Who Gate-Keeps the Gate Keepers? #WritingCommunity #IARTG
Hi everyone. Today, I want to talk about a debacle that has led to an author spending a lot of time and money utilising the skills of various industry professionals, only to get let down from someone who has set herself up as an editor and proofreader who knows what she’s doing. From what I’ve seen of the final MS, I would have to disagree strongly. And I feel so bad for the poor author who has done her best to get a good book out there.
Over the years, I have been drawn in by and supported a few organisations/clubs, which purported to be upholding the high standards of indie writing, only to find out later on that I had been mistaken. Because of that, I am reticent–to say the least–about openly supporting or promoting any club or organisation these days. Even if they start with good intentions, they most likely will morph into something entirely different as they grow and spread, especially as more people get involved in assessing books and/or editing them.
To put you in the picture, here is a screenshot of said author’s acknowledgments from the book in question (for a larger image, please click on the picture–to get back to this post, click on the back button on your browser):
As you can see, I saw the raw MS first. I don’t feel I have enough skill to offer developmental edits, so I don’t do them. If I can’t do a good enough job, I won’t do it and certainly won’t charge for it. This is why I referred the author onward for further development when she asked for my advice and input. In case you’re not familiar with the different types of editing, line-by-line and copy edits are vastly different from a developmental edit. See HERE for a breakdown of the various edits. I offer line-by-line and copy edits (I use both terms interchangeably, and what I do depends upon each individual manuscript and its needs). From the above, we can see that the author then got a lot of useful help over the next two years. I saw the finished MS at this point, after it had received its final edit and proofread from 4WillsPublishing. At this stage, I did not do any proofreading but only the broad formatting to get the MS into shape for both print and ebook. So, although in the acknowledgements, I am named as doing the final proof cleanup, I wasn’t, in fact, tasked with this job, only the overall formatting.
It all seems good, right? So we thought until now … three years later. That’s five years from the start of all of this. A very kind reader contacted the author before leaving her review. She had seen lots of missing quote marks and punctuation, as well as lots of gaps in the text. So, of course, the author came back to me, thinking this was a formatting issue. Sadly, as soon as I sat and read line-by-line through the raw MS at the points the author had marked for me, I could see straight away that these were errors missed by the final editor and proofreader, unfortunately. Every single one of the extra gaps existed because of hard returns in the middle of sentences. From my files, I can see that I caught many of these at the point of formatting by doing overall page-by-page scans. Obviously, this does not catch anywhere near as much as a word-by-word proofread.
Although a formatter does not read every word but simply scans the pages overall for appearance, I went through this second time (this week) much more slowly to try and catch as many of these editing/proofing omisions as I could. I found over 30, and the vast majority (nearly 20, without doing an exact count) were in one single chapter, the last one. What happened there? I ask.
I feel so bad for this poor author, who has done her utmost and still has issues with the book despite all the time, effort, and money she has put into it. To help her put this right, having suggested she go back to the final editor/proofreader and her wanting to stick with me, I worked at a substantial discount redoing the formatting and conversions and took a lot longer over the formatting than is usual. I hated charging her, and had these been my mistakes, I would, of course, have put them right for free and as quickly as possible. I guarantee all of my work, no matter how long a time has elapsed. If there are issues, then there are issues, and I will do all in my power to put them right.
None of us is perfect, and we are all human beings subject to making mistakes and missing things from time to time. However, this many mistakes left in a supposedly professionally proofed book is simply unacceptable. Which leads me to my question in this post’s title: Who gate-keeps the gatekeepers? One of the problems with a global internet is that anybody can set themselves up as anybody, and how can we tell if they are who they say they are and as qualified as they say? Most of the time, we cannot. This makes me so frustrated and sad. Even more so when some of these self-appointed professionals slam their fellow editors and authors and tout themselves as the expert authority repeatedly.
This same ‘professional’ has slammed authors with whom I am friends and who I have worked with frequently over the years. One author shared a particularly vitriolic email from said ‘professional’ with me, and it was laughable as well as inexcusable. Many of the things this so-called professional picked out as passive and telling instead of showing, were, in fact, the very opposites. One clear example I do remember is this person telling the author that ‘the moonlight glinted off the glass’ is telling … Umm, no, sorry, but that is a perfect example of showing. Telling would be to write something dull such as ‘the moon was full’. That would also be an example of passive writing. What this self-appointed expert didn’t realise (I would hope!) is that her words showed her lack of knowledge for all to see.
So, what’s the answer? The only thing I can come up with is to, wherever you can, get a recommendation from a fellow writer whose work you respect. Word of mouth is an excellent way of weeding out the folks who know their stuff from those who do not. I wish I could say word of mouth is a sure bet, but I cannot. I also wish I had a better answer. I’ve been burned too many times myself, one from an expensive American editor who assured me he was used to working with writers from the UK. He put so many Americanisms in my book that I had a lot more work to undo much of his stuff. To add insult to injury, he then missed my publishing deadline, which he knew about from the get-go. And I paid through the nose for the privilege. Since then, I’ve been much more careful who I trust.
If any of you know an editor and/or proofreader that you trust, I would love for you to tell us about them in the comments below–along with which type of edit they do, if possible. Hopefully, this will provide a useful resource for us all.
Due to health issues, I have stopped taking on new clients and only work with a few authors that I know and have worked with for years. So, please, understand that this post is in NO WAY an attempt at garnering more clients or work. Right now, that’s the last thing I need … although (tongue in cheek) the income would be nice! 🙂
I thought long and hard about blanking out the names in the screenshot of the author’s acknowledgements. But, sooner or later, we each need to stand by the standard of our work and guarantee it. If I make a mistake, I own it and do my best to put it right wherever I can. I am accountable. And so should every person who promotes themselves as a professional. After all, professional accountability is what being a professional is all about. I learnt that during nurse training, more decades ago than I care to admit (lols), and it holds true no matter what business we’re in.
Thanks for sticking with me this far, and sorry it’s such a long post. If I haven’t worn you out too much by now, you’ll also find me over at Story Empire today (HERE) with another how to self publish post. Have a great upcoming weekend everyone and stay safe and well. Hugs, Harmony 🙂