Do Publishers Edit Books Anymore?

Red-pen-drippingEvery time time I mention a publisher’s “editorial process” on this blog, invariably multiple commenters will mention the “fact” that publishers no longer edit. Others will talk about the terrible mistakes they find in published books, and decry the publishing industry’s lack of standards. A typical example is David A. Todd’s note on May 2: “…publishers no longer do careful line editing of the book, nor careful proof-reading.”

From my perspective, having been in the trenches for 16 years now, I believe this is an erroneous generalization.

Publishers vary widely in their approach to editing

… and they always have. There are publishers who spend an incredible amount of time and money on editorial excellence, even these days. I know because most of my  authors have had to sweat through rigorous edits. Many books go through a content edit, a line edit, a copy edit, and then not one but two or more rounds of proofreading. That’s a lot of editorial attention! Among my clients and other authors I know, this isn’t the exception. The exception is when this doesn’t happen.

There are other publishers who give a manuscript a quick once-over and call it good. Authors who are with these publishers might have an easier road, but it can be a disappointment in the long run. They want someone to help them shine, and they don’t always get it. Most of the publishers that operate this way have always done so. It’s not a new thing.

And of course, there are publishers who are somewhere in between.

Have budget cuts affected editing?

Many publishers, regardless of where they started on the “editorial spectrum,” have had to cut their budgets, and so there may be less attention to detail. It’s an unfortunate by-product of the difficult financial structure of publishing. But in my experience, the publishers that have always had a commitment to editorial excellence (which is most of the publishers I work with) retain that commitment even today, even amidst budget cuts.

You’re always going to find a mistake here and there in a published book. As Michael Hyatt said on his blog:

Even proofreaders don’t catch every typo. We use multiple proofers on every book at Thomas Nelson. Still, those pesky little errors hide in the shadows and only show up once the book is printed. (I swear!) How much proofing is enough? Most of us can’t afford perfection.

What about mistakes in published books?

As for those of my readers who bring to our attention all the terrible errors you find in books, I can just say, (1) I’m sorry you have to suffer through this; (2) I read a LOT of books, and aside from a small typo here and there, I’m not seeing what you’re seeing. So it’s hard for me to speak to something I haven’t personally observed.

In any case, most authors who are publishing with commercial, advance-and-royalty-paying print publishers would report that they’ve gone through one or more rounds of editing with their publisher. And many of them went through an editing process with their agent, too.

So is it true that “publishers no longer edit”?

I don’t think so. Many are needing to spend less time and money on editing than they used to. But overall, I think most publishers’ level of commitment to editorial excellence has remained stable, regardless of where they started on the spectrum.

Contracted/published authors: Tell us about your editorial experience with your publisher.

Readers: If there’s something that makes you think “publishers no longer edit,” what is it? What have you personally observed?


Rachelle Gardner

Literary agent at Gardner Literary. Coffee & wine enthusiast (not at the same time) and dark chocolate connoisseur. I've worked in publishing since 1995 and I love talking about books!


  1. Michael Fenn on July 4, 2014 at 10:18 PM

    Well, I appreciate you taking out the time to do this for us. It helps. I
    have published short stories but that was in a magazine and I am having
    a team of editors proof my manuscript. I am happy to have finished it
    but there’s so much to do. Is it important to have a writing coach and
    editors or is it one or the other? Thanks.


  2. Hopeful writer on March 29, 2014 at 1:03 PM

    I submitted my book to an editor with rough edits because after finishing the book, I couldnt spot my own typos. It was damn near impossible. Editor supposedly edited it. ‘Pair’ was supposed to be ‘pain’ and they didn’t change it – thats an obvious one. I hope the next person they pay to edit the book does it well because I cant stand the thought of bad reviews for bad writing and typos when the editor is in charge of edits, no?

    • Aspiring Author on November 29, 2014 at 11:47 AM

      It was kind of same for me. Unfortunately, I didn’t notice the grammatical mistakes I had made in my book and my lousy editor did a crappy job. My book got published but when my friends and my family read it, they pointed out so many mistakes.
      Sometimes spellchecker does not work properly.
      And now I have to cope up with the bad reviews I have gotten. :/

  3. Tenaya Mulvihill on February 27, 2014 at 12:57 PM

    How do the publishers that outsource editorial services to freelancers fit into this model? Are they included in the publishers that hold to high editorial standards? Do you think the trend of working with freelance editors, proofreaders, or copy editors has any effect on the quality of the books published?

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    I have to confess, it caused me to immediately correct an error with the word “altar.” My mind often derails. I used this word a few times in my book, Revelation The Explanation. Sorry, my iTouch does not allow italics.

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    In gracious gratitude for your free editing advice!

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  18. John Croudy on September 23, 2011 at 3:29 AM

    In my experience the number of typographical errors in books has definitely increased since I was a kid in the 70s. Almost every book I read today has several mistakes. Most of these are missing articles, wrongs words (‘sleep’ instead of ‘sheep’) or transposed letters, the latter of which should not get past a spell-checker at all.

    The worst culprit is the Amazon Kindle where most of the paid-for books I have contain many errors that are clearly caused by scanning a physical page with a computer but not checking it. This shows up as numbers instead of letters, missing punctuation, or words ending with capital letters because the computer read a lowercase letter and the final period incorrectly and joined them together (‘BilL’ instead of ‘Bill.’)

    Interestingly, the free books from Project Gutenberg have far fewer errors, almost none at all. I expect these books are proofread by obsessive perfectionists like myself.

    It seems to me that there is a general trend of laziness in the world today and people are just letting the computers get on with it, trusting that they will get it right, but the computers seem to be degrading books instead of improving them.

    I have a book on my bookshelf that was apparently written by someone called “Nabkov”. The author’s name is actually wrong on the spine of the book!

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  20. London Escort Service on July 1, 2011 at 8:51 AM

    Every time I mention a publisher’s “editorial process” on this blog, invariably multiple commenters will mention the “fact” that publishers no longer edit. Others will talk about the terrible mistakes they find in published books, and decry the publishing industry’s lack of standards.

  21. Steph on July 1, 2011 at 8:35 AM

    Probably the funniest ‘typo’ I’ve ever seen was in the topic index at the back of a well-known book about parenting. The index referred to some pages on ‘capital punishment’, which I thought seemed abit out of place in a parenting book. 🙂 Turns out they meant “corporal punishment’!!! The editors of this major publisher had quite a laugh (he described it as the funniest mistake that they had seen in the last decade). The book was almost ten years old, so it had been there for a long time and no publishers, editors or readers had noticed it before then!!

    I got a nice email and a copy of the “editing standards” used by this publisher. Sounds boring, but it was actually quite funny the way they described common mistakes the writers make and how to “catch them”. Too bad it didn’t help these editors!!

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  23. Carla Krae on June 28, 2011 at 12:06 AM

    I get frustrated by seeing typos on the first page of Chapter 1. At least in what I read, I have noticed more errors than in books I read in the past. Words spelled wrong, missing words, homonym/homophone issues, missing punctuation, etc. And then there are the ones, like others mentioned, where the same phrase is repeated excessively or pacing was really off. My mother was a teacher, so the spelling and grammar has always stood out to me, but now as a writer, the story problems are, too.

