I had an interesting conversation with someone the other day about how tricky it really is to edit a book. To start with, there are two types of edits – content and grammatical. The relationship between an author and editor is like many other relationships and there is a chemistry involved. I made the mistake in my first book in thinking that I could self -edit and discovered that while there may well be some authors who can, I am not one of them. As best I can discern, I can get to about the 85% mark when it comes to the grammatical edit and rarely any better than that. The primary reason is because as I work with a manuscript, I know what should be there and it becomes too easy to read what you think is there as opposed to what is actually on the page. For example, when typing, it is so easy for “she” to become “he” and it will slide by Spellcheck because it is both spelled and used correctly. It is not, however, correct according to the context.
Backing up though to content editing. Having that other set of eyes is vital. The way you portray a character, a scene, the flow of events can be viewed remarkably different than you intended at times and that is what a good editor does for you. That is also where the chemistry comes in. If you and your editor are not on at least the same sheet of music as to tone and style, then it isn’t likely to be a good match. If the editor is suggesting changes practically on every page, that’s an indicator that it probably isn’t going to work well. On the other hand, if you have a character respond in a certain way to a situation and the editor points out that it seems out of character based on his/her view of that character, then the editor may be correct and it’s something to consider changing. And the bottom line truth is virtually all first-time authors will need a professional editor. Okay, circling around again as to why you find errors sometimes in even best-selling authors’ books published by big publishers. Depending on how many different edits – there are usually three to four – items get overlooked because as you get closer to “print” time, it is easy to miss the stray “he” that should be “she” and after all, by this stage if there really was an error, wouldn’t someone else have caught it? So, the next time, you’re reading along and a mistake jumps out at you and you think, “How did they miss that?”, you know the likely answer.