Point of View: The Narrative Trinity

An important part of describing is determining the point of view of your story. Generally, there are two ways that book editors would advice you to tell a story (“you” is the silent member of the Trinity, assumed yet unassuming):

First person

This POV is when an “I” is telling the story.  Sometimes this “I” can be merely an observer, like Dr. Watson or Nick Carraway in The Great Gatsby, or the “I” can be the main character in the story like Sammy in Updike’s A&P.

The use of “I” should be carefully determined, as it works differently for the authors and for the reader. An author sees the “I” as a stand-in for him- or herself, but the reader sees “I” quite differently, for the “I” is stand in for the reader.

Detective stories are particularly good for this kind of narrative, since the reader sees what the detective sees and can truly “match wits” as the mystery unfolds.

Third person

This POV is the most common.

  • Omniscient is when the narrative voice is aware of all details, including people’s emotions and motives.
  • Limited is when the narrative voice is allowed only into the head of the main character (or protagonist).
  • Objective is when the narrative voice only describes what can be seen or heard.

How does POV work?

In the following passage, we can see how point of view works:

Desmond walked by the ornate door carefully, still embarrassed by interrupting his hosts’ argument, and picked up the heirloom phone to call his shiftless brother-in-law for a ride home.

  • We are allowed into Desmond’s emotional state (he’s embarrassed) but someone is calling the brother-in-law shiftless. Who?

No point of view is superior to another, but when performing your book editing it is important to be sure that your narrative is consistent. So, if you set off to write in a limited perspective, the story should remain limited.
–Dr. Dan

Writing Description the John Updike Way

Show, don’t tell

Perhaps the most important piece of advice a book editor or book editing service can give is “show, don’t tell.” Often, as writers, we have a very clear idea in mind of who is saying what where when something is happening. However, creating that same image in our reader’s mind is the challenge we face. For best effect, don’t tell your reader that the sunrise was “beautiful” or even “spectacular”; instead, show that the sunrise “streaked the still gray sky with rosy pillars, illuminating the tops of the heavy clouds.” Allow your reader to see it and come to his or her own conclusion that it is beautiful. For example, John Updike, in his A&P, carefully describes the girls, but in Sammy’s words:

She had on a kind of dirty-pink – – beige maybe, I don’t know — bathing suit with a little nubble all over it and, what got me, the straps were down. They were off her shoulders looped loose around the cool tops of her arms, and I guess as a result the suit had slipped a little on her, so all around the top of the cloth there was this shining rim. If it hadn’t been there you wouldn’t have known there could have been anything whiter than those shoulders. With the straps pushed off, there was nothing between the top of the suit and the top of her head except just her, this clean bare plane of the top of her chest down from the shoulder bones like a dented sheet of metal tilted in the light. I mean, it was more than pretty.

Updike (or Sammy) could have told us that “Queenie” was pretty, but he chooses to focus on the details of her clothing.

Make a scene

We’ll talk more about scenes in regards to plot, but, like what’s onstage in a drama, what surrounds your characters will only add to their development and the reality of what’s happening. In this, appeal to all the senses, not just sight:

  • What kind of light is there? Natural? Fluorescent? Are there colors?
  • Describe a scent. Perfume/cologne? Flowers? New paint? Has someone just popped a breath mint?
  • Besides the characters’ speech, is there a sound? Background conversation? Crickets? The creak of a rocking chair?
  • Is there something notable about how it feels? Is there a draft? Has it become uncomfortably warm right when all eyes have turned to our hero?

Of course, not all of this needs to be included at all times. But the right kind of description can heighten the effect of a scene. For example, note how Updike brings in Sammy’s surroundings to emphasize the sudden discomfort:

All this while, the customers had been showing up with their carts but, you know, sheep, seeing a scene, they had all bunched up on Stokesie, who shook open a paper bag as gently as peeling a peach, not wanting to miss a word. I could feel in the silence everybody getting nervous, most of all Lengel, who asks me, “Sammy, have you rung up this purchase?”

