Editors and Their Faults?


How much responsibility does an editor have when it comes to the condition of the work they are choosing to publish?
Serious question. What do you all out there think?

For some context: I am currently reading a novel that has a lot of mistakes that not only should never have been written, but should have been picked up by the editor, the writer, and the copywriter. There were POV violations all over the place, flat characters, character development issues and contradictions, and even a sentence in the book where a huge line of zeros randomly appears in the middle of a word. The last I might be willing to pass to printing error, but that’s pushing it.

So, how much of that should have been addressed by the editor before the book went to the press? Do you personally expect more from an editor?

(Don’t click the read more, there isn’t any more after this)

About the Author:

Shaun Duke is an aspiring writer, a reviewer, and an academic. He is currently an Assistant Professor of Digital Rhetoric and Writing at Bemidji State University. He received his PhD in English from the University of Florida and studies science fiction, postcolonialism, digital fan cultures, and digital rhetoric.

5 thoughts on “Editors and Their Faults?

  1. Since I’m in that weird world where I’m reading half YA books and half adult books … I am APPALLED at the level of editing in adult books. It’s dreadful. I don’t know why there’s a difference, but there is. Excluding POV and other less-tangible stuff, it’s unforgivable. A row of zeros? No!

    Trudi Canavan’s Black Magician Trilogy is riddled with errors. I swear my novel has fewer typos, and that hasn’t been professionally edited.

    In The Secret War, there were so many errors (including in speech formatting!) that it actually hindered my enjoyment of the book!

  2. I often wonder if some of the issues occur during printing. The line of zeroes for example seems more like a copy error than an editing one. But who knows.

    Ultimately I think the editor has to be taken to task. I’ve gotten enough unedited proofs to know that even the best writers make mistakes. I have a journalism degree but sometimes I make egregious errors and when I worked in newsprint everything went through the editor. It’s their job and they’re supposed to not only correct mistakes but be a sort of quality control for the company they work for. In the end poor editing makes everyone look bad.

  3. I’ve worked on both sides of the editor’s desk long enough to know that (1) editing is more an art than a science, and above all about relationships. Some writers won’t “sit” for editing — and they tend to be the ones who most need the help. (2) an editor is only as good as the line editor. While the editor looks out for “big picture” stuff (not to mention securing the next best seller), the line editor/copyeditor and (to lesser degree) proofreader usually catch most of the details. If a lot of mistakes are getting through, something has broken down in the chain of command.

    It isn’t reasonable to expect one person to move a product from concept and development to final galleys. A good book is (almost always) a team effort.

  4. Very true Heidi. I was going to mention the copy editor…for some reason just focused on editor.

    Does the copy editor see the final edition of the book before the writer? I’m wondering what the full process is. If you do happen to come back to my site, since you have experience, I would love it if you would give us a basic run down of the process.

  5. Heidi

    You are so right about certain people not having any part of the editing process. I can kind of understand because sometimes I felt like the editor was hacking apart my work. But over time it was useful because I came to understand what they were looking for. But newspaper isn’t the same as book publishing, so my knowledge there is nonexistent.

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