that book called? Oh ya, Catch -22.

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    1. Exactly, Leon, which is how authors who put out sub-par books hurt other independent authors. Pricing is a tricky thing – as you say, too low a price and you might suspect poor quality, but too high a price and you put buyers off.

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  4. I’ve been confounded by seeing requests from authors for readers to write reviews to provide feedback to help them become better writers. Book reviews are for readers to learn what type of reading experience they would likely get from reading the book to inform their decision of whether they want to buy it or check it out of the library.

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  5. ‘…fabulous books that I would choose to spend money on – but none of them would publish a first draft.’ There’s a hell of a difference between publishing a first draft and doing your own editing and formatting. Jumping from a professionally edited writer to a first-drafter is a spurious comparison.
    As for your indie author who’s ‘publishing as many books as she can, and using the reviews as free feedback’ – good luck with that. I’m assuming she’s giving her books away. Otherwise I don’t see where she’s getting her free feedback from if nobody’s buying (and even if she’s giving books away, few of her readers will leave reviews.)
    Assuming you have trained in proofreading, line-editing, story-plotting, character-building, etc, and are literate to begin with (I didn’t say it was easy) the only valid argument for not doing your own editing is that it is harder to notice faults in one’s own work. But there there are ways to deal with that if you are prepared to wait and to review your work enough times and in different ways. In addition, affordable feedback is often offered with competition entries, or the better writing groups (online and off) and, whether you agree with it or not, you have to listen.

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    1. Except I’m not comparing a professionally edited writer to someone who would publish a first draft. I’m pointing out that the authors I work with wouldn’t dream of publishing a first draft, but I know of writers that do. And I’m not suggesting either that doing your own editing and formatting is the same as publishing a first draft – of course it’s not. Some writers can learn to edit and format – some just can’t. I’m sure you’re not suggesting that an editor’s qualifications, skills and experience are easy to achieve and are of little worth to an author. Most authors won’t have trained in proofreading, line editing, story plotting, character building, etc. and benefit from feedback from professionals. A good, qualified, professional editor helps an author to hone their their craft.
      Feedback from competitions can be variable in quality and it’s tricky to know which competitions are genuine, and what expertise the judges have.Not all offer feedback, and they can be expensive to enter.
      The writer in question was certainly selling copies of her books and was giving them to book bloggers and reviewers and using the reviews for feedback. Some authors are excellent at marketing.

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      1. ah – now that’s where I DO need help! I hate marketing (and I used to sell Tupperware in a former life). I did take a proofreading course on retirement with a view to a third career, and one of the Writers Bureau courses. And I have enough brain cells to benefit from the amazing generosity of other writers blogging on the internet. I decided early that proofreading others’ work would be too boring, and after proofreading line editing and formatting our reading group’s publications my opinion hasn’t changed in that respect.
        (Perhaps it’s less boring if you’re getting paid for it.)
        As – I confess – a hobby writer, I am bowled over by the occasional competition placing. I’ve yet to come higher than third, but that has recently paid me more generously than a certain story magazine (that hasn’t published me yet). And I was thrilled when one of my children enjoyed one of my recently published stories enough to want extra copies for her friends.
        And it’s something for the grandchildren

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      1. Ay – there’s the rub. I’ve found writing groups – online and off – are too kind to be honest. But I’ve also found that if I choose my submissions wisely, it is possible to get useful feedback from magazines and competitions without squandering my pension. And if you take it on board, a little good feedback can feed into a lot of stories.

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