  24. Claudia Putnam on June 28, 2011 at 12:05 AM

    I should maybe note that I read around 200 books per year.

  25. Claudia Putnam on June 28, 2011 at 12:04 AM

    Most books are still of decent quality on the micro level, though as many have said, they could use editing on the “thinking” level. Plenty of essays have been written on how editing on the old-fashioned scale, where a house essentially sponsored a writer, such as Faulkner, and the editor really developed him or her in a mentoring relationship, doesn’t really happen anymore. I see lots of tweets on how editors don’t want to work with “the crazies,” which I take to mean that the cranky old weirdos who produced all the classics wouldn’t be touched today for personality reasons, let alone the convoluted nuttiness of their prose. So, it sounds like those with the actual artistic temperament aren’t as welcome nowadays, which is kind of weird. Would someone sort out Infinite Jest today? Maybe; hard to tell.

    In any case, I did read a genre novel that had some originality recently–kind of ghost story with some deeper metaphoric resonance and real promise. I forget the title and publisher, but it was a major house. But the copyediting was such a mess on all levels that I actually threw the book in the trash when I was done. I couldn’t figure out what else to do with it. It was too whacked up to donate.

    I’ve had other books, trade books from university presses or smaller houses with good reputations, that have repeated entire chapters or left off the last several chapters, or have stuck on 100 pages of another book of the author’s.

  26. Sophie Playle on June 25, 2011 at 1:50 AM

    Do PUBLISHERS edit? The answer: largely, no.

    ‘Editors’ in publishing houses are now, more often than not, commissioning editors. They’re the ones researching the market, picking the books, and fighting for the justification of its publication through projected sales reports etc.

    The actual editing now falls to freelancers, who are employed by the publishing houses. In-house copy editors and proofreaders are now a rare breed, because freelance editors are so much cheaper.

    The bigger the budget of the publishing house, the more likely they are to use freelance editors and outsource the editing. The smaller the publishing house, the more likely it is that the in house editors have time (and perhaps due to lack of budget for freelances) to work on individual manuscripts.

    Of course, this isn’t the same for all publishing houses, but in my experience, this is the norm.

    I have worked in publishing and have had the opportunity to meet many publishing professionals from a range of houses.

    And that’s what I’ve learned: publishers outsource their editing.

    • Ayse on May 22, 2012 at 10:46 AM

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  27. marion on June 24, 2011 at 6:11 AM

    [Sorry about late post. This just occurred to me, & I don’t think anyone else mentioned it.]
    I now see frequent “spell-check” errors. More often in articles, but also in books from well-known publishers. I suspect that some pubs. run their own “spell-check” program at the final stage. And then probably proof that before sending the final proofs to the author, but mistakes would slip through. In which case, the author has to be extra extra vigilant with those final proofs.

  28. Shelly Goodman Wright on June 23, 2011 at 1:27 PM

    My publisher said to expect about four months of heavy editing when we start in August. I’m glad and I’m open to learn (and I’ll be editing my sequel about the same time so that I can benefit even more).

  29. kathryn magendie on June 23, 2011 at 12:58 PM

    I used to be so arrogant about errors in other authors’ works, until it came my turn – nothing like a fall off my high horse to make me go ‘Oh . . .’

    I read my manuscripts MULTIPLES of times – people may be surprised how many times I read and read – and from different places: my computer, print outs, now my Kindle, PDF file, printed galley – my editor reads, the copy editor reads, my husband reads, a friend reads . . .

    and still – STILL, errors can sneak in the final product. They hide there, little sneakers, until the books come out.

    If I read a work without errors, I am now very much impressed (or wonder if I just didn’t notice them), and if I now read a work with errors, I cut the author/publishers some slack.

    There are some things that are still my pet peeve – if it’s obvious lazy writing/editing, but even so, I’m more willing now to be generous in my thinking 😀

  30. Peter DeHaan on June 23, 2011 at 11:57 AM

    In a non-fiction book by a major Christian publisher, there was a list in paragraph form: First…, Second…, Second…, and Fourth.

    Another respected publisher put out a theology book — that king that sent me to the dictionary every couple paragraphs — with the word “relective” in it. I wasted way too much time searching its meaning before I realized it was a typo and they meant “reflective.”

    In both cases, my esteem for the books and their contents diminished greatly after these egregious errors.

    (As a teen, I read a fiction book, where the author — or editor — mixed up his birds, with the bob white singing “whip-poor-will, whip-poor-will.”)

  31. Craig Froman on June 23, 2011 at 9:52 AM

    I’m actually an editorial assistant at a publishing house, so I’m glad we’re still needed! We do our own internal edits, as well as using two outside proofers. Yet, sorry to say, there are still errors in some of our books, especially when we’re rushed to get a timely book to print. I also happen to keep the corrections log!

  32. steve davidson on June 23, 2011 at 7:32 AM

    There is an old story illustrative of the proofreading process and the fact that no matter how hard you work at it, there is ALWAYS one more mistake in there somewhere.

    Back when book publishing was the province of book sellers, two rivals decided to have a contest to see who could put out the most perfect book.

    The efforts were extraordinary: type was changed after every five pages, paper was selected individually by the page (watermarks matching in location, rag content, whatever); leather for bindings was carefully selected, etc., etc. and an army of proofreaders was put in place to check the manuscript page by page, line by line, each proofreader checking and passing their work on to the next.

    Finally, the ‘perfect book’ was finished. And only then did they discover that they had left the title page out….

    You spend ten percent of the labor on the first 90 percent of a work and then 90 percent of the labor on the remaining ten percent. At some point you run into the law of diminishing returns.

  33. Joe on June 23, 2011 at 7:24 AM

    I don’t believe, in general, that books today have more errors than books a few years ago.

    Yes, I often find glaring errors, and yes, some books are far worse than others.

    However, I have always found errors in books, including old classics and even college text books.

    I do think that less attention is paid to details, today, by both authors and editors. The reason is simple. We all have spell-check and grammar-check on our word processors, and we have all come to rely on it.

    I know this is true, because I am far far more likely to make a spelling error using e-mail programs that do not have spell check than using a word processor that does.

    Overall, I don’t see this as a bad thing. We wind up with about the same quality wirting and editing as we did a couple of decades ago, but it is now faster and easier.

    However, it does lead to more of the simple errors that are not easily picked up by spell-check and grammar-check programs.

    We just have to all continue to be diligent…starting with writers on rough drafts…

  34. Linda on June 23, 2011 at 6:46 AM

    On catching typos: I held put together a newsletter at work. We get some pretty poor quality stuff, but because of the goal of the newsletter, nearly everything gets it. This is the process we use:

    Editor goes through and weeds whacks it down. First layer of catching typos.

    I get it. I run a macro to catch all the work-specific wordage everyone gets wrong. I run a spellcheck. Then I copyedit, end to front. I’ve caught some embarrassing doozies, like people saying this is not a great place to work.

    Goes to Person 1 and Person 2. They both find more mistakes, or sometimes more edits.

