The Next Circle of Hell, Vol. 2

editing_for_authors
Editing for authors: because every writer needs a good editor.

litdawg

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PutPutt--like your passion project, my time and ability to write for the mss waxed and waned. I know there are butt in chair enthusiasts, which I generally am part of, but writing comes out of a complex mixture of life elements. Why we write--the friction that lights the match that flames the passion--is less clear some days, and it drains all gas from the tank. It's great you had another project on hand where the alchemy still worked.

Elle--how exciting! At the proof stage, the cement is really close being dried. And then the thing is done forever :), ready to join the pantheon of other beautiful things. Congrats!
 
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KingM

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I'm just feeling so impatient today. My agent has 4 of my manuscripts now and I KNOW things take time and I just started submission on my second and it's going to take months, but I'm full of that "back to school" September energy and wish publishing wasn't so slow.
Four! I'd like to hear the story about how that happened.
 

A.P.M.

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Four! I'd like to hear the story about how that happened.
Nothing too crazy, I hope! When she signed me I it was for project #1. I had project #2 in my back pocket and project number #4 half written. While on sub with #1, I revised #2 according to my agent's thoughts and finished #4, while also writing #3 that I had brainstormed with my agent. Unfortunately #1 doesn't seem like it's going to sell and my agent wants to wait for a better market feel for #2, so we're starting to go on sub with #3 at the moment and she will give #4 a read.

Now I've moved on to plotting two more ideas, and my agent suggested the market would be easier for one vs the other, so I'm starting to write #5. I do have another MS in my pocket as well but I'm not keen on the ending, so I'm waiting to send her that until I can fix it.

My agent likes that I have a lot of ideas, and I do like writing. I just hope one of them sells!
 
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Fuchsia Groan

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I have received my proofs today, and omg I've written a book. It's a book with my name on the spine. Needless to say tears were shed. Also it is one sexy proof!
Congratulations, Elle! Such an amazing feeling. I just sent back corrections on my proofs. I love the design. I am, of course, biased. All I can do now is hope someone is willing to read this book besides me and my editor and copyeditor.

APM, it’s so great to have a bunch of projects ready or close to ready! But frustrating to have to wait, I know. Are they all in the same category/genre, or all over the map?

I find that having a few different projects going (mine are in different categories) makes it easier to avoid burnout. A short vacation from a ms. gives me fresh eyes and makes me excited about it again. In my case, I’m unlikely to sell them all; it’s about throwing things at the wall and seeing what sticks.
 

Putputt

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Elle - Congratulations!! Your ARC is up next on my TBR list and I am SO excited. I zoomed through the books ahead of it because I knew yours would be up next. AAHH!

Litdawg - Thanks! Yeah, I'm usually a BiC enthusiast too, and I tried toughing it out for a few days, but I was just hating the whole process. It didn't help that when I switched to writing a synopsis for a contracted book, I fell completely in love with it.

APM - It took me years to get published, and the main thing that helped was doing what you're doing...just writing one book after another. I hope that #3 will have a short sub journey and ends with a hearty sale!

Fuchsia - Yaay, congrats on sending off proof corrections! I'm so looking forward to WMIAU. (Heh, I read that out loud as "we-meow")

I'm currently editing my adult suspense and very grudgingly admitting that a change I was reluctant to do at first is actually making it a thousand times better. I'm so ridiculously excited about this book.
 
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Quickbread

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Hi all, I'm catching up on the thread. Lots of things happening, which is great to see after the summer slowdown. Very quickly...

utesfanami - Good luck with your new manuscript. I'm sorry the last submission didn't go well, but keep hope. You never know what order your work will get published in.

MercyMe - I know all about the long wait for comments. The waiting is so hard, isn't it?

Carrie - Good luck with your queries. Hopefully responses will pick up now that summer vacations are over. It sounds like you're being very focused and targeted, so it will just be a matter of finding the perfect fit.

Elle - Congrats on the cover! Double congrats because you love it. :)

Fuchsia - I think you need to write the story inside you. If that's upmarket, character-driven work, so be it. I'd totally read that!

Harlequin - Congrats on your first blurb. That's so exciting!

Raggy - That's great that your agent loves your new manuscript, especially after your very long wait. Good luck with the edits. At least you agree with the feedback.

Putputt - Okay, you can't say, but ... yay?! Sounds like you've got great things cooking.

A.P.M. - Good luck with your submission round!


To everyone here, thank you so much for the condolences for my husband. It's been a pretty gut-ripping year, but I know I'm not alone in that. Nearly everyone I know has experienced major loss and tons of change.

After six months of waiting for edits from my agent, I fired her last week. Before I did, I spoke with the director of my MFA program, who confirmed that six months is far too long for a client to wait for a read. It is not at all the norm. He said even three months is a long time.