Visualize your characters as actors

Shaping a good character should take care of this issue, but it’s worth a second look. While good description can help us to visualize the character as a figure (i.e., looks, clothing etc.), good description can also help us to visualize the character as a person. For example, what does the character look like when angry? Does he or she have a nervous habit that might come out in an uncomfortable situation?

Queenie’s blush is no sunburn now, and the plump one in plaid, that I liked better from the back — a really sweet can — pipes up, “We weren’t doing any shopping. We just came in for the one thing.”

“That makes no difference,” Lengel tells her, and I could see from the way his eyes went that he hadn’t noticed she was wearing a two-piece before. “We want you decently dressed when you come in here.”

Here, we can see Updike drawing our attention to how people look—Queenie’s blush and Lengel’s eyes—to suggest emotion rather than attempting to tell us directly. Besides being a great writer, Updike was one of the greatest book editors of all time.

–Dr. Dan, Edit911.com, Inc.

Defining Your Terms to Win the War of Words

Is there any kind of communication or conversation that we have to negotiate and deal with more than argumentation? I don’t think so. While performing dissertation editing, I always concentrate on the strength and soundness of the writer’s thesis or argument.

All communication is an argument of some kind

In a practical sense, who isn’t always arguing—excuse me, talking—with your spouse, partner, friend, boss, underling, or complete stranger in the tube or a bar or while standing in line for a table, tickets, or tram? Arguments—I mean, discussions, of course—break out routinely, nauseatingly, incessantly, as we homo sapiens tend to want our way, viewpoint, gripe or gut reaction heard, known, and heeded. Or maybe you don’t. Maybe you’re the passive, silent, non-confrontational type and you keep it to yourself. But it’s highly likely that your silence is just disguising a raging interior dialogue with the offending person who can’t hear what’s going on inside your head.

All those arguments and disagreements, conflicts and debates can be broken down into four types of claims, inferences, appeals, or approaches to whatever topic is being bandied about. It helps to understand yourself, if not the other person. We’re all coming from our own paradigm, our own set of assumptions, perceptions, biases, and experiences. To successfully argue, it helps to know where we’re all at, so to speak.

It all starts with definitions

So many contentious conversations and positions are stuck in park, frozen in stone, two fists striking at each other, knuckles cracking over sheer misconceptions about definitions. We’re arguing about two different things. We don’t define our terms the same way. You think a word, a concept, a subject means one thing, while your opponent or adversary thinks it means another. I even have such debates with the staff at my dissertation editing service. Even fellow PhDs regularly disagree about the exact meaning of certain terms or words.

The dictionary has multiple definitions of a word

As with the other three types of claims, we have to be honest with ourselves, go to the source, perhaps even a dictionary, to be sure we’re on the same page. Usually, it takes more than a dictionary. It takes articles, studies, books (plural) to straighten out the fundamental meaning of what we’re arguing about.

Take conservatism vs. liberalism. There’s as many conceptions of those terms as there are people on the planet. I was perusing Quora today (a great Q&A social media site) and that was one of the hottest questions du jour. What do the terms mean? You can’t even begin to intelligently and soberly debate the issues affected by the dichotomous terms until you know the person you’re discussing the issues with agrees with you on the meaning of the terms themselves.

And then there’s the denotation and connotation of the definitions

They lift (or lower) us into 3-dimensional chess match of meaning. How about pro-life and pro-choice? The entire flaming intense debate starts with the definition of life. Or how about this: Does pornography exploit women? Depends on your definition of “exploit.” And did you know that major land developers lobbied for years to have Congress rewrite the definition of “wetlands,” so that once the new definition took effect, what was a wetland and off-limits on Tuesday, became a non-wetland and was open for development on Wednesday?

The author is the authority

Definitions are written by authorities. There’s power in the pen. So when conducting your own thesis editing,pay strict attention to definitions.

