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I think that Lucas is talking about reviews.
Reviews are unimportant unless they bring readers. Readers are important.
Remember that and prosper.
I feel as though I could be here a lifetime reading and never have enough information to get a book published.. I am so appreciative for all of those willing to take their time to help us newbies out.
Just felt I had to comment on that from having read a biography, and also his autobiography/writing craft book "On Writing"
Last edited by gingerwoman; 12-16-2012 at 12:56 PM.
For someone who isn't published, this post is very informative. Thank you for sharing!
The Atlantic Bond - YA Spec-Fic - 81,000 (finalizing)
This is greatly helpful. Thank you!
It's been a very long time since this thread has seen the top of the "New Posts" list. I've been seeing a new round of shiny-fresh members who are trying to figure out how this whole publishing thing works. I re-read this whole thread today and realized that there really isn't a good discussion of editing, other than in the initial post by the lovely Jenna. So it's time.
Until an author enters the production process of a major publisher, the timeline and duties of the various people in the editing department don't really even exist in an author's mind. Really. "Editing" has become such a catch-all word that some aspiring authors don't even realize there are multiple people who make up the whole of editing:
"Developmental Editing" is called by a variety of names in the publishing industry (depending on who your editor worked for or were trained by when they started editing.) In addition to developmental editing, I've heard it called style editing, line editing, and substantive editing. The editor can either be the editor who acquired the book for the publisher, or someone assigned to the book. Either way, the developmental editor frequently "owns" the book. They control whether or not the final book is accepted by the publisher and when it's ready for publication. They mediate disputes between the author and copyeditor or proofreader and generally are the "lead" person on the book. Very likely at a major house, a failure of editing of a book could mean an editor's job. Who makes the decision it was poorly edited rests with different people at different houses.Originally Posted by JennaGlatzer
The actual type of editing involves a line-by-line reading of the manuscript by the editor to digest the overall plot, characters and flow. This process can take weeks to months, depending on the complexity of the plot or problems the editor sees with the book. As Jenna says above, the editor "may point out where the plot is getting too hairy or complicated, where things are dragging or getting confusing, a character that needs to be cut or better developed, etc." But it's more than that too. An editor becomes the book. They enter the author's world and try to blend what they see the author's vision is with what actually appears on the page. That's frequently a problem for we writers. We "see" the people in our heads, hear them talk, breathe with them. But sometimes, what's in our head doesn't make it onto the page . . . or makes it onto the page in a confusing way. For example, in my first editorial letter, the editor commented that in one scene my hero sounded like James Bond. But just two pages later, he sounded like My Cousin Vinny. She suggested choosing one, and mentioned she preferred the James Bond version.
Suggestions, mentions, guidance. That's what a developmental editor does. Never heavy handed, but extremely detailed, while always respecting the author's rights and vision of their book. A good editor would never consider altering a single word of text without specific permission of the author. Every word on every page is pored over, every word on every page is subject to edit and commented on if the editor feels changes need to be made. If there are a dozen instances of the same error, every one is mentioned.
Most authors I know consider the copy editor the "grammar Nazi." They are frequently masters of the language the book is published in. Every accept/except, every than/then, every tense, every gerund are up for grabs. It's also the copy editor who creates the "style sheet." A style sheet is a fantastic tool for an author. They literally count every time a name is used--from people and place names to reality-specific language and terms. They look for "version errors" where a character name changed from Bob to Robert and if there are any instances of "Bob" left. They make sure you haven't broken your own rules in series (like re-using a character you killed off two books ago.) The copy editor is also a fact checker. They check to see if any real life locations, names or things are misnamed or spelled incorrectly. They check to be sure no trademarked names are misused and or disparaged (bad press issues). I've also been fortunate to get a few copy editors who actually were fans of the world, so they notice things from book to book that a hired copy editor might not.3. Copyediting
Then it goes to the copy editor, who works on grammar, spelling, continuity, fact-checking, etc. You will have a chance to review the copy editor's work. The copy editor may have several questions for you marked on the manuscript. If you disagree with any of the copyedits, you can mark "stet" next to the copy editor's marking. ("Stet" means "let it stand.")
But a bad copy editor can be an author's worst nightmare. I once had a copy editor change a term of reality--"Wolven", being the name of my law enforcement group, to "the Wolfen". I should mention this was in book SIX of the series. There were also other changes to the terminology that were "corrected" without permission. I had to go through word by word in the book to fix it, plus involve the style editor.
