What Writing And Editing Have Taught Me About Perfection – By Ane Costa
Recently, I read an article by @lisaposto which reflected a lot of the training I had in these 20 years writing fiction, creating an academic career and the last six months as editorial director of Livr(a).
“Why did the editor miss errors in your book?” Lisa questions us in her article. When we pay for a service, we want excellence, and what that means is conditioned to each one’s personal filter.
There are some things I’ve learned about perfection in my 33 years of age. When we are young, we see our flaws as qualities. It happened to me, at least — I used to see my ” perfection thing” as a quality. But the one who was most affected by my perfectionism was me. Nothing was ever good enough, a 9.5 in a test was not a 10.
This escalated when I started thinking about publishing. The idea that others would read what I wrote and judge my writing was overwhelming and I wanted everything to be perfect. And when expectations are too high, the crashes hurt too. Perfection is the most illusory thing in this world and what hurts us the most, because it is impossible to reach it. As humans, we are doomed to error and learning.
U.S. professional publishers have concluded that a 5% margin of error is expected in the first edition of a book. This does not mean that your book, with 60,000 words, will have 3,000 spelling mistakes. What we mean by printing errors goes far beyond spelling. It can be, for example, an extra or missing space between two words. A comma or a dot missing at the end of the sentence. Sometimes it’s so small that no one notices it — and that’s exactly why it passed after revisions and more revisions.
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But why does this happen? First, editors and reviewers are humans and humans make mistakes. Even with such a meticulous editing process as Livr(a)’s, where the manuscript goes through critical reading, text preparation, proofreading, PDF proofreading, mirrored proofreading — with our editors and reviewers having time to read and not being required to do revisions in too short a time — mistakes can still happen.
Another problem we unfortunately still encounter are authors working against their editors, not with them to ensure a good final version. When you receive your revised material, it is essential that you read your work again. Your book will be the book you will read most in this life, you can be sure of that. The more you read, the more mistakes you will notice — and that will help your editorial process.
We only send the product to print when we’re sure it’s good enough. No one will be able to guarantee you perfection, just a job well done, with care and dedication, just like all our books are produced.
Did you print the book and found mistakes? Unfortunately, it happens. It happened to me and to any author I know. Remember three things:
- Are the mistakes excessive, comprising more than 5% of the book? If not, wait for the second printing to fix it. Second, third, fourth editions happen every day in the editorial market and were invented precisely to correct mistakes.
- Perfection does not exist, and there are other errors in your book that you may never see. We have to learn how to deal with that.
- Never throw your printed books in the trash because of small mistakes. They don’t diminish the value of your work. Not to mention that it causes an environmental impact in the world!
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See too: Peeling a Pineapple