Writer Beware: The Perfectionism Pit

by Nancy Humphreys on April 10, 2012

Why do we need editors?

An indexer I know refuses to ask clients to put her name in the books she indexes even though that is a great way to market indexing services.

“Why,” I asked.

“Because editors always crap up my work.”

OK! Here’s what I have to say about that.

I’ve been a published writer since I was age twelve. Changes editors made to my work was my main gripe as a writer. But I’ve changed – for two reasons:


Being in business for yourself means your first priority must always be getting new clients. You don’t get a weekly or monthly paycheck when you’re self-employed. And, as a book packager I met a book fair once told me, “You have to reinvent yourself every three years.”

Clients come and go; your interests change; or you get sick of being typecast. Whatever the reason, you must sell your services constantly when you’re self-employed. The up-side of that is that you get in the groove by doing it every day. You can sell your services without even thinking. If you’re an employee, on the other hand, you have to gear up like crazy whenever you are laid off or find you need to move on to a new job.

Also, If you don’t like a client and/or they don’t like you, you can walk away without losing your job. Now that is what I call real “security”. It’s a lot harder to walk away when you are an employee and have only one paycheck coming in.

So when I write an index for a book I ask for my name to be put on the page with the index itself because that is the place it will be noticed by the most people. If not on the page titled, “Index,” then I like to see my name in the front of the book, with my website listed also. That’s my way of advertising for new clients. The nice thing is: it’s free!


As a blogger, I’ve realized that editors are people with real skills that writers need. In particular, they can help me pare down my content in ways I would never think of. Blog posts have to be short, much shorter than the kind of writing I’m used to doing with articles or short stories.

Also, I’m old enough to see that everyone in this world needs to feel useful in some capacity. That is how most of us connect with others. Our first question when meeting a new person is “What do you do?” not “Who are you?” Editors, I’ve come to see, are people too. They are people just like me. They want their work to be valued.

In addition, perfectionism is a mean goddess. She requires hours of one’s time as payment for her blessing. Writing is as natural to me as breathing. With so much left to write, I understand now that I really don’t have the time to try to make my writing perfect. In fact, if I did make my posts perfect, I’d have to go back to being “pissed off” at editors who make revisions to my work. Life is too short and precious for that!

On the other hand, you don’t want to be the writer whose writings the editor hates to see coming because they will need to change so much of what you wrote. There’s a sweet spot somewhere in between those two extremes.

That’s why whether I’m writing for a publisher or self-publishing my own posts, I do my best, and I leave the editor a little something to do. That’s not hard, because after all, none of us are actually perfect and certainly not me! (Or should the last word in that sentence be “I”?)

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To learn more about Marketing Your Book to Libraries: An Insider’s Guide for Authors please click here.


Marketing Your Book to Libraries Marketing Your Books to Libraries: An Insider's Guide for Authors by former librarian Nancy K. Humphreys includes: 
  • How to tell what kind of library to target
  • Types of librarians and books they order
  • Strategies to get past the "gatekeepers" who influence librarians
  • Right ways to approach librarians most likely to order your book

Learn more »

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