    Then I fold it into the newsletter format, and it goes back to Person 1 and Person 2. More typos found.

    Now we’re satisfied, so it goes to Person 3, who has to clear it for the boss’ approval. And she finds more typos! She’s known as a nitpicker, but she actually finds our stuff pretty good because she doesn’t find a lot. Meanwhile, I’m looking at her markups and going, “How did we miss all that?”

    The newsletter’s only 20 pages. Can you imagine what this is like on a novel of 300 + pages?

  35. Mel on June 23, 2011 at 4:59 AM

    I was very interested in this post. The answer, from my experience, is ‘yes, publishers clearly edit, but not always for the better’.

    I am a British ghostwriter, and I get frustrated when I see presumably educated people write badly. In one of ‘my’ books, an internationally renowned publisher changed the expressions, ‘my husband and I’/’I and my husband’, and ‘my husband and me’, from correct to incorrect usage.

    For example, ‘The invitation was sent to my husband and me’, would see a change to ‘the invitation was sent to my husband and I’, whereas ‘I, and my husband/ my husband and I … enjoyed holidaying in Spain’, would become ‘Me and my husband/my husband amd me … enjoyed holidaying in Spain’.

    For the sake of those reading this, who might think this is a correct change, break the sentence up into its two parts. As you know, the word ‘and’ joins two sentences, not simply two words, so when you say ‘my husband and I went for a walk’, you are in fact saying, ‘my husband went for a walk … and … I went for a walk’. So ‘me and my husband went for a walk’, is saying, ‘me went for a walk … and my husband …etc.

    In the same way, ‘they gave a prize to my husband and I, for Garden of the Year’, says that ‘they gave a prize to my husband, and they gave a prize to I’.

    Yet all the way through this book, which tells the incredible story of one woman’s struggle with madness, the publishers make this kind of mistake. I get paid for my ability to put a story on a page, and occasionally when I see it in print, I could weep.

    And yes, I agree that most publishers do a good job. And yes indeed, tiny typos can slip through, probably because when we are familiar with a piece of work, we know what should be there, and somehow that causes our brains to record what we read as correct … hence the need for a fresh pair of eyes with every ‘proofing’. However the kind of changes I mentioned above are unforgiveable, and they detract from what should have been a well-written book.

    • Claudia Putnam on June 27, 2011 at 11:49 PM

      I can’t tell you how often my son’s English teachers would send home corrections of this sort on his work. Also, they would incorrectly “correct” his usage of lie vs. lay. So don’t you think many of today’s copyeditors have been trained by such English teachers? Given A’s by them? They’ve also probably learned how to use apostrophes from the same people. 😀

  36. Eowy Ivey on June 22, 2011 at 8:27 PM

    What great timing! Literally hours ago I finished going one last time through the copy edits of my debut novel, THE SNOW CHILD. I’ve gone through several edits — first with my eagle-eye agent; then my wonderful, insightful editor; and now these rounds with copy editing staff. I’m infamous for making silly, embarrassing homophone mistakes, so I’m grateful for all these sharp eyes. I, for one, feel like my book has gotten a tremendous amount of editorial attention. I’m with Little, Brown & Co., and since this is my first, I don’t know if their approach is typical or not.

  37. M. Rose on June 22, 2011 at 8:27 PM

    At ths piont I am bside myslf n cant’ come up with n approprte reponse on the horrrific state of are underpaid copy editrs who I speculate r in fact, unpaid interns.

  38. Janice Phelps Williams on June 22, 2011 at 6:31 PM

    Great topic, post, and comments!

    I founded a small publishing company in 2000 and we have a few dozen titles (traditional, royalty-paying publisher). Since Feb. 2010, we’ve brought out 10 new books. Each has undergone editing by two or three people. And, in the end, I sit down and go through the book word by word. Still, some errors get through and are hopefully caught during the final proofreading of the designed book pages. In the end, we simply do our best. But I can attest to the fact that this editor-publisher has spent many evenings going through a book just one more time before publication. It it is tedious. At times it is disheartening. It can also be exciting. But, yes, it is still done.

  39. Kiana on June 22, 2011 at 4:11 PM

    Speaking as a reader, the following are now my former favorite authors: Clive Cussler, Catherine Coulter, Stephanie Laurens, JK Rowling, Steve Berry, and Tom Clancy. Nora Roberts and Jayne Anne Krentz are on my watch list. And the reason for all of them is a lack of sufficient editing on the part of the publishers.

    Nora Roberts is the most stunning example of the decrease in the quality of the editorial process. She used to be an autobuy for me, but when her bride quartet came out in trade paperback, I hesitated to buy it because the previous two series were disappointing. I borrowed the series from the library and I am glad that I did not purchase them. I would have been really mad to have wasted $12 a book on that series.

    So, yes, someone is dropping the ball in the editorial process. Until this problem gets fixed, I’ll be borrowing books from the library instead of buying in the bookstore.

  40. Jenni Wiltz on June 22, 2011 at 3:55 PM

    Like many others who’ve already posted, I’ve found the usual number of grammatical mistakes and typos in commercial novels…yes, they bother me, but the factual errors almost bother me more.

    I’m no car expert, but my husband is. I can’t count the number of times he’s tossed a book to the floor, disgusted by a story that gives a car make and model and then describes a feat that car couldn’t possibly pull off, or describes the car as stock with a horsepower count or type of engine that never came in that model. Myself, I don’t care about cars or car facts. But according to the hubby, this is becoming a strange epidemic in books written by both men and women.

    If authors bother to pick a make and model for a car, why not do five minutes of research and find out how it’s equipped? Or watch a YouTube video and find out how you’d need to modify it to make it stunt-worthy? I do find it disturbing that surface detail is acceptable (the 85 Monte Carlo versus the old sedan), but that no further research backs up many choices.

    This sounds nitpicky, I know, but I’m using this example as a symptom of a potentially larger problem.

  41. Kristin Laughtin on June 22, 2011 at 2:39 PM

    I love finding the one or two errors that make it past copy editors in a book; it’s like a game. Any writer who’s stared at their own manuscript for hours should understand how easily little typos can slip past your eyes, especially once you feel very familiar with the text. This is a case where I think people need to cut publishers some slack. I haven’t read anything lately with truly egregious errors.

  42. Amber Argyle on June 22, 2011 at 2:02 PM

    I went through an extensive edit with my publisher, much like you described above. Content and line edits. Then three rounds of copy edits. And there were still errors in the ARCs. Hopefully we caught them all before the final print run, but probably not. How can you catch every single error in 98k words (including formatting, grammar, etc)?

  43. Jeff VanderMeer on June 22, 2011 at 1:33 PM

    I’ve always had strong, strong editors whose edits–developmental and otherwise–have been hugely useful and made the books better: Victoria Blake, Liz Gorinsky, Juliet Ulman, Caitlin Kenney, and more. I think it’s a myth, in part taken up by writers who want to justify going non-trad routes and in part by story doctors and critiquers who are trying to sell their services on the back of “you won’t get this from your book editor”. JeffV

  44. Jill on June 22, 2011 at 1:31 PM

    Some errors have become part of the charm of classic works of literature, such as–how old is Mr. Knightly, anyway? And is Bilbo’s door green or red?

