The ideal audience for all authors is made up mostly of avid readers.
The National Assessment of Adult Literacy in the US (1992 – 2003) says 13% or 28 million adult Americans are proficient (can perform complex and challenging literacy activities) at the quantitative literacy level while 95 million are intermediate (can perform moderately challenging literacy activates), 63 million basic (can perform simple and everyday literacy activates) and 30 million are below basic (no more than the most simple and concrete literacy skills).
My literacy level is proficient but not perfect when it comes to editing. In other words, I am not an ARG.
Of the 123 million adult Americans that read at basic or above, few are experts at editing but many read books. A high literacy level does not equal a high editing level. It just means you have a higher vocabulary and understand what you are reading at a higher level.
In fact, my experience as an English teacher taught me that of the 29 million adult Americans that are proficient, only 2.8 million belong to the top echelon of editing literacy—the rare anal-retentive grammarian (ARG) with a photographic memory and instant recall that has memorized all 532 pages in the fourth course of Warriner’s English Grammar and Composition textbook.
Therefore, to be criticized viciously by one of the few ARGs (less than one percent of the adult population) is meaningless. What an indie, self-published author must strive for is to write at an editing literacy level that is adequate for the other 121 million readers that will not recognize many of the mistakes that an ARG will criticize.
In fact, here is a profile of the reading audience authors should cultivate. Sixty-two million Americans are considered “avid” readers who are “disproportionately buying books.” Source: Bookweb.org
Therefore, among avid readers, ARGs may make up at most only 4.5% of that segment of the population. Of course, it is up to the author which audience he or she wants to impress:
A. sixty-two million (39 million are female) avid readers (subtract for ARGs)
B. the 2.8 million ARGs (being an ARG does not mean one is also an avid reader)
C. adult Americans that read below basic literacy level
For an example of one ARG, in 2008, after my work earned Editor’s and Publisher’s Choice with iUniverse, was reviewed by the Midwest Book Review and earned a 5 out of 5 for grammar from a Writer’s Digest judge, I submitted my novel to a UK review Blog that counted mistakes as part of the review. The reviewer would stop reading once she found about a dozen mistakes (of any kind) and then write a scathing review.
I mistakenly believed I had a chance to earn a positive review from this Blogger, so I submitted my work but she failed it. After my work failed, I discovered that every book, except one, reviewed on this site had failed and the one that had less than a dozen mistakes was criticized for its plot, characterization and theme.
Not one self-published indie author reviewed by this one UK Blogger received a glowing review. The ARG bias was obvious.
Since the publication of my first novel in December 2007, I have given this topic a lot of thought, and I have concluded that an author does not have to satisfy the ARGs.
What an author must do is meet the traditional industry standards for editing as it is obvious that my work did.
This means that there cannot be so many mistakes that it distracts the average “avid” reader.
It is obvious that an ARG has a much higher standard than the traditional publishing industry (newspapers, magazines and publishers) does. A biased ARG may scream bloody murder for editing perfection in his or her one-star reviews on Amazon or Goodreads, but he or she is not going to find that perfection easily even among traditionally published books.
However, every indie self-published author, no matter what his or her editing skill level, may find editing tools to improve the work before it appears in the market place—even without hiring a skilled freelance editor.
To not take advantage of those tools and avoid editing is a serious mistake.
Continued August 10, 2012 in The NEED to Edit – Part 5 or return to Part 3
View this Six-Part Series as a Single Page
Note: My Blog posts do not go through the exhaustive editing process my novels do.
Lloyd Lofthouse, a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran, is the award winning author of The Concubine Saga.
His latest novel is Running with the Enemy. Blamed for a crime he did not commit while serving in Vietnam, his country considers him a traitor. Ethan Card is a loyal U.S. Marine desperate to prove his innocence or he will never go home again.
And the woman he loves and wants to save was trained to hate and kill Americans.
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