Proofreading, or galley edits, are the final stage of the manuscript edit. The proofreader is going to look at the book after it's set on the page. They're going to look at the text with all the italics and scene breaks and gutters (white space from the edge of the page to where the first print starts) in place to make sure everything looks correct. Every paragraph indent, every page number. There are typesetter marks that show the center of the page and the cut marks for the paper. It's basically ready to go to press when the proof reader gets done with the book.4. Proofs
Then it goes to layout, then proofreading. At this point, your manuscript is laid out just how it will be when it's printed. The proofreader checks for last-minute typos and formatting errors (A-heads that should be B-heads, widows and orphans, wrong italics, tables in the wrong spot, etc.). You get the proofs (also called galleys/gallies) and this is your last chance to review before the book is printed. If your book cover hasn't been finalized yet, it should be now.
BTW, doing galley proofs is NOT the time to suddenly decide you need to add a paragraph to chapter 2. It's too late in the process. Every letter, even every comma has to be accounted for so one page has the exact same dimensions as the others. It's closer to a photograph now than a manuscript. If you add a word, you better suggest taking a word out that's nearly the same length. Now, you can change things if you find something egregious (like discovering the heroine has blonde hair in one chapter and red in the next---damnable version errors!) But change the page proofs at your peril.
I know we have a ton of professional editors of fiction, NF, poetry and magazines here at AW, as well as multi-published authors in all genres. Let's open this up beyond what editing IS, to how it works in the various genres/categories in the real world.
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This is a must read thread. Thank you for having made it sticky ;-)
I have a question though - this thread was posted almost ten years ago (is it crazy to anyone else that '05 was almost 10 years ago already???). Has much changed in the publishing world? We know NOT to go with PA and that POD has it's place but what else has come up that we should know about/avoid?
You might be surprised how many people come to AW now who still don't know this stuff.
One big thing I'm seeing is how desperately and sneakily vanity /subsidy publishers are trying to brand themselves as author services and self publishers.
It wasn't me, it was her!
Somebody asked what's changed since this thread first began. Well, I didn't read the entire thread, but I saw a lot of things in the beginning that are different now. First, let me tell you that I've published 100 books for children, YAs, and adults, both fiction and nonfiction. My publishers have included Knopf, Putnam, Oxford University Press (when they had a children's division), Scholastic, Philomel, Wiley, Little, Brown and many more, so I am experienced. I also won an Edgar and other awards and received many starred reviews, so I think I'm a good writer.
But one of the big things in publishing now is Nielsen BookScan, which tells anybody who pays for it how many copies your books have sold. And believe me, if your most recent books didn't sell well, you've just become a non-person in the publishing world. Might as well change your name and start over. (There was an article in the NY Times about an agent who actually did that for a client, because that was the only way the agent could sell the client's next book.)
And let me tell you, extremely few publishers (and none of the big ones) will consider your book unless it is submitted by an agent. And now many of the agents won't look at your book unless you've already published, or unless you come recommended by someone they know (like one of their established clients.)
So let me tell you how I became a non-person. My wife and I (we usually collaborate) had written a nonfiction adult book for Little, Brown that did well enough that they brought it out in paperback after the hardcover edition. We were lucky enough (Ha! so we thought) to have the editor-in-chief for our editor, so we came to him with a proposal for a book about the theft of the Mona Lisa. He considered it, and then came back to us with a counter-proposal: do a book about that crime and several other crimes that had occurred in Paris around that time (early 1900s). He even did his own outline.
Unfortunately, we couldn't resist because we thought that if we wrote the book according to his outline, he'd make sure it was promoted. Little did we know.
We slaved away, turned the book in, and then waited. He sent the manuscript back with some line edits which we then took care of, and said the book would be out by such-and-such a time. The next we saw, there was the cover of the book on Amazon. It was the worst cover we had ever had in all the books we've written. Well, we had a clause in our contract that said the publisher had to "consult" with us about the cover, so we took it to our agent, who agreed that the cover was unprofessionally bad. But after conferring with the editor, he told us it was too late to change it. (Did I mention that the editor no longer took our phone calls? In case you don't know, that's a very bad sign.)
Then, one day, we got a message from the publisher's rights department that Vanity Fair was going to publish an excerpt from our book! Hooray! That surely meant it was going to be big and that the publisher would push the book.
Nope. In fact, while we worked with the editor at Vanity Fair to stitch together the parts of the book they wanted (all the parts about the theft of the Mona Lisa, BTW), he let us know that the rights person at Little, Brown had actually tried to talk him out of buying the excerpt. Well, since the editor was still not accepting our calls, we called the rights person, who kind of laughed sheepishly and admitted that was true, saying only that there was another book about the theft of the Mona Lisa coming out, and she wanted to make sure Vanity Fair had the right one.