P.C. and the War on Facts

I’m angry today, so I haven’t got time to be clever, cute, metaphorical, or entertaining in this blog. Why am I angry? I witnessed an example of Political Correctness (P.C.) that has me enraged and feeling helpless to combat.  It interrupted my book editing work, so that really ticked me off even more. I’m not even ready to put my exact thoughts on this specific incident into words yet. But I will discuss P.C. itself as a way of venting and informing.

No doubt some of you already know and understand P.C. pretty well. But, regardless, a good solid, well-composed primer never hurts. So here’s mine.

P.C. is a totalitarian, anti-American, anti-First Amendment imposition of a speech (and presumably thought) code upon people, with the express purpose of intimidating them into silence. It is a creation of certain political groups and powers, designed to stigmatize people who hold viewpoints that conflict with those currently in vogue and favor. If you hold any position that is deemed politically incorrect, you can be fired from your job, kicked out of a club or group, or even expelled from a college.

We are not talking about racial or ethnic slurs here; those are obviously ugly and have no business being uttered in civilized society. Once in a while we get some very prejudiced clients who come to us for dissertation editing or book editing. We turn them away. We brook no quarter for fools.  But what we’re talking about here are opinions, ideas, and/or political beliefs or positions about a variety of topics. Some groups and positions are considered “good” or “correct” while others are considered “bad” or “incorrect.” Look out if your views are considered “bad” or “incorrect.”  The media, some powerful politicians, “public opinion,” and various favored groups dictate who is P.C. and who is not P.C..

If this all sounds very mysterious, vague and difficult to understand, that’s because it is. How such ostracizing, stigmatizing, and judging of one’s rightness or wrongness can happen in America is a testament to how far our freedoms have eroded from the days of the Founding Fathers, who warned of such encroachments upon our basic civil liberties in many historic documents, such as the Constitution of the United States of America and the Federalist Papers. Various factions, backed by bands of litigious attorneys—most notably, the ACLU—now browbeat dissenters into submission through threats of lawsuits based on the flimsiest, most pathetic reasons, including “you offended me, so I’m going to sue you, or fire you, or both.”

The War on Facts is related to P.C. because basic facts no longer matter in many of today’s most important issues. What matters more are your “feelings” and “visions” and “beliefs” about subjects, regardless whether such feelings, visions and beliefs can be supported by cold hard facts. “That’s  my opinion and I’m entitled to my opinion” is the comeback mantra of those who usually cannot support their opinions with facts.

The P.C. crowd loves and even worships opinions and feelings over facts—for they often base their personal and political decisions upon them. If they “feel” you have “offended” them, for instance, then it doesn’t matter one bit that what you said is a concrete fact. If the fact itself is “offensive,” “insensitive” (that’s another favorite feeling of theirs), or otherwise “distasteful,” never mind that it is demonstrably accurate and true, you are judged politically incorrect and subject to their condemning wrath. Facts just do not matter if those facts get in the way of their political or social engineering goals.

In fact, the P.C. crowd hates certain facts because those facts disprove their theories and contradict their overarching objectives to remake the world in their utopian image. The reverse is also true: the P.C. crowd often makes up stories, perpetrates hoaxes, and tells absolute lies to support their points. When their lies are exposed, their common response is that “it doesn’t matter if what I said is true or not, it’s what I feel (or believe, or sense, or predict, etc).”

Again, I know the preceding facts may seem, to some of you, too bizarre to be true, but they are. I have seen many examples in my life of this outright deception and mendacity by the P.C. crowd. Just one example is this: a noted feminist who earns $5000-10,000 per lecture on college campuses, tells her adoring audiences this disgusting untruth: “All men are rapists.” That is the thesis of her speech to her largely feminist audiences. When told that such a statement is a lie, she says it doesn’t matter if it’s not actually true. What matters is that all men would be rapists, could be rapists, might be rapists, or don’t care about women being raped, and a variety of other rationalizing statements that fail to adequately change the fact that she calls all men—all men—rapists. The fact that all men are NOT rapists does not matter to her or her audience. The only thing that matters is her sick, twisted opinion of men in general.

