Friday, January 11, 2019

Tobi Alfier - Editors are Essential

Editors are Essential for Publishers as well as Poets!

Last June 29th I wrote a blog about editors, and how I learned the hard way that having an editor review your work prior to submitting or publishing is good, and necessary.

I always thought that when you submit a manuscript to a publisher, it was assumed that you had dotted all the i’s and crossed the t’s. I thought a clean manuscript was a condition of being accepted for publication. Apparently that’s not always true.

I am in a publisher’s group on my beloved Facebook. Publishers ask interesting questions that, as a poet, I never considered (even though I am also a co-editor and co-publisher).

A couple days ago, someone asked:

“Is there any polite way to tell a publisher that the books he/she publishes are compelling, but urgently in need of copyediting/gentle line editing? This problem has cropped up with two small publishers I've bought books from recently, and it's just painful. Problems include typos, incorrect words that sound the same (e.g. "cubical" when "cubicle" is meant), massive repetitions of words/phrases (e.g. four occurrences of "conducive to" inside of a couple of pages), etc. It is very distracting…”

The comments back to this person were very surprising and actually made her feel bad for asking. Some publishers said they were small presses (true). They had no staff (true). They couldn’t afford to edit for free (true). Authors didn’t want to pay for editing services (true).

Still, these are publishers who build their reputations on the work they publish. As an author, you also build your reputation on your work. There are some things you won’t know until you see a proof – quirks of the software and so forth, but the words that are being printed…I think that’s on you.

photo art by mohamed hassan
How would you feel if someone returned a book of yours because there were so many errors it was distracting to read? I know how I’d feel. I know that press would probably never publish me again. That person might never buy a book of mine again. That’s money!

This is just a reminder to have your work read by someone else before you submit it for publication, especially if it’s an entire manuscript. It could be a paid editor or an eagle-eyed friend who will tell you the truth. Not many people can afford to buy whatever they want, whenever they want. If you want them to buy your work, it’s not enough that they like you. Make sure it looks good.

Note: For those of you in the Joshua Tree area, Jeff and I are very excited to feature for you this Sunday, January 13th at Space Cowboy Books. We look forward to the open mic and can’t wait to meet you!

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Tobi Alfier's most recent collection of poetry is Slices Of Alice. She is also co-editor with Jeff Alfier of the San Pedro River Review. Don't miss Tobi's columns on the craft of poetry: insert your email address in the "Follow By Email" box to the right of this article and you'll be notified every time a new article appears.


  1. I see "massive repetition of words" all the time. Makes me nuts.

  2. I see my own typos, yikes! Then I see my grammatical errors. As an English major, I am so, well, older now. So, I thank the few, especially one special editor who takes the time to read my writing and edit. A good editor is impossible, for me, to afford. They are difficult to find, period. I am grateful.


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