    I’ve only found excessive errors in e-books, but I guess that’s owing to the rush to translate work into a new medium.

    In my opinion, craft errors don’t count because the rules aren’t set in stone and tend to vary by genre.

  45. Dave on June 22, 2011 at 1:06 PM

    An example, and there are many others: I just finished book three of Tad Williams latest “Shadow” series. Great writing, story telling, etc, as expected, but typos galore. Not just one or two, but quite a few, small little typos that make you wonder if the book didn’t make it through the final edit for some reason. And at that level of publishing, I honestly expect better. Some books are very polished, but others, when you do find errors, there are usually a lot for some reason. And then there are authors like Stephen King who seems to have total freedom of content because several of his books could have used some wise editing that they clearly didn’t have. It makes me wonder if, perhaps, if an author is established, they are given more freedom, or people are afraid to edit them, and hence you might end up with more typos and poor editing. ??

  46. Kelly Combs on June 22, 2011 at 12:49 PM

    I had the exciting opportunity to read a pre-published copy of a Thomas Nelson book. Seeing all the typos and such in the “before” copy, made me realize that quite a lot of editing does happen.

    And I agree with Michael Hyatt. I can read a comment 10 times, but as soon as I hit the submit button, I find the typo! Grrrrr.

  47. Heidi Angell on June 22, 2011 at 12:45 PM

    I think that for general readers, there are so many publishing agencies out there that it is hard to know who are real publishers. (The guys who actually read the books, market the books and proof the books) and who are vanity publishers, or self-published. That is where I am seeing a lot of problems.

    As a writer I do my best to go through my book three or four times (minimum) and do my own editing, in hopes that it will save time and money for the agent and the publisher. I would like to think that other writers do the same thing, but have found that surprisingly few writers that I know do this. That and sadly, everyone thinks that if they can tell a story, they can be a writer. It is not that simple.

    I have several writer friends who are thinking of self-publishing and asked if I thought they should go through the expense of hiring an editor. My response was “Why not try the traditional route first and get an agent?”
    Because it is too hard. Unfortunately the vanity presses and self-publishers are ruining writing quality of content. Many people who go that route don’t bother to get an agent first. They just want to make a quick buck. And that is NOT GOOD!!!

  48. Rosanne Parry on June 22, 2011 at 12:05 PM

    Part of the problem here is that spelling and grammar are not correct or incorrect in the way that math facts are correct. Spelling evolves over time. Grammar, too, changes and varies according to the purpose of the written work. Which is why dictionaries get updated and there is more than one manual of style.

    My publisher uses the Chicago manual of style–not the one I used in college. So I had to get familiar with a slightly different pattern of comma placement. They use Merriam-Websters 11th edition, which spells things differently than the Oxford I have on my computer. For example, school yard is 2 words in Merriam-Webster and 1 word in the Oxford. It is one reason copy editing and proofreading takes a while; people come to the process with different backgrounds.

    Also, the author always has the final say, so a publisher may well have pointed out what they viewed as an error but the author may have had a purpose for keeping the words as they appear in the book.

    Sometimes I’ll get a comment from a teacher or librarian who has read my book and found what she thinks is an error. So far, they have all been either grammar in first person narration which does not have to be “correct” but does have to be in the voice of the narrator, or they’ve been variant spellings. I haven’t found a true error yet, but if I do, I’m sure my publisher will fix it at my next printing. I am very grateful for the editing I get at Random House. I wrote a little ode to my copy editors on my website, under the heading The Death of Copy Editing.

  49. Beth K. Vogt on June 22, 2011 at 12:01 PM

    I am just finishing reworking my manuscript based on my editor’s comments–both fine line edits and also her comments where things needed clarification. I also know this isn’t the last round of edits. I’m thankful for the attention to detail. Even so, I caught a couple of errors and corrected them. As a magazine editor, it always amazes me how things slip past me. That’s why I like to read something at least three times, with a fresh set of eyes, i.e. someone else’s eyes, each round.

  50. Aaron Paul Lazar on June 22, 2011 at 11:52 AM

    Rachelle, your blog grabbed my interest this morning because I just finished reading and reviewing an eBook where I actually wrote IN the review that I was pleased with the overall quality of the edits, and that it was a relief not to have to stutter through typos. It’s awful, isn’t it, that the perfect quality of the work was a relief??

    I’ve noticed more errors that appear to creep through because of formatting for various eBook types.

    My publisher (thank God) is very particular, and after I have all my Beta readers help me find those pesky mistakes, she has eagle-eyed editors who help yet again. But she also mentioned that it is now necessary to create eBooks in (seven?) multiple formats to be accessible to all readers. When one error is found, many versions of the book must be corrected. It may be in that venue that publishers, if hamstrung for funds, might be slacking.

  51. Michelle on June 22, 2011 at 11:51 AM

    When I was an in-house editor for a nonfiction publisher, I received the best advice from a senior editor. She said, “Never read the book again once it’s published.”

    It may sound odd and counter-intuitive, but the reason is this: there will be mistakes in every book published, though hopefully they’re small. But you will drive yourself crazy if you read post-publication because you ALWAYS find the mistakes then. It must be some sort of universal law that you can go over a manuscript dozens of times with several different editors, but you won’t notice the error until AFTER it’s printed.

    That said, if someone brings a fairly egregious error to the publisher’s attention, they make a note and correct it in future editions.

  52. Shannon Taylor Vannatter on June 22, 2011 at 11:48 AM

    I currently write for Heartsong Presents. My books go through a content edit, a copy edit, and pageproofs. It’s harrowing when you’re writing the next book in the series with a deadline hanging over your head and you get edits on the book you just turned in. So you have to stop on book 2 and work on book 1. But I’m glad. Yes there were still a few errors I caught after print. Which means I need to step up my page proofing in the future. I love my editors and shudder to think how the books would turn out without them.

  53. Jillian Kent on June 22, 2011 at 11:46 AM

    I experienced my first substantial edit last year before my first novel came out. And then another edit, and then a line edit and then galleys and a chance to change small things. I’ve just received my first substantial edit on book two yesterday. Let me tell you they don’t call it substantial for no reason. It’s challenging and I’m grateful.

  54. JP Kurzitza on June 22, 2011 at 11:24 AM

    Famous last words of any indie-pubbed author: “I can edit it myself…”


  55. Mary Lindsey on June 22, 2011 at 11:24 AM

    I did a complete rewrite and several revision rounds with my agent prior to submission.

    My amazing editor worked with me closely on four full rounds of revisions, then I had two rounds of copy edits.

    I can’t speak for anyone else, but my publisher worked extensively with me. An amazing experience all around.

  56. Debbie Moorhouse on June 22, 2011 at 11:22 AM

    It is very disappointing to find errors. It is even more disappointing when you were the editor. How did it get past you? How did it get past the two/three other people who also proofed that page?

