Editing.

I can hear you sighing from here.

Writers hate it. Editors hate it. Publishers hate paying for it on top of paying the book’s author.

But, as any reader will tell you, much of the success of a book relies on the work of its editor(s). When done right, you don’t notice the editing. The writing flows smoothly, the sentences melt into each other and it brings you into the story just as much as its plot and characters do.

When it’s not done right, when it’s shoddy or absent editing, it can completely destroy a book. It draws your attention away from the story and characters and ruins your reading experience.

This just happened to me with a noir novel titled ”Add Flesh to the Fire”, written by Orrie Hitt, an author who wrote many ”racy” pulp and noir novels in the fifties and sixties.

This particular novel was first published in 1959, by Beacon.

The edition I picked up from Amazon was published in 2013 by Black Curtain Press, based in Virginia. And I must say that I felt ripped-off upon reading it. Not because of the plot (which was amusing, even if it wasn’t original) or the characters (shallow at best).

My main issue with this edition is the editing. It’s awful. So bad that I thought about tossing the book into my discard pile after 20 pages. But, like a car wreck on the highway, it got so bad that I couldn’t look away. I had to finish it.

Now, I’m not blaming Mr. Hitt for this. He, like many of his fellow authors of the era, would write a few books per year, if not per month. When you’re shooting out so many books, thousands and thousands of a words at break-neck speed, you don’t always take the time to edit the text and fix all the typos and spelling mistakes. You leave that up to your editor.

But there’s no reason for a publisher to sell a 54 year-old book filled with so many mistakes. And not just typos. There’s a lot more than that in this book.

The first one I noticed was on page 16, where ”he LIT a cigarette” becomes ”he HT a cigarette”.

How does this even happen? How do you get H-T from L-I-T?

What’s worse is that it happens with LIE, too, which becomes HE. And LIP, transformed into HP (”I leaned in and kissed her HP” just doesn’t have the same ring to it). Nearly all instances of a 3-letter word with L-I in it get the same treatment.

There are many others. Too many to note. It goes on for 146 long pages.

What did the publisher do with this text?

I may be naive, but I do think that Beacon, the original publisher, did not publish their book with so many mistakes. I’d like to believe that’s not the way they did business back in those days.

Did Black Curtain Press simply re-type the whole text into a word processor without using the spell-check function once completed? Or, did they scan the pages of an earlier edition, only to have the OCR software change some words?

How hard would it have been to run the text through a spell-check program? How costly would it have been to have an editor correct the text? There are so many tools available to publishers today, it’s inexcusable to publish such drivel.

Black Curtain Press disrespected their customers, if you ask me.

IT’S ABOUT RESPECT

The issue of spelling and grammar errors has always gotten under my skin.

Maybe because I was thought at an early age that proper spelling and grammar showed how much you respected the language and the people you were communicating with, whether orally or through words on paper.

When I sit down to write, I’m shooting for a clean text with as little mistakes as possible. I don’t care if it’s the first draft of a 60,000 word novel or a short email. I pride myself in being mistake-free. Heck, I can barely bring myself to use U instead of YOU when I write a text message to my better-half!

And when I shell out fifteen or twenty or thirty bucks for a book, or when I read an article from the NY Times web site, I expect that the publisher did not skim on the editing and that the text will be 99% error-free. That’s just what I expect from a professional outfit.

Obviously, Black Curtain Press was not a professional outfit.

Must be why they went under!

WHAT DO YOU THINK?

Am I the only one who takes this matter so seriously? Have you ever come across a book with such flawed editing work?

Do you put a lot of care into your own spelling when writing, or do you leave that up to the editor who’ll review your work?