So she either has way too many clients, didn't care for my manuscript but couldn't bring herself to cut me, or liked my manuscript idea but wanted significant changes and thus was procrastinating on getting back to me, or had no idea what the hell to do with it. However I slice it, something was going on that was indeed unfair to me.

I was getting radio silence between my patient, polite nudges. And when she would respond, even though she was always prompt, she never gave any indication that she was reading, that she liked what she'd read so far and just needed more time, or anything like that. Meanwhile, my friend who's her shiny new client has had significant back and forth with her in email, multiple calls, via phone and Zoom, and got a mention in a Poets & Writers article due to her coordination of it, etc. So I had clear evidence of how she was actively working with other writers. And I know my novel is equally as good as my friend's. We're critique partners.

The other thing, and I'm putting this here in case it helps someone, is that I checked my agency's contract. If one of their agents provides editorial feedback, whether in a letter, a call or line comments, they reserve the right to commission for that work, regardless of who sells it or whether the final version of the work conforms to the suggested edits.

So if my agent had commented on my manuscript, in theory, if she had wanted to, they could have forced me to stick with the agency for the entire submission process. Or they could have tried to take the commission for a sale my future agent might make. That made the decision to cut ties very easy. It seemed like a now-or-never thing.

So, long story short, I'm back in the query trenches (Hi, Carrie!), and I'm excited about it. On to Agent #3. Now, I can hopefully get my head into my next novel and also maybe a memoir.
 

Fuchsia Groan

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Good luck in the trenches, Quickbread! I’m sorry you had to fire your agent, but it sounds like absolutely the right decision. Agents owe it to us to tell us what’s going on with a ms. within a reasonable time frame.

And that’s a disturbing proviso in the contract! I agree agents should be paid for their work, but if an agent gives you notes on a book and then declines to submit it, and another agent does sub it and it sells … well, it doesn’t make sense to me that the first agent gets a commission. I feel like that should go to the person who believed in it enough to sell it. How do others feel about that?
 
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scarywicket

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i agree that that clause makes me uneasy—i would be very curious to know how this was captured in your contract (what language, what phrasing) if that’s something you would be comfortable sharing? totally understandable if not of course. i feel like both author and agent go into edits and submission on spec, that is, investing time and energy into something that may not pay off. sometimes submission goes nowhere; sometimes the contract gets dissolved. i guess i see these as equally unforeseeable events that nonetheless require that both parties understand they are investing in a project for maybe nothing. but then, on the ip front, maybe there’s an argument to be made? i don’t actually believe that (and would be deeply concerned if that were the case) but i’m definitely curious what folks more knowledgeable than me think.

i also think a clause like that would be either impossible to enforce or so broad as to be punitive. like, i spoke briefly to my agent about a project i was considering over the phone, and they had a suggestion that i haven’t actually used, and i haven’t sent them an outline or shared any materials, but this is a reworked, overhauled (different age category, different genre and tone, similar but different bones, different pay-off) version of an outline they did look over and have notes for. i have no idea how something like this would be adjudicated! all in all it sounds like withdrawing was absolutely the right move to protect your work. and thank you for the heads up about this—i’ve never heard of such a thing and it’s definitely something to keep an eye out for.
 

RaggyCat

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Thanks to everyone who offered thoughts on my editor switch situation. It's "orphaning" that I'm really afraid of as this book should be my "relaunch" book. I do feel slightly protected by the fact I'm writing an IP series for the publisher so they do have reason to invest in me but, like I said, I've had a bad experience here before.

Anyway, I've been in an editing hole the last three weeks, and have now submitted my MS to my editor. Now I'm trying to get back into the book I put on hold to do the edits, which is hard because I have edit-book MC's voice in my head. I admire those of you who work on multiple projects at once - I can't do that, well, not first person books, at least. Switching voices is too diffiult for me.

litdawg, I'm glad you feel that your MS is now in healthier shape. I cross my fingers that's reflected in your second round of sub.

Elle, I've seen your proofs all over Twitter, they're lovely. The lime green stands out.

Putputt, I'm sorry you lost momentum on your passion project - it's a pain having to jump between manuscripts when you just want to sit and write one. I'm finding it hard to pick up the book I was working on before I had to jump on edits for another. Perhaps later once you have a bit more space to enjoy it the passion will return?

APM, I've heard of other people having multiple manuscripts with their agents like you do. You have absolutely the right attitude - put enough out there and hopefully one sticks! Agents always like it when clients have plenty of ideas and aren't just one book wonders.

Fuchsia, congrats on sending out the proof corrections. I always like that stage! Hopefully I can get hold of WMIAU - sometimes it's difficult getting US books in the UK.

