Can We Achieve Better Editing Outcomes?

Musings on Writing & Publishing

Can We Achieve Better Editing Outcomes?

For all you authors and editors who have wrassled a long novel to its editing conclusion, there is one constant truth: you will always have regrets when looking back at some annoying error(s) that slipped through much to your bewilderment.

Let’s face it, all authors and editors would love to achieve a flawless work every time, but with hurried schedules; editing tracking tools that themselves open doors to new errors; multiple editorial projects in the hopper at various stages of development, plus business and employee demands on our time and attention—this goal is admirable but unlikely to be realized as consistently as anyone would like.

What to do?  I have now edited several works of fiction published under the Publerati imprint and have felt the weight of each one in terms of striving for perfection. And I will be the first to admit that some have proceeded to final better than others. But all in all, I am proud of the quality of each published novel. Publerati only publishes fiction, which requires a host of unique sensitivities and give-and-take between author and editor.

It can be a complicated world of editorial  ping-pong, where sometimes the ball mysteriously disappears behind the sofa and there is no cat to retrieve it.

In a completely fortuitous manner, I have made a discovery I would like to share. This discovery grew out of my initial desire to exclusively publish ebooks, followed quickly by the realization that networked retail print-on-demand kiosks offer a new way to efficiently provide print copies to those who want them. We use the Espresso Book Network for this need, which I have written about previously.

This discovery has to do with the benefits of publishing first in ebook format and then waiting one year for the print-on-demand edition. This has allowed our authors and me to gain some necessary distance from the novel-wrassling, love/hate deadline process, so we can revisit the work with fresh eyes after it has been published as an ebook to make one final editorial sweep before locking it into print.

The end result has allowed us to fix issues that in many cases were most likely only evident to the author (e.g., foreign name spelling inconsistencies, the occasional copyediting style inconsistency), but also other more embarrassing fixes all too commonly found in many traditionally published books. These annoying issues can lose readers quickly, especially if they come in bunches early on. Even more so if a reader paid $27.95 for an error-riddled hardcover edition.

As long as most traditionally published books are released simultaneously in ebook and print formats, which I expect will be the case for some time, I realize this new method can only be utilized by new ventures such as Publerati. But I expect down the road, with the further loss of brick-and-mortar bookstores (which means pre-printed fiction book distribution will continue shrinking), this digital-first approach will deliver a better printed book experience for author, editor, publisher, and reader.

I am reminded of my time working in corporate marketing departments in other industries, when digital testing first became possible in the 1990s, allowing businesses to test various marketing messages and visual concepts digitally before locking them into expensive and permanent print campaigns. This led to better results and a vast reduction in the waste created by throwing away print materials that were deemed to be ineffective and in need of revision following product launch. You know, by the new CEO who just came onboard with his own strong opinions. (Anyone remember the new Kmart CEO who walked into a store and decided he liked yellow so had all 2,000+ stores expensively retrofitted with new signage shortly before they went Chapter 11?)

I would love to hear the thoughts of others who have experience editing fiction and nonfiction.

Happy summer!

Best, Caleb Mason

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