Bait and Switch Editing

Bait and switch tactics don't usually work well in writing.  Of course, surprises and twists are good, but if you write a romance and market it as a psychological thriller, you'll disappoint readers.  If you start a novel as a realistic, contemporary mystery, and near the end reveal that the real culprit was a vampire, you'll alienate the contemporary mystery audience.  If you title an article, "Seven Ways to Avoid Ironing" and then talk only about the history of ironing, you have failed. 

I've been reading a lot of self-published novels the last few years, and a different sort of bait and switch pattern has emerged in an unfortunate number of them.  This is a bait and switch of editing.  The book starts well, with few typos and other errors.  Then it begins to deteriorate.  Sometimes this is so dramatic that I have to believe the author hired a professional editor but only wanted to pay for the first few chapters.  

These authors must believe that once the reader is invested enough in the character or story line, they won't care about the editing and will keep reading to see what happens.  This works—in part—on me.  I want to see what happens in the end.  But I do care about the editing too, and I get increasingly annoyed with the author.  I feel almost betrayed, like he didn't have enough respect for his readers to properly edit the whole thing, and decided instead to purposely trick us.  I'm probably extreme in this, but even people who aren't as sensitive to errors as I am will often feel disappointed, and many will decide against reading more by the author.  And you always want to leave the reader wanting more.

If you're a regular to this site, with all the editing tips and resources included here, you probably wouldn't dream of intentionally baiting and switching like this.  But sometimes it happens even if you don't mean it.  We've probably all edited the first one to three chapters of our novels more heavily than any other part, because that's what agents want to see.  The first chapter is what will hook or let go of a reader.  But do not neglect all the other chapters.  Use the hints and tips on Writers on the Move to make sure you don't fall into this pattern.

Melinda Brasher's newest story sale went to NOUS magazine.  It's a tale of a corporate unhappiness and a "take that" scheme that doesn't go as planned.  Check out the magazine here:  NOUS.  Other travel articles and short fiction appear in Go NomadInternational LivingElectric SpecIntergalactic Medicine Show, and others.  For an e-book collection of some of her favorite published pieces, check out Leaving Home.  For something a little more medieval, read her YA fantasy novel, Far-KnowingVisit her online at

1 comment:

Karen Cioffi said...

Melinda, great post and one that's very important. I've written about this also - create a quality product - that includes proper editing so you don't short-change your reader.

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