We simply cannot allow the media, various groups, academic lunatics, attorneys, politicians, and the overall climate of intimidation and fear to silence us when we disagree with a position and/or wish to state facts that others may find unpleasant, offensive or otherwise politically incorrect. I make such all my thesis editors jump on and decry any such statements when they’re performing their thesis editing. Not all facts are created equal, but there do exist some concrete, indisputable facts about just about any issue or subject. It’s a portentous and potentially apocalyptic development for civilization as we know it when the factualness of concrete facts can be brazenly decried or even denied, while bald-faced lies can be thrown in our faces and declared to be facts.

Rhetoric: The Good, the Bad, & the Ugly

Here’s a seemingly innocuous but actually rather controversial subject: rhetoric.

Is rhetoric good or bad?

Bad if you’ve been victimized by a crafty rhetorician—either someone you bought a car from, or voted for in an election, or even dated or married, only to find out this man or woman was great with words, but the words were empty or deceitful or disingenuous. It’s also something to root out when performing dissertation editing, because scholarly writing demands the objective and formal use of language. But before we stereotype rhetoric, let’s define it. Starting with definitions is the first step in a careful, critical analysis. Always best to be sure we’re on the same page—definitionally anyway.

The 1st step in critical analysis: Define your terms

Rhetoric is the skilful use of language to persuade or argue. An early definition of to “argue” is to “clarify.” I love that because it implies that if I can just be clear enough, I should be able to persuade you to see things my way. Argumentation is, after all, a means of fulfilling desire.

Aristotle & Bill Clinton: Masters of Rhetoric

2350 years ago, Aristotle taught how to compose a convincing argument through his rhetorical triangle of logos, ethos, and pathos. Employing these three elements makes your case pretty compelling. President Clinton also was, and still is, a master of triangular argumentation. He never gave a major speech—perhaps not even a minor one or even an impromptu townhall reply to an audience member’s question—without triangulating his words. As he infamously replied to a Congressional inquiry regarding the stain on Monica’s blue dress: “It depends on what your definition of is is.” The funny thing is, he’s right.

Logos

Logos means the “word.” Quite simply, you have to use the right words. For example, our dissertation editing service examines the writer’s message for its internal consistency: your claim, contention, or thesis must be clear; your reasons must be logical; your supporting evidence must be factual. Aristotle designed a syllogistic structure to test the logic of an argument: from the premise, to the reasoning, and then the conclusion. It’s deductive; it makes sense.

Ethos

Ethos refers to the character or credibility of the author or speaker. Ethos is conveyed through reputation, credentials, tone, and style. It’s the way the writer/speaker refers to opposing views that shapes his/her ethical image that appeals to the audience. A speaker or writer creates that ethos by being knowledgeable about the issue, demonstrating fairness, and building a bridge to his/her audience by stressing shared values, assumptions, and benefits.

Pathos

Pathos refers to emotion—the impact of the message on the audience—its motivational appeal. A writer or speaker creates emotional appeal by using concrete language, specific detail, and personal experience. The issue is humanized through a moving, compelling anecdote, an actual example of how the topic impacts real people.

Face the facts: We are all rhetoricians

Tricky stuff or common sense? What salesmen and politicians do, or what you do when you want someone to agree with you? Both, obviously. We all do it, or wish we had the skill to do it. And what’s wrong with that? We should make our words and argument clear. We should demonstrate we’re credible authorities. We should show people what’s in it for them or how it affects them. Funny, though, isn’t it, how the word “rhetoric” has a negative connotation? Sheer hypocrisy, really. We condemn salesmen and politicians for their slick rhetorical skills while attempting to use those same tactics and strategies in our own daily communications. The fact is we’re all rhetoricians—to one degree or another.

Novel Editing from the Inside Out

Having helped to usher roughly a dozen novels into print over the last two years as one of Edit911.com, Inc.’s book editors, I have been asked to delineate how our book editing services go beyond those that you might find touted elsewhere online. Frankly, this is a no-brainer. Most of our competitors, if you read between the lines of their advertised competencies, are essentially what I would call “clean-up crews”–that is to say, hygienically-minded proofreaders. If you aspire to a more rigorous and professional treatment of your full-length manuscript, go with Edit911.com, Inc.

