If you have ever worked in an accounts department, or received an invoice for goods or services, you may have noticed the abbreviation ‘E. & O. E.’ printed somewhere upon it. This stands for ‘errors and omissions excepted’.
It is essentially a disclaimer: a commercial ‘get-out’ clause used to reduce a company’s liability for potentially incorrect or incomplete information. It states that information cannot be relied upon, or may have changed by the time of use, or that the information is correct, but no responsibility will be held if an error has occurred.
If you self-publish without employing the services of an editor, and are just relying on your own checking abilities (however good they are), or on those of friends and family, then you may as well print ‘E. & O. E.’ on the pages of your novel, because there will be errors and there will be omissions, and probably more…
The problem is that Joe Public can be your harshest critic. One only has to read the 1-star reviews on, say, Amazon, and an author’s sensitive ego can be torn to shreds in a sentence (the writer’s ego is something to blog about, but later, perhaps).
So, what stops a prospective author from having their work copy-edited? Lack of finances? Fear of criticism? Naivety? Over-confidence? I suspect one, some, or all of these!
It is my belief that many self-publishers-to-be do not fully understand the role of a copy-editor. There is so much more to it than just simply checking through a document page by page, to ensure that spelling, punctuation, and grammar are correct. A copy-editor has to go through a typescript line by line, word by word, and character by character, making sure that a piece of work is suitable for publication by ensuring that the work is prepared to a standard that Joe Public will understand. It is not a five-minute job either, so there is little point in being impatient. Copy-editing takes time, it takes concentration, and it takes dedication.
To be fair, though, copy-editing is not cheap. It’s not cheap because it’s a skilled job. I am sure that there are writers who simply cannot afford to pay for the services of a copy-editor, and so take their chances, but sadly, it’s not enough, especially if they are thinking of submitting to a literary agent. In conventional publishing, the work has to be error-free and that goes for self-publishing too.
If you decide to self-publish without having your work copy-edited, you will need to make sure that your skin is thick enough to cope with those low star ratings. If you sell enough copies, there will always be one. Everyone’s a critic! Bad reviews will pull the book’s overall rating down, and risks putting off potential buyers. Even worse, if the sample shows errors, you may not sell any.
Maybe it’s not such a bad idea, after all, to print ‘E. & O. E.’ on the copyright page of your novel, or on the back cover, before going to print!