Is Editing One Person’s Responsibility, or Everyone’s?

I posted a question to epubagent earlier regarding a particular gay historical which we reviewed on Speak Its Name and was, at best, Braveheart Universe. The errors within it were legion, beginning with the dates that Hollywood had squished to make it more romantic and continuing with Hadrian’s Wall being in Yorkshire.

The question I asked was—did they think it was part of the agent’s job to check an author’s research, or should they just assume that the author knows what they are doing?  Should it be all the writer’s responsibility, or should it be everyone who represents it—the writer, the agent, the editor, the publisher? I didn’t mean to be confrontational, although I’m sure I sounded it—but it’s something that’s been on my mind for years. Should research be checked prior to an agent selling it, or a publisher sending it off for publication?

I know, from experience, that small publishers don’t have a “history boffin” and certainly there are few people around with a knowledge of all eras who could confidently edit anything from caveman to WW2, so who—if anyone is keeping an eye on their books to make sure they are accurate and aren’t causing people to giggle behind their hands?

I’ve been pretty lucky with my editors now I’m in a settled publishing circle. TJ Pennington is first class and won’t—if she can possibly help it—allow an anachronism past her. Lisa at Running Press (now, sadly moved on) was astounding and it seemed to me that she checked almost every word in Transgressions and gave me a huge list of words that I’d used that weren’t in use in the 17th century. Mark Probst – owner of Cheyenne, and Steve Berman owner of Lethe Books both are passionate about historical novels and want them to be the best product they can produce.

I understand this attitude. It’s not their work. They didn’t slave for weeks and months and years on it. (Although the editors work very hard indeed) but they represent the book, and the book represents them. I DON’T understand a massive concern like Ellora’s Cave—who must, heavens to Betsy, have dozens of editors working for them—who allow such incredible and unbelievable anachronisms to be published.

What do you think? Should it be between the writer and the editor alone—and then if that editor doesn’t know, or is too lazy to check the research, then it’s just too bad if the book goes to print with Regency women having ipods and scotsmen drinking lager in 1283. Or do you think that the book should be checked all the way along the assembly line?

I’ll be very interested if you can add your voice.

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