Over the years this company has notched an enviable record in securing authors’ contracts for publication, many of whom were first-time petitioners for acceptance of their work. Given my experience in this venture, I will summarize below the process I go through while editing a novel. That outline, in turn, may suggest some points for fiction writers to keep in mind as they prepare drafts of their manuscripts.

Be true to the author’s voice

The first thing I try to detect and, in my role as a book editor, respect is the text’s latent voice. This involves more than the technicality of identifying narrational point of view. It also is not easy to describe. What I initially try to do is to hear the author’s cadences as they percolate through characters’ dialogical speech patterns, which of course should be distinctive to each. Through them I cock an ear for the echo, register, or stylistic tonality of a writer’s ventriloquism, the kind of nuanced effect found, for example, in John le Carré’s latest production titled Our Kind of Traitor (2010). Attunement to this idiom guides me in proposing editorial changes.

Assure the characters’ credibility

I next concern myself with the credibility of those characters. Do they speak in a manner consistent with their individual depiction and the text’s setting? “Spiffy,” for example, is an inapt description of male attire in 1920s New Hampshire. I also pay close attention to how characters are originally introduced, since such profiling will have a significant bearing on their subsequent roles. Are they plausible, again as gauged in terms of the work’s fictional context, and are their actions congruent with both the story’s events and human psychology? Persuade us that your invented personae are real and that we should care about what happens to them.

Attend to the plot

Then comes the matter of plot. While verifying that developments jive with previously indicated circumstances, I check for minor lapses. Sometimes this can be a minefield. As in a 5,000-piece puzzle, one wrong detail can derail the entire project. Consultant editors should be fanatically adept at questioning these occasional miscues. Thus, if you do not find that your manuscript comes back to you with at least some marginal queries about plot consistency, something is wrong. Even Homer nodded. We all need another pair of eyes to tell us how we’re doing.

What does it all add up to?

What I look for, finally, in a fictional manuscript is an answer to the question, “So what?” By the narrative’s climax and resolution there should be some indication, however obliquely framed, of its conceptual import. This is another way of saying that the text ought to limn by its end what has been at stake throughout the entire plot. Formulaic or pat closures, of course, should be avoided. The dénouement instead must arise credibly from earlier plot complications and project some larger insight into what has informed them all along. The pay-off for the reader, in other words, should be worth his or her investment of time and attention.

Is it a satisfying, organic story?

These major points encompass what I look for while editing a novel. My approach is to work from the inside out, letting a fictional manuscript’s flow guide me in monitoring its unfolding design. I would like to think that most editors adhere to this method, or something like it, but in my experience many come at the task from the outside in. Seek professional assistance, then, from those who are sensitive to your work’s organic shape. That doesn’t mean they’ll be uncritical; it does mean, however, that their suggestions will mesh with your text’s objectives. The book editors affiliated with Edit911’s book editing service are, hands down, your best resource in this regard.

—Dr. Robert

Document, Don’t Plagiarize

Knowing when to quote and when to paraphrase is quite an art. Basically, you don’t want to string a whole bunch of long quotes together, with a few of your own sentences connecting them, and call it a researched essay. You want to use quotes sparingly, to support your points. Paraphrasing is useful, but be careful that you don’t find yourself endlessly paraphrasing and not writing much of your own thoughts and words either. When you do paraphrase, you often need to give a citation as well.

The guiding principle: Is it your prior knowledge or not?

You must cite even material you’ve paraphrased if that paraphrased passage—whether it’s a sentence or several paragraphs—is not your knowledge. The concept of ‘your’ knowledge is very important. It’s an honor system in which you acknowledge that as you are writing you are immediately referring to the material at hand. In other words, if you have to look back and forth from an article or book to the computer screen as you are working to put a passage in your own words, then you must cite it. But if you read something days before, and studied it, so that when you’re writing your essay you’re able to do so without looking at those notes or that article, then it’s become your knowledge and you need not cite it.

