The Necessity of Editing

The most eye-opening part of being a professional editor has been the fascinating look it offers into other writers' creative process. There's a lot of talent out there that oldpub would never give the time of day. These authors are finding audiences thanks to newpub.

At the same time, you come to see that the skeptics did have one valid point about self-publishing. Zero barrier to entry does mean that KDP is flooded with work that's not ready for prime time. That's not a slight against new authors. Neophytes in any craft can be forgiven for not knowing everything, and for not knowing what they don't know. Mastery takes practice.

Happily for readers and newpub as a whole, more and more authors are catching on to the necessity of editing for success.

Authors--especially new authors--are too close to their work to evaluate it objectively. Since you know the whole story, it's hard to see if it comes through clearly on the page. The author's brain will even gloss over typos and plug in missing words.

A team of impartial beta readers is highly useful for getting objective feedback--if you can find impartial readers outside your friends and family. If we liken writing a book to driving a race car, beta readers are like fellow drivers who can test drive your car and tell you whether it felt right or not. An editor is like the expert mechanic who can diagnose exactly what's wrong and knows how to fix it.

Last night I sat down with author David V. Stewart to talk editing, book cover design, and Barnes & Noble's disastrous blackface classics blunder. Listen to the whole show here:

UPDATE: Random Penguin and B&N have cancelled their ill-advised blackwashing of classical literature due to outrage from the woke crowd. This is one rare case where I can credit SJWs for doing the world a service.

blackface 2


  1. To those who are fearful of being edited, or who are discouraged because what you write falls far short of what you want it to be, I say: Do not fear! Do not be discouraged!

    From Adam Lane Smith's Write Like a Beast: The first draft is the raw materials you work with to shape the finished product. Don't worry about it. It'll get refined, shaped, and finished later.

    What I have seen people talk about good editors, and experienced myself: The editor is not there to change the artistic vision you have, but to have that vision be expressed more fully and clearly than before. How to make what is written the best version of your story.

    1. Precisely. My job as an editor is to help the author realize the best version of his story--not to replace his vision with my own.

  2. D.J.

    Thanks for the words of wisdom and inspiration.


    1. Xavier,

      Thank Adam for the wisdom and inspiration I got from him.

      For the rest, you're very welcome.

  3. One of the things that publishing was _supposed_ to do was , with the caveat that the author should still learn enough to recognize when being done poorly, execute the actual pipeline of not only getting the book on paper and out to stores, but do the editing, wrangle a cover, etc.

    As you point out - those are things that are still needed. Somebody - whether or not it is the author, or a set of a la carte freelancers, or a unified entity/publisher - needs to edit the work, format the work, provide covers and illustrations.

    And every minute the author spends on those things beyond the minimum needed to recognize incompetence, especially on things like editing that as you point out, he's too close to the matter, is time not spent with family, or writing, or whatever.

    Too bad most of the trad publishers have demonstrated they don't care about adding the actual value instead of grinding their wannabe author axes.

    1. One of the best fruits of newpub has been properly realigning the author-editor relationship to the effect that the latter is a contractor employed by the former.