    I have on occasion noted problems in published books that go beyond a missed typo or homophone error. Such as, the non-fiction book I read recently, in the course of editing which apparently neither author nor editor became aware that thorn is not a symbol for ‘y’. It makes you wonder what errors there might be in the book that you didn’t see. Or the multiple carelessnesses of unchecked facts–Marie instead of Mary Celeste for the famous ship; everyone on the Hindenburg died in the accident (no they didn’t) (and you did NOT just see me googling Hindenburg to make sure I had the spelling correct!). And that’s just the non-fiction.

    Surely however the most egregious example is the excessively long Order of the Phoenix, long not because it needed to be long but because it was not given the rigorous edit it needed.

  57. Loree Huebner on June 22, 2011 at 11:18 AM

    One thing I’ve seen is a repeat in an unusual word, line, or phrase. You know, the kind that should only be used once in a book. I would hope that an editor would catch that if I were over-using a word, phrase, or great line.

    I’ve seen the same descriptive phase in a best-selling author’s book, repeated almost everytime the character cried. It got old and made me wonder just who the editor was – did he or she actually read the book?

  58. Beth MacKinney on June 22, 2011 at 11:09 AM

    Great post, Rachelle. Having worked in a publishing house art department and later as a freelancer as part of the design and production process, I remember a sign that one editor had hanging in her office. It said, “Fast, cheap, good. Pick one.” If you try for one, usually the other two will suffer.

    In my line of work, I was at the end of the production process and almost always had to make up for lost time from missed deadlines by people further up the line, so my personal goal was to be as fast as possible without sacrificing excellence. It’s true that a few errors do slip through, and for some reason they’re so glaring in the final book that everyone wonders how that’s possible, but an entire team of people is working to make sure there are as few as possible.

    I also think your post today is also interesting in light of yesterday’s post, in which you address long lead times for getting a book published. One of the reasons that it takes so long to publish a book is that everyone on the publishing team is trying his best to perfect that book. That takes time. If you rush the process, you’re back to the original “fast, cheap, good” idea. You want to go for speed? Don’t expect it to be cheap, and don’t expect it to be as good as it could otherwise be. To me, it’s always best go for excellence and nail your deadlines. The rest will take care of itself.

  59. Matt Mikalatos on June 22, 2011 at 10:37 AM

    My books are with Tyndale, and the editing is excellent. There’s a whole team of editors and I got the whole deal: content, line and copy editing.

    And, for those who are complaining that there’s no editing… the AUTHOR gets to see all those edits, at each round, and is generally expected to give feedback.

    And yes, my first book came out with one typo. Instead of “movie” it said “move.” But about 13 people missed it. I promise you I read that book about 30 times and I didn’t see it until a reader pointed it out!

    Don’t worry, we’ll fix it in the new printing in the spring!

  60. Nicole on June 22, 2011 at 10:26 AM

    American Assassin by Vince Flynn. Every kind of error possible in a professionally done, topnotch publisher, NYT Bestselling author, and wonderful story. Inexcusable.

  61. Jaime Wright on June 22, 2011 at 10:21 AM

    Wow. I must be totally in the dark ages. I wasn’t even aware this was an issue being argued. I see a typo here and there, but it doesn’t seem like books are laced with them. In fact, I sort of enjoy seeing a typo – it reminds me that humans are behind the publishing industry and it doesn’t seem like such a large monster to face :)… more of a fellow friend who understands words and typos.

  62. Alexis Grant on June 22, 2011 at 9:57 AM

    I have no idea whether this is true, because I haven’t experienced it myself. But what I’d most like as a writer isn’t editing for grammar, it’s editing for content. I’m enjoying Tim Ferris’ Four-Hour Workweek, and didn’t mind at all when I noticed a grammatical error (though I found it interesting that it wasn’t caught). But when I read a book that’s 1/3 too long, that’s when I say to myself, this book could’ve used a better editor. That’s when it really matters to me as a reader.

  63. Cynthia Herron on June 22, 2011 at 9:56 AM

    And see, Rachelle, I already caught a few pesky no-nos in my comment above. 🙁

  64. Cynthia Herron on June 22, 2011 at 9:50 AM

    Because I tend to be a bit of a perfectionist, I’m harder on myself than others’ work, I think. I’m able to overlook a few typos in books, because after all, we’re only human. (Once we’ve read over something a million and one times, our eyes often play tricks and “learn” to correct those pesky things automatically. The same is true for editors, I would imagine.) I strive for professionalism, but I’ll be honest–I make mistakes. (And I even anguish over a blog post for days when I catch an uh-oh.)

    I’m so thankful I have an agent who pays attention to detail. I’d rather fix things at this preliminary point than later, but IF I do goof (and I probably will), please don’t make me walk the plank. Just hand me a life preserver and be kind please. : )

    Thank you, Rachelle, for another great post!

  65. Erastes on June 22, 2011 at 9:43 AM

    In my capacity as a reviewer, I would certainly say that there are some publishers within my genre (gay historical) that are…rather lax with some of their editing. However, it’s not over the board, even within the company–and I think the problem there is that these small publishers rely entirely on the editors, and don’t proof read the books themselves, or they don’t have the editing experience themselves to spot remaining errors. That’s been the case with me once or twice.

    However, the large proportion of pubs in the genre are dedicated and hard working. Once of my close friends edits for Cheyenne Publishing and nearly gave herself a breakdown getting a charity anthology into shape–for no pay, obviously. It didn’t matter to her that it was unpaid, just that the books were as good as she could help to make them.

    Perseus (Running Press’s) previous team on their m/m line were so meticulous they amazed even historically rabid me, by going through my 17th century novel and pointing out every single word (like therefore) that was anachronistic!!! That’s dedication and I don’t think there was an app for that. I’m now working with Carina, who are amazing.

    Bad editing, sadly, gives the rest of the presses a bad rep.

  66. Lynn Rush on June 22, 2011 at 9:33 AM

    Great post!! I have a book under contract, set for September release, and I’ve gone through several rounds of edits. The publisher has done a great job finding those pesky little errors. But I know some will probably get through no matter how hard everyone works. Such is life. We’re humans. Imperfect. Most of the time I don’t notice them in other books because I’m so engrossed in the story. It’s usually someone else telling me about them and I’m like, “Oh, didn’t see that one!” **LOL**

  67. Anna Saikin on June 22, 2011 at 9:29 AM

    I don’t always notice grammatical ticks but I do notice when paragraphs appear twice. I read a NYT bestseller last summer that had almost two identical paragraphs halfway through the book. The paragraphs had been tweaked slightly, leading me to believe that the author (or perhaps editor) had changed the wording and then done a copy-paste without cutting the original first. Big mistakes such as these make me wonder how many times the book had been read by a copy editor. At the same time, it took me about 15 hours to read this particular book, and I was reading at a brisk pace. I cut the editors some slack because those sort of things could be easily fixed before the paperback edition (assuming that any editing happens between hardcover and paperback).

  68. Regina Jennings on June 22, 2011 at 9:21 AM

    Either I only read books with great editorial teams (you know who you are) or I’m completely oblivious to typos. When I’m reading a fantastic story I fly over the pages. It’s not unusual for me to finish a book and be unable to name the main characters. I’ll know what letter their names start with, but that’s about it. What I will retain are vivid memories of being in the scenes with them and I can quote the dialog if it’s clever and engaging. The best memory I’ll keep is the anticipation of watching the plot resolve. If editors are going to cut corners, leave the typos but don’t leave plot holes and bland voice.