Actually, our agent told us later, the sales department had looked at our book well before the pub date and decided not to devote any energy to it, partially because they didn't understand the concept and partially because of the other book about the theft of the Mona Lisa. Young writers don't understand that to publishers, not all books are equal. They have limited promotional resources, and don't divide them up equally. It's no longer a world in which wise editors like Bennett Cerf and Max Perkins promote their authors. You have to appeal to the sales people, who would rather sell a nice, easy-concept self-help book than your literary efforts.
So time went by, the issue of Vanity Fair came out, with our excerpt mentioned on the cover, but still we didn't see our book in bookstores. Then, a month after the original pub date, the rights person called us to announce gaily that she had sold the paperback rights! Hooray! Who bought them? Well, some academic publisher in the Midwest who paid--wait for it--the lavish sum of $1000 for the rights! Then we knew that the publisher was truly giving up on our book before it ever got a chance. (Later, a British movie company optioned our book three times, so somebody besides the editors at Vanity Fair must have thought it was good.)
Well, as you may guess, Nielsen BookScan didn't report high sales figures for the book...and because of that, our agent would no longer send our proposals out to publishers. He didn't have the guts to tell us that outright because as it happened, the contract he had "negotiated" for us with Little, Brown let the publisher have the ENTIRE $10,000 that Vanity Fair had paid, as well as the $1000 that the academic publisher had paid. (In truth, they were applied against our advance, which the book will never earn back.)
The agent, of course, claimed that our proposals weren't good enough for him to send out. In reality, at least two of those proposals were eventually published--by other authors with harder-working agents. So I told my wife that an agent who doesn't send out your work, isn't an agent, and we left him.
Our next agent was a young woman who seemed energetic and ambitious. In reality, she wanted to turn some of our earlier books, which were out of print, into e-books. She too failed to get us any new work, and one day we got an email from her saying she had had a baby and wanted to work on raising children instead of pursuing her career in publishing.
Leaving us without an agent, and a bad sales record on BookScan. Which means we've been trying without success to pitch new book ideas to new agents. The majority of them, BTW, never bother to respond at all. One of them suggested that she could try to place one of our books with an academic publisher. She thought she could get $5000 for it. Of course, that is before her 15% cut, taxes we'd have to pay, and the rights for illustrations (which usually run around $1000). So given that it takes well over a year (or two) to write the book, that doesn't explain how we can eat and pay rent.
Right now, I'm sending around to agents a couple of YA novels I've written, since that's a popular genre that we've been successful at before. One agent asked for the full manuscript of one in May. I wrote her in September asking if she'd gotten around to it, and I got a curt note saying she was busy. Another agent, with a second book, asked for a full in July. I wrote her in September and she told me she was reading it and would have an answer in two weeks. That was five weeks ago.
We have decided to self-publish. Can anybody blame us? Check out the first of our blogs at Seikeiworld.blogspot.com.
And that's REALLY "How Real Publishing Works" in 2014. And BTW, you can guess when I read about the trouble Little, Brown is having with Amazon...you can guess who I'm rooting for, can't you? Go, Amazon!
Last edited by Seikei; 10-21-2014 at 08:12 PM. Reason: typo
Wow, Seikei, that is certainly a sobering tale. I have heard similar types of things from published authors that I've met at Cons. I have witnessed first-hand this thing about becoming a non-person and publishing a subsequent book under a new pen name. I see quite a few famous names of years ago turning to self-publishing.
Is it really so very hopeless for an un-published nobody like me to get a foot in the door with a commercial publisher? Is selfie-indie my only option?
No it's not. I'm a big fan of informed self-publishing and I'll probably choose that route eventually. What happened to Seikei is awful, and not uncommon - but not all agents are incompetent pricks. All effective publishers are out for their own best interests, so it can help to learn how to play their games. There is a span of time during which an author can leverage sales and notice by working with a commercial publisher.
This is an advantage that most self-published authors simply do not have.
If you are involved with small publishing houses, much of Seikei's helpful information could be watered down a bit. You don't have to have an agent. You won't necessarily get dumped if your sales aren't way up there on the last novel. You may have some input on the cover as well (mileage varies). Sometimes folks forget that there is an intermediate step from major publishers to self publishing.
Kerry (six books with a small publisher)
NEPAT and PA stand for?
Ah: thank you
Anyone from India on this thread? I'm curious to know if it works any differently in the South Asian world.