The Lost Art of Revision

I was a zinester in middle school. I pasted strips of typewritten text on cardboard paper I’d blasted with Halloween hair color spray. I cut out magazine ads – copyright be damned – and filled the lighter colored spots with prose, scrawled with Sharpies. Then I’d photocopy and staple the whole thing and mail it off to the two dozen folks on my mailing list.

Aside from a bad review in a publication aptly named Methyltribenzine, nobody ever commented on any typos. Unedited was the way to go; people appreciated the lack of revision. Craved it, even. It was raw and real.

“You Brainstorm, I Brainstorm, but Brilliance Needs a Good Editor” –Manchester Orchestra 

Fast forward two decades, and while I still think endless revisions can detract from a message, I’ve also developed a vast appreciation for good editing. Or, rather, I’ve developed a bit of an intolerance for poorly constructed arguments, errors, omissions and – of course – typos.

In the world of eBooks, anyone can write anything and save it as a PDF. This is powerful. It makes information instantly accessible for the reader and provides the writer with an instant platform. The bad news? Everyone else is writing eBooks too, making it challenging for the non-discerning reader to sort through the rubble. That last bit of polish that would really make a piece of writing shine is gone.

“Printed books are a painful process, when done traditionally,” explains Erika Block, who has written both books and e-books. “Most of the printed books I have worked on go through several rounds of revisions by the author, then the editor(s) and sometimes the publisher, then by everyone again once the manuscript has been formatted into the book design.”

“In my experience, revisions are much more brutal on a printed book. eBooks, on the other hand, tend to be under-edited and the genre as a whole is somewhat discredited by the number of low quality eBooks out there.”

Unlike the zine editors who deliberately chose to forego revision to make a point, to be minimalist and uncensored and raw, many e-book writers don’t seek out revision for a variety of other reasons. Perhaps some of them are trying to get rich quick through a self-help e-book, marketed on ClickBank. Some might not want to budget the time or money for editing or proofreading. And some, perhaps, simply don’t know any better.

Are customers so desperate for immediate information that they don’t care if what they are purchasing is a mess of grammatical errors and typos? Possibly, but this can detract not only from their individual e-books but from the genre as a whole. Still, one of the many strengths of eBooks is how quickly they can be produced. So what’s the solution?

eBooks don’t have to be perfect, and extensive rewrites are often unnecessary. But a second pair of eyes can be invaluable. If you can’t afford to hire an editor, at least have someone proofread your document for errors, omissions, misspellings and typos. Your readers will thank you!

More about Yael:

Yael Grauer is a freelance writer and editor living in Hudson, WI. She covers food and nutrition, health and wellness, physical fitness and mixed martial arts. Yael teaches workshops on everything from creative writing to search engine optimization to breaking into magazines. You can check out her blog at

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