  69. Mary Jo on June 22, 2011 at 9:02 AM

    I work as proofreader so I see books at the last stage of editing–after they’ve been line edited and copyedited. Some books come to me in poor shape, as if they were rushed through the process and there’s only so much I can do to fix them, especially if the books have only been lightly copyedited. I know authors sometimes get annoyed by copyeditors, but a good one can make all the difference.

    As a reader I don’t care so much about typos. I do get annoyed when I feel the book hasn’t been edited well at the first stage, ie that the author has been indulged and the novel is padded with stuff that should have been edited out.

  70. J M Cornwell on June 22, 2011 at 8:49 AM

    My editor and I went through two rounds of edits and I read the proof and noted some more errors. Those same errors and a few others showed up in the final. I wasn’t happy.

    As a reviewer, I have noticed many errors, not just typos but content errors and a lot of misused words, usually homonyms, that show up, and I review books from all the big publishers. It’s pretty much across the board and it seems to be a disconnect between the word and its definition. Hone in instead of home in; alter instead of altar (as in religion); etc. These are simple words that I learned when I was in grammar school and still they crop up time and again in best selling authors’ novels. When cutting the budget, publishers should find somewhere else to cut and not in editorial.

    • Rachelle on June 22, 2011 at 10:42 AM

      JM, I see a lot of what you mentioned — misused words. In fact, I’ve been preparing a blog post on that very thing. In my mind, I’m always going back to blaming our educational system! Somehow, thousands of people have graduated high school still not knowing the difference between basic homonyms and other kinds of easily confused words.

      But then, that kind of knowledge came easily to me, whereas I had a harder time in the sciences and could not do trigonometry to save my life. So maybe this is partly about the special skill sets that each of us has. Some people can craft great stories but still might not find it easy to deal with the nitty gritty of proper language and grammar.

      In my experience, these kinds of mistakes often slide past an editor’s eye, and here’s why. When I’m editing a manuscript that has a fair amount of these misused words and dropped words, it’s typically a manuscript that has a great number problems, i.e. nearly every paragraph has a misused word, a dropped word, a punctuation mistake, a typo, or something. When there are that many mistakes to start with, some of them are going to slide through because your editorial eye is being clouded by the messy manuscript.

      Also, like Olivia Newport said above, the cleaner the manuscript, the easier it is for the editor to really see the story, and to pick out an error here and there.

      Anyway, I agree with you that many people misuse words; yet I applaud them for their ability to spin a story and write it down in a way that’s actually interesting and fun to read. We can’t all be experts in every area.

  71. Olivia Newport on June 22, 2011 at 8:45 AM

    My personal goal is to turn in a manuscript as clean at every level as I can. If the author hasn’t done at least a couple of rounds of clean-up (or six or eight), the manuscript is more likely to contain many needless typos. Hunting those down can put an editor in a mode where she sees what is wrong more than what is right with the book. Authors cannot afford to reach a point where they intentionally shift the responsibility for careful reading to someone else and then turn around and blame the someone else for letting a typo or two get past. When a manuscript is clean at the technical level, it’s so much easier for a reader to engage helpfully at the content level.

  72. Zan Marie on June 22, 2011 at 8:44 AM

    Sure there are typos in books, but nothing like the quick products like newspapers and magazines. I’d happily let a publisher go through my work.

  73. David Todd on June 22, 2011 at 8:44 AM


    Thanks for answering my question. Just so everyone is clear, my statement was not based on personal experience, but rather based on posts to The Writers View 2 by industry insiders. One was by Cec Murphey, who said that his experience is that his books are now barely edited by the publisher, whereas years ago they were. I don’t know if he changed publishers.

    What can we, the pre-published, expect in this regard? Probably we need to figure that our work won’t be edited, and do it all ourselves.


  74. Katie Ganshert on June 22, 2011 at 8:25 AM

    I haven’t received my revision memo yet, but I do know through phone conversation that my editor is spending a lot of time on the content edits of my book and she’s taking it very seriously and going deep. So far, my experience with this house has been that editing is very important to them, which makes me all kinds of happy.

  75. Sarah Thomas on June 22, 2011 at 8:24 AM

    I do notice the occaisonal typo and I definitely read books that I think needed more editing for content (characterization, backstory, etc). But I rarely read anything that I think is incorrect. Bad writing, sure. But isn’t that subjective? And when I do run into something I think is awful, I just toss it aside and move on. Most of what I read seems to have been handled well.

  76. Anne Mateer on June 22, 2011 at 8:19 AM

    If editors don’t edit anymore, someone forgot to tell my editor, lol! My books are definitely edited, both macro and micro, by several people. However, even with many eyes things can slip through. On my final galleys I found a scene out of order that none of us caught in the earlier read-throughs. I’d like to hope it was because we got caught up in the story. 🙂

  77. Bonita on June 22, 2011 at 8:09 AM

    My experience is with a large, reputable Christian publisher. They contracted with a first time author via her agent and then told her she would need to hire someone to help her through the first round of writing and edits. She hired me.

    I walked her through the entire process of writing the manuscript and editing it. The publisher gave us a few very general guidelines, but that’s it.

    In the end, they loved it and when I got my published copy I looked and looked to see what they changed, but only found one or two minor things.

    I’m guessing that this is not the only publishing house that’s operating this way and it may account for some of the mistakes people are finding. Most of the initial editing work might be hired out.

    As a side note, I was a little surprised that when she hired me I had never done this type of work before and the publisher had given her no recommendations or leads as to who might be able to help her.

    • Rachelle on June 22, 2011 at 10:53 AM

      I’m guessing based on what you wrote here that you’re talking about a non-fiction book. The author was probably a speaker or had some other kind of platform, and had a great book idea, so the publisher contracted the book based on that. This author probably wasn’t a seasoned writer and basically needed a collaborator to get the book into shape. All of that is normal.

      What’s a little surprising is that the author and publisher would allow someone with no experience (you) to handle this collaboration. Collaboration is a specific and demanding discipline, and in fact, our agency represents several collaborators who get paid well for their talent, skill and experience.

      However, good, experienced collaborators are expensive so occasionally, working with someone who is new at it makes sense since it gets the job done but costs much less.

      Bonita, if you enjoyed the experience and are satisfied with the results, you can consider collaborating with others and building up your experience. This can be a nice way to make a living using both your writing and editing skills.

  78. Jen Daiker on June 22, 2011 at 7:58 AM

    I’ve never felt that a published book on the shelf did not take time to go through the editing process. Off the top of my head I can’t even name one that had a typo.

    Even so if I enjoy the book those pesky little critters I don’t even mind. It actually reminds me that editors are human. That’s right, they’re people too. We all make mistakes in our job. There’s are just left for the world to notice – when it happens. I’d say they reach for perfection and are always very close.

  79. Lynne Connolly on June 22, 2011 at 7:44 AM

    Michael – that’s “fewer” editors.

