Tuesday, April 05, 2005

If You Can't Take an Edit, Stay Out of the Publishing House

The Editor is Your Friend
If You Can't Take an Edit,
- Stay Out of the Publishing House
Stefani V. Kelsey
Editor-in-chief of eXtasy Books

Back in the day...
...in order to see a book in print, you were forced to do it the old-fashioned way: submit to a major publishing house and use the rejection slips to dab your tears. Repeat the process until you either buried your dreams--and your manuscript--in the bottom of a trunk, or by God and by Golly...Hit the Big Time!

Now, the world is your publishing house.
If Doubleday is foolish enough not to recognize your genius, you can hit small press, or POD, or ebook, or even do it yourself, whether by paying someone to do it for you, or truly making it your own. With so many options, finding the right fit is worth taking the time.

A huge factor in the decision-making process is that of the most feared facet of the publishing world: The Editor.

One misapprehension that the editor is out to hack, twist, trash, or otherwise fold, spindle, and mutilate your work. The true job of an editor is to take what you have and make it the best it can be, not to rewrite it in their own image and likeness. Spelling, grammar and sentence structure are standard, as is consistency.

You may get a manuscript back marked with enough red to illustrate the St. Valentine's Massacre, and still find not all that much is changed, as far as the true heart of your work: the story.

An editor doesn't bake the cake, just decorates it.

Unfortunately, not all editors know their role.

Some want to rewrite a story in a way they like, regardless of author's voice. Others fail to understand the author's world building, and end up literally destroying the carefully wrought storyline. Still more take on the role with a minimum of training and experience, and end up putting in more mistakes than they take out.

Usually because of a bad experience such as this, the author goes into the publishing world mistrusting the editor, and the relationship is doomed from the start.

The trick is knowing the difference between a professional edit, and the evil alternative.

Editing can seem traumatic...
You just handed over your baby, and when you get that book back, you feel like you've been attacked. Sentences you labored over have been hash-marked. The quaint turn of phrase you spent a good amount of time getting just so has been designated "too passive", and there is a detailed note attached asking you all sorts of inane questions you thought were made perfectly clear in line 18 of page four.

What would bring an otherwise kind person to perform such brutality?

Oddly enough, they're doing it to help you.
If a publisher signs you, they think you have a good bit of writing that the public may enjoy. So their goal is to put out a book that people will want to spend money on.

Now, no matter how good you and your crit group are, things will be missed.
That's the editor's job.
What seems perfectly clear and right to you after fifty readings may not be so to a reader during their first. A certain turn of phrase may read as offensive, or it may just not fit the image the house wants to project.

And of course, two words to strike fear in any wordsmith's heart:
House Style.
Every publisher has their own style, terminology, and formatting methods. Which, in most cases, is nothing like yours.

But the end result is not intended to send you into a fit of weeping and bosom-rending, but merely to create a marketable product.

If it's not about the money, or you think your misspellings are creative, and should be left in for emphasis, or you truly fear the evil editor, don't go to a publisher.

Insane advice?
No, self-preservation.

You're better off going to a vanity press, or simply doing it yourself, because all it will result in is bad blood between you and the publisher.

If you sign their contract, you are in essence agreeing to do it their way. If you don't like their way, don't sign the contract.

And yes, an ebook publisher is a real publisher.

And a contract is a contract.

Going to an ebook publisher is not a "last resort."

It also does not mean you get the right to do or say whatever you like. An epublisher commands the same respect as any other.

If Doubleday signed you:
  • Would you argue with and/or insult the editor?
  • Would you ask the publisher after they spent hours editing and putting your book up for sale to dissolve your contract because you want to go to another publisher?
  • More important, would they?
Straight up answer is no, on all counts. You wouldn't do it, and they wouldn't take it. So keep that in mind when you make your decision.

© 2005 Stefani V. Kelsey,
Executive Managing Editor, eXtasy Books
Also writing as Eppie Finalist and CAPA Nominee Rian Monaire
Article Featured in Xodtica Magazine March 2005

Posted with Permission

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