I'm Sorry, My Book Isn't Right For You

This post, from Zoe Winters, originally appeared on Publishing Renaissance on 5/21/09.

Every book has a specific audience. As an indie, I want to find that audience. Along the way I know I’ll run into people who are not a part of my audience, who will read my work, not like it, and feel compelled to share exactly why.

I’d like to talk about editing and how it relates to the indie author.

There are different kinds of editing:

1. copyediting: typos/grammatical/punctuation errors
2. fact checking
3. issues of story continuity
4. issues of style/polishing

The first three are fairly empirical. Either it’s a typo or it isn’t. There are a few grammar and punctuation rules where the rule is unclear and you can go either way as long as you apply it across the boards, but grammar and punctuation are pretty straightforward as well, as is fact checking and story continuity. (i.e. you wrote something in chapter 1 that doesn’t mesh logic-wise with what happens in chapter 30.)

Then we get to the “controversial” type of editing. Matters of style and polishing. There are some rules in this category that are pretty universal, like removing repetitive words and phrasing or “extra words” you don’t need in order to tighten up the prose. But beyond that point, the editing of style issues gets pretty damn subjective.

One thing that I love about being indie is that at the end of the day what I want my work to be, is what it is. I don’t have to write to any given editor’s tastes on any given part of my work. I can and will take suggestions and criticism under advisement, but in the end, if that goes against what *I* want my work to be, then I will continue on my path. Because the work is mine, and I get final say. That is both the price and benefit of taking all the risk for your own work.

How a writer writes sex, dialogue, characters, even their entire story arc is highly personal. But upon traditional publication, many authors have to set aside their personal wants and needs for the stylistic tastes of the editor put in charge of their work. Normally what results is a compromise, in which the author’s style is retained as much as possible, but some changes are made in order to accommodate what the editor feels will sell.

There is no question that editorial input improves a piece of writing to a huge degree, but there are many perceived flaws in books that are matters of editorial opinion. The saying “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure” is never more true than in fiction.

So while changing the book to go along with that opinion will improve the work for a certain subset of people, it won’t improve it for others. And for some it will make the work worse, because fiction is subjective and the reading experience is different for each person. We aren’t mass producing widgets here.

Read the rest of the post at Publishing Renaissance.

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