    Lance – hear, hear. There is a lot of backstory creeping into some books, and some appalling craft errors. Together with the prevalence of “off of” which is bad English, so should only be seen in personal narrative (like speech). Colloquially, “offa” shows a voice, but it drives me crazy. Probably because I had to write it out as wrong a hundred times at school!
    Tense switches too. I’m seeing more of those. “That’s” when the writer meant “that was” and “it’s” when “it was” was more appropriate particularly.

  80. Lynne Connolly on June 22, 2011 at 7:40 AM

    Editing also involves content, not just things like typos and spelling.
    Some of the books I’ve read recently could have done with some judicious winnowing.
    I read a lot – a lot of books, some for review, and so I read a fair few arcs. I will mention any egregious typos and editing errors, but I don’t ding them for the odd one.

    Another problem is that the average editor is expected to do so much more these days. They have to pitch to the marketing and finance departmsnts, who have as much a say about what gets published as they do.

    Electronic submissions can lead to a bigger slush pile, too, as it’s so much easier to submit electronically, so that’s taking more of their time. And since the publishers are cutting down and at the same time investing in digital, there are fewer of them.

    I’ve seen a big difference in house, too. Editing varies from editor to editor, not just house to house.

    But it will all come out in the wash. If readers really dislike a line, a publisher or even an editor, they’ll stop buying the books. And with so much competition for a reader’s time, that’s more of a problem than it used to be.

  81. Lance Albury on June 22, 2011 at 7:30 AM

    What am I seeing that gives the impression publishers no longer edit? Not necessarily typos, but rather the allowance of awful craft: episodic writing, cliches, dull dialogue, back story, etc.

  82. mark williams international on June 22, 2011 at 7:29 AM

    The headline says this post is asking if publishers edit books any more.

    The post and comments are about whether publishers proofread anymore.

    Maybe we need an editor here?

    • Rachelle on June 22, 2011 at 10:28 AM

      Mark, I think we’re talking about the entire spectrum of “editing” which in the context of a publishing house, includes content/substantive edits, line edits, copy edits, and 1 or more rounds of proofreading. I don’t think people are confusing the terms. We’re being all-inclusive.

  83. Sue Harrison on June 22, 2011 at 7:20 AM

    I do see more typos and spacing errors in ebooks than in “on paper” books.

    Otherwise, most of the errors I’ve found in books seem due to electronic editors, “to” for “two”, etc. I think most commercial publishers (their editors!)do a great job.

  84. Michael on June 22, 2011 at 7:00 AM

    In the communications business, we find that sometimes less editors means better proofing. Each person is more conscious that the quality of the final product falls on their shoulders. People are even more accountable for their work.

  85. Timothy Fish on June 22, 2011 at 5:28 AM

    I think Cassandra and RuthintheDessert highlight the problem very well with their comments. You’ve got freelance editors out there who are looking for ways to pitch their service, so of course they will highlight the mistakes they find in the published books. Then there are the self-published authors who have to put up with people complaining about the mistakes in their books before they even read the book. The temptation is to cheer when they see a mistake. Then you’ve got people on the traditional side of the house saying, “Yes, mistakes happen, but its not as bad as all that.” It’s hard to know who to believe, so all we have to go by is what we see in the books. I can say that I see more mistakes in books than I used to, but how can I say whether that is because there are more mistakes or because I’m finding them more easily? Whatever the case, we ought not to be glorying in the mistakes of others. The fact that there are mistakes in traditionally published books doesn’t reduce the problem of mistakes in my own books. The fact is, whether traditional publishers edit or not is immaterial. When one of my books goes to print with my name on the cover, the mistakes inside are mine, whether it is traditionally published or not.

    • Rachelle on June 22, 2011 at 10:25 AM

      Thanks, Timothy, for your wise and balanced take on this.

      • Colin Smith on June 22, 2011 at 12:39 PM

        I agree. The fewer mistakes there are in the manuscript submitted by the author, one can reasonably assume the fewer mistakes there will be in the published work. I presume the author has final “sign off” on the manuscript before it goes to print? As Timothy said, it’s the author’s name on the cover, so it’s up to the author to make sure he/she is happy with the content. Just my thoughts…

  86. Juliette on June 22, 2011 at 3:25 AM

    I read a wide range of books and have to say that my overall impression is that it generally depends on the publisher, which fits with being able to see who’s making cuts in the editing department and who’s not.

    I think it’s best to strike preemptively and pay for at least a good line edit before submitting your MS anywhere. You want to put your best foot forward, right? Once your MS is accepted you can decide whether you can trust that publishing house’s editing track record or if you’d rather hire an outside source to do more substantial editing (if they’re ok with that).

    Many fiction writers are simply good storytellers and not good story tellers AND grammar freaks; I think that’s totally ok. I just think it’s good to recognize your (and perhaps your publisher’s) limits and hire outside help to polish your project so it really gleams.

    • Lisa Marie on June 22, 2011 at 3:57 PM

      I totally agree, Juliette. I found the perfect editor with very impressive credentials to help me with developmental editing. I don’t mind paying for these services because 1) they’re a tax write-off; and 2) I want the learning experience. I *need* the learning experience.

      In my line of work, I do comprehensive editing — we don’t call it “developmental editing” because of the nature of the content — and I am a very proficient editor. But I cannot edit my own work for love or money. I can read the same sentence repeatedly and not see a glaring error. But, moreover, working with an editor as a first-time author is becoming increasingly important in times when manuscripts need to be close to pitch perfect by the time they hit a publisher’s desk.

      I think of working with an editor as an investment in my skills. And who knows? I might learn some new techniques that I can carry into feature writing as well. 😀

  87. Pen and Ink on June 22, 2011 at 12:58 AM

    My pet peeve is “it shined” Have the word shone been forgotten?
    My deal memo states that I won’t get the second part of the advance till the text is edited per the editor’s suggestions. I am so happy about that.

    My first picture book, Jamie’s Dream. was published four years ago. My son and I co wrote it and it was edited a LOT by many people. The publisher did the final two edits. My son and I went through the proofs twice. I was reading it to my granddaughter last week and for the FIRST TIME caught that the teacher’s name change from Mrs. to Miss in one sentence. Please bear in mind that I have done school readings of this book and I didn’t catch it at those readings. (the eye often sees what it expects t see.) I am still cringing.

  88. Lisa Marie on June 22, 2011 at 12:54 AM

    I’ve never read a book where it seemed as though the editor gave the manuscript a lick and a promise, if that’s what you mean. I find it petty to complain about a missed comma or a misspelled word, if these occur very infrequently. What I find annoying is the lack of comprehensive editing, as in, “This whole passage needs to GO.” Or when clunky/mundane dialogue gets through, or miles and miles of navel-gazing ramble and backstory are left intact (← See? Used the right word! Go me!). So I guess I notice a lot of things in books that are not “mistakes” per se; it’s just that the substantive content could have been edited much better. A good editor can make a marginal manuscript wonderful, as long a there’s a good story there. ☺

  89. Trisha on June 22, 2011 at 12:47 AM

    I do see some books with a ludicrous number of typos. And then I read others that have NONE. Not one single typo I could find. I am always impressed by the latter as it’s pretty rare 😉

  90. Ilima on June 22, 2011 at 12:43 AM

    Thanks for this. Few things are more tedious than an insufferable reader complaining about finding a single type-o in a 75,000-word book.