There’s one exception to that, however. And that’s if what you’re writing is an original idea or thesis. You must give credit to those who have influenced your thinking. For example, take the following sentence. “The Tubes was an early-punk rock band from the 70’s and 80’s.” That’s a fact and you need not cite your source.

However, take this sentence: “All punk rock originated with the Tubes.” That’s a thesis, an idea, someone’s opinion. In that case, you have to cite your source, giving credit to the person who’s making that claim.

Learn more so you can quote less

So…how do you avoid an overreliance upon quoting and paraphrasing? Don’t ask an editing service to do that for you. That’s cheating. Do your own research, reading, and studying to become knowledgeable in the subject, so that when you sit down to write, a lot of the material comes from you, from inside, and not from your notes and sources. You need to KNOW the subject well enough so that the words you type are YOUR words, your ideas…your knowledge.

Thus, that underscores the importance of really doing your homework… literally. Read and study the subject. Make yourself a legitimate expert in the subject. Then you’ll have something to say that’s your ideas, your words, not just the ideas and words of your sources.

Give credit where credit is due

Of course, to be truly professional you must meticulously document your sources. Why? To give credit where credit is due. To protect yourself against charges of academic dishonesty. To enhance your own credibility. And to provide your readers with the source information should they care to read more about the subject.

What Christian Fiction Can Learn From Secular Fiction

Have you ever read a book of Christian fiction and thought that it just did not measure up to your favorite fiction authors? I have as well. When I contemplated the reason for this difference, I came to the following advice for Christian fiction writers.

Characters need depth

When I mention depth, I mean for writers to move beyond the stereotypes. Certainly we tend to think in stereotypical ways and may even plot our characters to fulfill certain roles, but real life is not very cut and dry. Good people do bad things. Look at any Bible story and see this truth. Even saints make bad choices. The characters in your novel need similar complexity. Resist the temptation to have every Christian fiction piece have an overly simplistic Jesus-type. Look at the complexity of Jesus’ words in John 17 to see genuine personal struggle.

The story has to be strong

And it should be from the beginning chapter. The best stories are ones that grab you from the first chapter and never let go. There is a reason why I picked up John Grisham’s The Firm in high school and could not put it down until I read the entire novel. Books with a good first chapter still need to build suspense and have realistic plot points that move along the action. Contrivances just don’t work.

Go with real-life dilemmas

Readers can identify with issues related to love, friendship, work, personal mistakes, and everyday choices. Everyday choices may lead to unexpected places, but you want the reader to identify with the character and possibly being in his place, identifying with his choices.

Choices have to seem logical

If the decisions of a main character start to appear illogical and don’t make sense to the reader, you will quickly lose the reader. This is especially true when illogical decisions mount in a primary character. Real life dilemmas and real life decisions make the story believable.

Give depth and complexity even to the “bad guys”

As mentioned before, people who make bad choices aren’t just bad. They make bad choices for a variety of reasons connected to their past and current situation. Similar to the good character discussion above, resist the urge to have overly simplistic characters portrayed as pure evil. What are the reasons that bring them to the place they are in the novel? Readers want to know how a person could be like that or why they make those choices. Equally, people who do horrendous things also can be redeemed and make unbelievable turnarounds. Look at the Apostle Paul. His move from persecutor and accessory to murder soon turned to his becoming the greatest missionary of the Christian message of hope.

Make us want to come back for more!

Your ending should be satisfying in a way that readers want more. The best books have endings that leave you feeling that way but without an obvious to be continued ending. You don’t want to assume there will be an audience for the second book you have in mind just because you wrote your first novel to have one.

 

The #1 Prerequisite of Good Writing: Exhaustive Research

If you are not good at researching and making use of your researched information in writing an essay, then now is the time to get up to speed in this vitally important area.

Why Should You Research Before Writing?

  • To know your subject.
  • To be informed.
  • To become educated.
  • To formulate a fresh thesis statement.
  • And to write a well-supported essay.

