Are New Self-Publishing Platforms Killing the Editing Process?

This opinion article was originally written for the Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi), and was published in on 16 February 2015.

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What’s next? How about self-publishing your book chapter-by-chapter, or even as you write?

The immediacy of self-publishing seems to relate directly to the feeling of impermanence, especially when using simple-to-use publishing platforms that are so easily found nowadays. What do I mean? Well, I catch myself doing less proofreading on ebooks that are so easily re-publishable than, for example, books that require typesetting or print layouts. The easier the publishing method, the less permanent the product feels, the less importance I seem to give it.

Exhibit A: This Blog Post

Take for instance, this blog post. Because I needed to email it to Debbie (ALLi editor) before she approves it for the ALLi blog, the extra step makes me consider my writing more carefully. If I was writing this opinion piece for my personal blog, I would have published it two drafts ago, and perhaps tweaked and re-tweaked a couple of times more after publishing.

Just because we can, does it mean it is right?

I don’t know. The straightforwardness in publishing today makes it so easy for us to complete the write-to-publish cycle all by ourselves, sitting in the same spot, without conferring with any colleagues. Of course, through support groups like ALLi, we learn about publishing standards, processes, where and how to seek help with editing, and ways to get our book to its best possible state before publishing. However, as with all things, once we have done it a few times, we cut corners.

Do You — Should You — Cut Corners?
From XKCD-

I have heard writers say, after having had their books copy-edited a couple of times: “Oh, I now know what mistakes I always make, so I look out for them myself. It saves on copy-editing costs.” Or, on publishing a draft: “I want to put the book out there to see what kind of responses I get from it first. If there is a demand, then I can justify investing some money into editing it.”

The democratisation of the publishing platform has also made it the perfect canvas for experiments. Some writers republish their books each time they get told of an error, while others try to solicit developmental feedback through publishing their drafts. These actions do not seem professional, yet we know that the simplification of processes due to better technology warrants changes in habits and procedures.

Is our future going to be filled with published unpolished drafts?

There is no doubt that all writers, regardless of what our writing/editing/publishing habits are like, get better through experience. The more we do something, the more skilled we are. So, does that also mean that new publishing platforms are also encouraging us writers to be better editors?

Sparing A Thought for Readers

As much as we are learning what it means to be a writer in this democratised age of publishing, we should keep in mind that our readers are also learning what it means to be a reader in this same age. With more titles than ever being published every day, are readers getting more sophisticated and demanding, or less bothered about the quality of the text? Perhaps that doesn’t matter. With more books out there, our books need to stand out to get noticed, and one of the best ways to do this, is to ensure that it is the best book it can be.

If you are interested in the conversations that this article has sparked, do go to the original article and follow the comments there.

ALLi (The Alliance of Independent Authors) is a non-profit professional association for authors who self-publish that offers connection and collaboration, advice and education, advocacy and representation to writers who want to self-publish well.
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