A few moments ago, I had a conversation with a friend of mine about how one author skirted editing her book by having fifty people beta read for her. To clarify, she paid no one for their services. Her argument? She was broke. My buddy said, “She did what she had to do.” To which I responded, “No, she did what she wanted to do.” She didn’t have to publish without professional editing, but she did so anyway because she couldn’t afford an editor. Hell, some authors (you know who you are) don’t even bother with beta readers, let alone professional editing services, and end up publishing their first drafts. Of course, you all know I don’t agree with that mindset, but you may not know where I stand concerning using beta readers as your one and only line of defense when publishing.
Before we start, I’d like to note that the author mentioned above, the one who used the fifty beta readers, was quite successful. I would also have you remember that Stephenie Meyer is a millionaire because of Twilight. If you see nothing wrong with that, you’ll probably want to skip the rest of this post.
First argument: Authors who use beta readers as editors are the reason why most beta readers don’t know what their jobs entail. A beta read covers story only, and should be done before any editing, whatsoever, begins. Beta readers are there to point out plot holes and character inconsistencies, as well as other story line issues. An author uses them before editing so that the writer doesn’t double work themselves. Why would you edit something you’re not going to use in the final draft? See my point now? Maybe not, so let’s move on.
Second argument: Some will disagree with this point but I’ve known it to be true far more than false. Paying for editing means the editor you’ve employed has a vested interest in the work. I know from my experience with hospital work that paid employees usually work harder than volunteers, and are normally better trained. Now, I will not argue that there are exceptions to this rule, because I’ve know quite a few volunteers that all-around kick ass, but they are the minority, sorry to say. Final caveat to this second argument is that I also understand that not all paid editors are created equal, that some are scam artists or unprofessional or borderline brain-damaged. Just because you’re paying someone doesn’t mean you’ll get the best service possible, but it sure helps the odds.
Third argument: Selling a piece of work that you yourself didn’t want to put money into is a craptastic move if ever there was such a thing. Out of principle alone, I do not buy an author’s work if I know that they’ve somehow skirted paying professionals to work on their project. In other words, if you don’t believe enough in your work to give it the best possible attention, I don’t believe I’m interested in what you have to say.
Final argument: Yes, there are people out there who can build an entire house by themselves, and that’s fine, but I wouldn’t live in that house. That’s my prerogative. If I were to design my own abode, I would want the following: an architect (the author) someone to pour the foundation (beta readers), another group to finish construction of the home (line editors), and, finally, a home inspector to check all work (proofreaders). As with every professional construction project, the architect is there throughout to make sure the final work fits their vision. Some people hire one person to fill numerous roles, (editors who provide content editing for an additional fee, and if they’re capable of such, good on them, but I wouldn’t trust one that wasn’t getting paid extra for such an immense task) but overloading one person is never good business practice. Why overwork one when you can split the job between two and receive a second completely unique viewpoint on you hard work?
In summation: It is possible to edit your own work, but the odds that the final product will be of any quality is roughly the same as finding a diamond secreted in your anal cavity. I suppose it could happen, but mostly you’re left digging in your own ass. I hope this has helped someone out there. Until next time…