  91. Shauna on June 22, 2011 at 12:41 AM

    I just read a book in which “could of” and “would of” were used multiple times throughout the book (instead of could’ve or could have)–in addition to several different typos. This isn’t typical in my reading, but it’s not the only time I’ve seen more than just a couple of typos and language errors.

    • Becca C. on June 22, 2011 at 1:34 AM

      Was the book in first person? If so, it may just be a quirk of the character’s voice. Personally, I hate seeing/hearing “could of” or “should of,” drives me bonkers! But I could understand it coming from the mouth of an uneducated or just lazy narrator.

      • Booklorn on June 22, 2011 at 10:24 AM

        There is no excuse for ‘could of’ or ‘would of’ since they are grammar errors. If a character is speaking in contractions then the spelling should still be correct: ‘could’ve’ or ‘would’ve’.

      • Booklorn on June 22, 2011 at 10:32 AM

        Sorry for the double post, but I forgot to say that I understand Becca’s point about grammatical errors being part of voice, but this particular one sounds the same whether you spell it wrong or right so using the wrong spelling to convey voice doesn’t work for me. I’m much more likely to think it’s a reflection of the author than the character if I read the construction repeatedly in a book.

        • Helen DeWitt on June 23, 2011 at 2:11 PM

          Re ‘could of’ vs. ‘could’ve’ – one question, though, is what the character thinks s/he is saying. It seems to me that when I talk or think I have a mental transcription lurking in the background. A character might have this too. So if the character thinks s/he is saying ‘could of’, it’s misleading to correct on the character’s behalf.

        • Claudia Putnam on June 27, 2011 at 11:37 PM

          No, this could definitely occur as part of voice in literary fiction. One example would be E. Annie Proulx’s work.

  92. Pen and Ink on June 22, 2011 at 12:41 AM

    My pet peeve finding “it shined” in a book or on the internet. Has everyone forgotten the word shone?
    My upcoming contract is contingent on my editing the text with the editor. I won’t get the second half of the advance until it’s to her satisfaction and I love that.

    I know the three books I have published were edited countless times by many people.
    That being said, I was reading Jamie’s Dream to my granddaughter last week and I found a place where Mrs. Mapleleaf became Miss Mapleleaf. I’m still cringing. I don’t know how a bevy of people could miss that, but we all did.

    • Claudia Putnam on June 27, 2011 at 11:34 PM

      The shined/shone thing drives me nuts, too. I see a lot of sloppy tense shifts. I’m okay with tense changes, but often they’re mid-sentence or mid-para, as if the author changed his or her mind and didn’t get around to changing the whole MS around. And neither did the editor.

  93. RuthintheDesert on June 22, 2011 at 12:37 AM

    I’m a self-published author. I have very little editing help. I proofread over and over again, but I still find a few goofs in the printed books. So when I find an error in a non-self-published book, I cheer. We’re all human. We miss things.

    • Ruth Madison on June 22, 2011 at 9:50 AM

      I completely agree! Things are going to get missed, no matter how much editing is done. It’s incredible how tricky it is to catch things.

      I just found an error in my already-printed book and it makes me so frustrated! I know I read that section over seventy times, and so did several other people. But still, it was missed.

  94. Ellen Painter Dollar on June 22, 2011 at 12:36 AM

    I’ve been fortunate to have excellent and thorough editing with my first book. I’m with a small traditional publisher, and the acquisitions editor who first invited me to submit a proposal has also been my substantive editor. I sent each chapter to her as I completed it, and she sent back edits (ranging from big substantive issues to small grammatical changes) within a few weeks. So when I turned in the manuscript in April, she had already seen and edited about 90% of it. The manuscript will go through a number of less intensive edits before publication.

    I was chatting with a writer friend a few weeks ago whose book is coming out around the same time as mine. Her experience (also with a small traditional publisher) was very different than mine. Her editor there didn’t see any work until the manuscript was complete, and thus far hasn’t done much editing at all. However, my friend’s agent has served in the same capacity as my editor has, looking at each chapter as my friend completed it and offering both big picture and detailed editorial advice along the way.

  95. Cassandra on June 22, 2011 at 12:34 AM

    As a freelance editor, I’ve actually been seeing the opposite. There have been a rash of authors contacting me and saying that they don’t want me to worry about the mistakes in their books, that when they get their deal the publishers will proof it for them.

    I’m a big fan of always presenting yourself in a professional manner. I have to then explain to them that if the publishers are already stretched thin and they see that your book needs a lot of work, that could be the reason they pass. It might not be your intention, but people see those easily fixed mistakes and wonder if you’re just lazy or if you don’t know enough or care to know enough about the mechanics of writing (and you’re a writer who will always need a lot of work).

    Even if you don’t hire a freelance editor, at least give your work a through going-over yourself. A few mistakes are forgivable, but repeated errors on every page may be a red flag. Why close that door before it even opens?

  96. Krista Phillips on June 22, 2011 at 12:32 AM

    As a reader: I don’t get the feeling at all that books aren’t edited. As a writer, it is SO irritating to reread the same thing 50 times, and come back on the 51st read and find something glaring and silly that you missed. Makes me want to pull out my hair! I imagine that even with a few editors reviewing it, it is bound to happen that every once in a while, a couple little things fall through. No one is perfect… although we can sure try!!!

  97. Jane Steen on June 22, 2011 at 12:31 AM

    From the newly published books I read and review, my guess is that editing standards vary widely. I see everything from egregious errors to polished perfection (OK I didn’t mean that to alliterate, but hey).

    My main standards-are-slipping peeve involves the homonym/homophone errors. The infamous “dust moats” of the Twilight series is still my favorite, but I’ve seen plenty more: “her pride was still in tact” is a frequently encountered example. That, to me, indicates one quick work-through by a general editor with no copyediting.

    I’m not really expecting perfection; I’ve worked on commercial pieces that have been proofread by 25 people and a major misspelling of the key person’s name has still slipped through. It happens. But seeing the same types of error show up in some books, but not in others, does seem to suggest that budget-cutting happens in the editorial phase, possibly because errors bother the reading public less than, say, a lousy cover. Just my theory.

  98. josin on June 22, 2011 at 12:26 AM

    But…but… it’s on the Internet! It must be true! 😛

  99. Courtney Walsh on June 22, 2011 at 12:11 AM

    I can tell you that my novels are going through DETAILED edits just like you described. My publisher is meticulous, my editors are insightful and they catch so much that I know is making the story stronger. It’s challenging, but so important.

    That said, I recently read a book (by an often-published author and a well known publisher) that was FULL of grammatical errors. Not just typos…big, fat errors. (I read it with a red pen in my hand.) It was frustrating, to be sure, but also sad for that author.

    I admit to being frustrated having to edit and re-edit the same words, but I am so, so thankful for my editors and their attention to detail!