Be An Asset to Yourself and Your Publisher


I’ve overheard some semblance of a particular comment many times at writer’s conferences, and I never cease to be shocked and awed. It goes something like this:

“I don’t have to worry about spelling, punctuation, and syntax. That’s what my editor is for. I’m merely the writer.”

#1 Reason why that’s wrong, wrong, wrong:

When your manuscript comes back to you for editing and, eventually, the final read – you won’t be able to spot those errors that may have slipped through the cracks.

You are not an asset to yourself or your editor.

Case in point: Someone I know had an editor who, through her own ignorance, actually inserted mistakes into the manuscript. Luckily, the author was far more knowledgeable than the editor and pointed out the mistakes the editor had made. A conversation ensued until the editor had to back down and admit her blunders. Obviously, this isn’t a publisher (and I use that word loosely), who can afford to hire experienced editors.

Case in point: Mainstream publishers edit manuscripts to within an inch of everyone’s lives, however, we’re all human (despite the rumors), and mistakes do sneak through. We’ve all seen books that had a few errors that made it to the final print run. It sucks, but it does happen. The problem is that we’ve all read the manuscript so many times, those beasties sometimes become harder to catch. This is where Team Author is a godsend. We’re watching each others’ backs for the common goal of pubbing a perfect book.

Reason #2 why that’s wrong, wrong, wrong:

You probably won’t get a publishing contract from a solid house because mistake-riddled manuscripts are tossed out with as much zeal as my family does over my attempts at baking.

An author whose manuscripts are rife with spelling errors or punctuation blunders shows a lack of respect for their writing and, in turn, a lack of respect for anyone reading it. It basically says, “I wrote it, you fix it.” Uh. No. Mainstream publishers will boot those puppies out faster than the Rescue Beagles can suck down a pitcher of margaritas.

The only folks who don’t care about excellence of craft are publishers you don’t want anywhere near your writing.

Lastly, here’s Reason #3 why that’s wrong, wrong, wrong:

You’re a writer, so you should respect your craft by being knowledgeable. Absolutely no excuses. Every writer should have a copy of an excellent writing book, like THE CHICAGO MANUAL OF STYLE and Strunk and White’s ELEMENTS OF STYLE.

If your manuscript says, The Rescue Beagles staired at the wall, I’m going to change that to stared.

If your manuscript says, The Rescue Beagles’ favorite book is FANCY FEET, I’m going to italicize the title: FANCY FEET because book titles, plays, ships, movies, and a whole (not hole) host of other things are italicized. But if you don’t know that, you won’t catch that your editor forgot to italicize the name of the battleship in your book.

And need I go on about it’s vs. its? Gah. I think it’s one of the easiest mistakes to make when writing because I see it All. The. Time. And it’s also one of the easiest things to miss. Do you know the difference?

If not, you are not an asset to yourself or your publisher.

The point here is that you must be an asset to yourself FIRST because it’s your only protection with respect to your manuscript. Conversely, there is nothing sweeter than being able to depend on a smart, savvy author.

You can’t afford to be undereducated because the sanctity of your book may depend on it. Publishing is a team effort, which means there’s an assumption that both teams know what the heck they’re doing.

This is your book, so doesn’t it go to reason that you would take every step to maintain its integrity? As Ronnie said, “Trust, but verify.” Be an asset to yourself because you will definitely be an asset to your publisher. Pinkie swear.

2 Responses to Be An Asset to Yourself and Your Publisher

  1. Tom Elias says:

    I really agree. If you ignore the rules, you’re arrogant, and if you submit error-filled MS’s without knowing then you’re ignorant. Either way, don’t give the editor the chance to say no, right?

  2. ericjbaker says:

    The basic rules of grammar and punctuation are part of writing mechanics. A writer does not have to be an English professor, but she has to understand how language is constructed. It’s her primary tool, like a painter’s brush.

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