You need to ask yourself: Why would your professors want to spend their valuable time reading an essay that’s clearly not professional or publishable? They wouldn’t…and they shouldn’t have to. Good essays are well-researched essays. In fact, very few professional writers and scholars write anything off the top of their heads. Almost all of them spend at least a little time doing more research into their subjects before writing an essay for publication, even if they are already considered experts in their fields. And that should be your goal: every essay you write should be written for possible publication.

Aim High: Aim To Publish

I’m aware that’s a lofty and probably unattainable goal for many people. However, that’s the standard to which you need to aspire. If you play baseball and you think you’re pretty good at it, you don’t aspire to a career in the minor leagues, do you? Not likely. Your goal is to be a major league baseball player. Whether or not you make it remains to be seen. But that’s what you aim for. The same thing should apply with academic endeavors. Aim high. Aim to be an expert, a professional, a scholar. When you pick a subject, research it, and write your essay—aim for publication. Find a good editing service to polish it for you. But first, always aim to write an essay that could be published in a scholarly journal.

Be a Professional Writer or Don’t Write at All

What’s the point of writing garbage? There’s enough of that already. Furthermore,  you’re far more likely to get an article published when you sound like you really know what you’re talking about. Your essay or article has to positively overflow with knowledge, authority, and credibility—both in the strength and originality of your thesis and the depth and detail of your supporting evidence. Thus, without rigorous, extensive research into the topic, you cannot possibly hope to know enough to formulate and convincingly support a fresh thesis statement on the subject.

The #1 Key to Successful Self-Publishing

In grad school, I studied the publication and history of texts. The prevailing assumption was that the author’s original version, warts and all, was inherently more interesting than what had been conformed by editors to printers’ “house style,” corrected by proofreaders, and silently changed in subsequent reprints (e.g., to modernize spelling). Only late in my doctoral program did the premium on original authorial versions begin to be challenged, as critics pointed out that publishing itself was what gave us access to most authors’ work. Nevertheless, the preference for the naked authorial document, stripped of all the wardrobe provided by the publishing process, still held the upper hand at the time of my exit from academia.

I exited academia to become a publishing professional. I became part of the manufacturing process that massages and tweaks a text to the point that it is considered publishable. I made this career move originally to pay my bills, but as I progressed from proofreader to production editor to editor to writer, increasingly I appreciated the need for this assembly line to ensure a good final product. Someone’s cherished final draft clearly had to pass under many eyes–be queried, conformed, and corrected–so that no one who had a stake in the final product, including the author, would have occasion for embarrassment or regret. I accepted readily this quality control process even when I myself was the author, and my own draft under someone else’s scrutiny.

The notion that the traditional publishing process gets between authors and their readers is not a dead idea. It still lives and is experiencing renewed vigor with the current gold rush to self-publish, inspired and enabled by the World Wide Web and its parvenu publishers such as Amazon and Apple. Casual reading about the exploding e-book phenomenon easily gives the impression that many authors now think that they can leave behind editors and other publishing production (and distribution) personnel as expendable “hidden costs.” They are so wrong.

Precisely because editors and other publishing personnel are not expendable, the production of e-books costs about as much as that of paper books. For a clear and simple explanation, see this blog post by the chairman of one major publishing company, “Why Do eBooks Cost So Much? (A Publisher’s Perspective).” If publishers must continue to invest so much into the making of e-books, then can self-publishers afford to neglect these functions? Self-publishers often fail to hire professionals with the needed skills, and the results speak for themselves to the reading public. Note the first reason given in this article for readers’ low expectations about self-published texts: “The Big Reasons Indie Authors Aren’t Taken Seriously.” The cost of not hiring editors and other publishing professionals extends way beyond dollars.

Becoming your own publisher means that you need to take on the responsibilities of a publisher. You need to be sure a text is ready for its public. Securing the services of editors and professionals with other necessary skills is as essential to publishing your own work as securing copyright. To be professional, you must use professionals. No one can do it alone. So come on: be a player.

—  Dr. John C. (Staff Editor, http://edit911.com)