Typos? Bad Ebook! No Cookie!

Did you know that in nearly every book (I’m talking paper now) there’s a typo? Yup. Actually fewer in fiction than non, by my observations. But it’s rare that I don’t spot a typo as I read, well, anything. I accept that. Nobody’s perfect, right? Even the editors of the Big 6.

Well, something’s been changing.

The biggest change was that I got a Nook over the summer. Though I have shelves’ worth of unread books on my bookshelf (that eye me forlornly – didn’t know books could do that), I’ve been buying and reading ebooks with increasing frequency. I’m quite happy with my reader (planning to upgrade soon) and I don’t miss paper books as much as I thought I would.


I do have a complaint. Let’s call it a concern, shall we? It is a concern, seeing as I plan to release my first book as an ebook. I’m thrilled to watch as ebooks and Indie Publishing shed most of the stigma that has haunted them for so long.

Except now I kinda see where the stigma came from.

I am not bashing ebooks, by any means. And I’m not berating indie publishers. I see myself as a future self-publisher. So I say this in a true sense of …constructive criticism.

Please get an editor before you hit publish.


After six months of reading ebooks, I think I might be able to say that every self-published ebook I read had editing problems. The problems ranged from simple typos (missing punctuation, etc.) to sentences or paragraphs that needed streamlining or rewriting. In other words, more editing.

Caveat: My purchases have tended to the lower end of the price spectrum. This probably has a relationship, even a direct one, to the condition of the final manuscript.

I have been an editor and a proofreader for some time now, but I am by no means an expert in the field. If I am spotting these errors while reading a story, certainly an editor would have — should have picked up on them.

That’s what worries me. An editor would have seen these errors. Unless the author didn’t use an editor at all.

Yes, it costs money to hire an editor. The price will vary depending on whether you need a “developmental edit” (an editing of the substance of the MS) or more of a copyedit. The length of your work will also affect the price. To get a better sense of prices, read this blog post at the Publetariat blog. Once you know how much editing will cost you, you can budget for it.

Tip: When you begin the process of finding an editor, don’t do a Google search and sign up with whoever is first in the search results.

Research the person or company before contacting them. Try these:

  • Find recommendations. Try LinkedIn for these. What do people say about the editor?
  • Find publications the editor is associated with or has worked on. Read the publications. How well edited is the work?
  • Search the website for insight into how the editor works. You’ll likely find recommendations posted. Try to contact some of these people.

These are some ways to judge the quality of the editing service you consider to edit your MS. The best way, of course is to get a specific recommendation from someone you know, or at least, someone whose work you know.

Editing may seem inconsequential (what’s a few commas?). It may seem like an additional expense you can’t afford (think “investment” instead). But for every ebook with a terrible—or even mediocre—editing job, there will be another reader clinging to the stigma that self-publishing equals “vanity publishing.” So I’ll say it again:

Please. Get an editor. The reputation of Indie Publishing is riding on it.

Anyone use a freelance editor or editing business for their latest work? What was the experience like? If you care to share, how much did it cost you?


flickr photo credit: sj_sanders


  1. Brian N

    Interesting article. As a freelance writer and avid reader, I’ve noticed this happening more and more frequently over the past few years. I imagine a lot of it has to do with the proliferation of websites like elance.com and guru.com where people submit requests for editors and then specify that they’re only willing to pay $25 for a full edit of their 300 page book. You can find lots of skilled editors on these sites, but you’ve got to be willing to pay the money.

    • Good point, Brian. Those sites may be a factor. What authors must understand is that the quality of the finished product is directly proportional to the quality of the editing. And that generally means spending some money for it. The best thing to do is to research a number of editors and try to get some personal recommendations. But to skip the editing step altogether, well, you get what you pay for.
      Kinda makes me want to start paying more for ebooks!

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