No, I’m not describing a creature with lots of eyes. I’m talking about the importance of having multiple people view your manuscript before you consider it ready to shop for an agent or publish it yourself.
Maybe I’m stating the obvious. But I’ve read enough books that were not edited properly and thoroughly to feel pretty certain lots of writers have either not had their manuscripts edited or were inadequately edited.
I was reminded of the importance of this recently. I just finished a new manuscript, working title Transitions. Throughout the writing of it, I’ve had it reviewed and edited by at least three sets of eyes – two professionals and one friend. So I felt pretty secure that it was clean. But I just passed it on to three additional readers, and have been amazed at what has been picked up. Some are simple typos. But in a couple of cases, it appears I was cutting and pasting phrases and apparently cut one more time than I pasted (or pasted one more time than I cut). Because in two places in the manuscript I had sentences that started and then just fell off before the thought was completed. I can’t swear that they were like that when they were edited previously. It’s possible I was making corrections and perhaps was interrupted. But it reminded me that even when I feel I have a final version, I should put the manuscript to the test of additional sets of eyes.
Why is this so important?
If you hope to land an agent, something as simple as this could be giving agents a reason to say “no thanks.” They do look for reasons to reject manuscripts, because they couldn’t possibly accept every one that crossed their desks.
But even if you are self-publishing, errors in a book can turn off a reader. It breaks the flow of their reading and jolts them out of the story. Worst case scenario, they may be jolted out and never pick up your book again, let alone recommend it (or you, the author) to others.
Although I choose to have my manuscripts edited and critiqued professionally, which can be costly, I also find it helpful to have friends who are avid readers take a crack at it. Some are reluctant to say anything negative other than, perhaps, to point out minor spelling or punctuation finds. But I do have a few friends whom I’ve convinced that they are doing me a favor to be brutally honest. And increasingly they are just that!
Self-published books, in particular, have a reputation for being “less than” the quality of traditionally published books. There are a lot of exceptions. But I would estimate that only about 10 percent of the self-published books that I’ve purchased and read (or attempted to read) were of high quality. Many of the books in the 90 percent may have had solid core stories, but the writing was a turn-off.
Those of us who wish to raise the image of self-published books owe it to each other to make every effort to ensure that our writing is clean, grammatically correct, holds the reader, and flows smoothly, at the least. And more often than not, we are too close to our own writing to do that entirely by ourselves.