Quickbread, I'm so sorry you're in the position of having fired your agent, but from the sounds of that contract, you've dodged a bullet and left yourself free to take that MS wherever you choose. I guess you'll never know what was running through your agent's mind, other than that your MS didn't seem to be top of her priority list, and you deserve better. I hope your querying period is brief and you can look back on this and know you did the right thing. If it helps, I think everyone I know who has fired or switched agents is very happy they've done it. And I too have never heard of such a clause - both my agent contracts have been very short and quite simple.
 
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Quickbread

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Raggy -- I'm sorry I missed that earlier about your editor switch. That is a bummer. Your nervousness is understandable. At least the publisher has good reasons to invest in you. I wish you luck with it. The way I'm dealing with the voice issue is to work on a memoir and a 3rd-person POV novel. They feel different enough that they don't get in the way of each other.

scarywicket and Fuchsia -- Yeah, the clause is really restrictive, and I also don't see how they could enforce it. In all fairness, I don't know if the agency still uses the same boilerplate. I signed with them back in 2013, so they may have changed that by now. This is a prominent NYC agency, and I guess I thought this was standard language.

Edited:
**If anyone is interested in the language, please let me know, and I will rep you with it.**
 
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Carrie

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Greetings! Welcome back Litdawg and Quickbread. I have been lurking around, not sure what was going on, but it is such a comfort to learn that I am not alone. There is just nothing new under the sun and I sincerely appreciate the candor and caring you all show on this forum. I am going to try to be a bit more active, as it really is easier knowing I'm not in it alone.

Since mid-June, I've been actively looking for a new agent. I decided I would keep sending out queries but get started on something new as what I needed above all was a mentor to take my first Lake Maribelle book to the next level, and I knew my current agent couldn't do it. I tried contacting writers, leaders of workshops, anyone qualified who might be willing to read for a fee and I ended up exactly nowhere. When I finally got a former professor to agree to read, he ghosted me. It was just crazy. I couldn't in good conscious go back to my existing agent because I knew I wasn't going to use her, so I just figured I'd have to wait until I got a new agent or a new book or both.

I got a rejection from an agent in a top NY firm and I was rather bummed because I really liked the agency, so I looked to see if there was anyone else well-suited to the book and there really wasn't except the founder who said right in his bio that he wasn't looking for new writers. But he wasn't closed to queries, I noticed, so I queried him with 10 pages. He wanted 50. He read the 50 over the weekend and asked for the whole thing. He read it in two days and told me it was "a bit of a mess, but..." (And, yes, "mess" was italicized!) He said that in order to sell it to a "big house" he'd have to see some revisions and he wanted to read a revised copy, but, before that, he thought a synopsis of revisions would be nice to see. I got him a full synopsis (seven pages, single-spaced) he read it immediately and still thinks there are more revisions in order -- and is eager to read them!

This is odd behavior. But I don't care! His suggestions are tough love, but right on the money and if he decides not to represent me, I will certainly end up with a much better book. I have suspended queries for now and will be working full-time on revision. After all the waiting and wondering what to do with my poor manuscript, it is wonderful to have a direction, even if it does mean ripping it limb from limb!

I know I have a long way to go, but I'm still writing my weekly syndicated column, and that keeps me sane. I so admire your determination and many projects and fortitude in the face of rejection and endless waiting. You all inspire me. Best wishes and happy writing!
 

Elle.

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Fuchsia Groan — what's your book about? I'll read it! (and I am sure a whole loads of other people will).

Putputt — Aaargh, still can't believe you're reading my book... and I'm reading yours! (which I am loving, your books always have such a strong voice, whatever the genre)

Carrie — that's great news about that agent! Fingers crossed they love your revisions. Is it a R&R at this stage?

Raggy — how's the editing going?

As for me proofs have just gone out into the world, and of course now I'm terrified that no one will read it and I won't get any author blurbs... (I am a worse case scenario kind of person in case you couldn't tell). Every stage of the publishing process so far has been, very exciting followed by blinding terror!
 

Carrie

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Oooh! Elle, very excited (and nervous) for you. I hope you get splendid blurbs!

The synopsis of my revision is still not what he's looking for -- and he is absolutely right. I finally have a clearer view of what the problem in the second half is. I just haven't figured out how to solve it. Still, it's wonderful having someone ready to read who seems genuinely excited about the potential. Now all I need is an epiphany...
 

Fuchsia Groan

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Fuchsia Groan — what's your book about? I'll read it! (and I am sure a whole loads of other people will).
Thank you, I wish! I’m in one of those phases where I feel like it will just disappear (which is pretty much what happened with my previous book, released when bookstores were closed; I think some lovely people here were the only ones who read it!). The new one is a small-town YA mystery that’s about semi-toxic friendship, writing fiction, a dangerous game of spin the bottle, and recovering from trauma. It has a great cover, at least! (I just ordered two of the artist’s other prints because I love the style.)

And I’m sure you’ll get blurbs! There’s tons of buzz around your book!

Raggy, I hope you’re able to get back into the book you were working on!

Carrie, it sounds like you made a bold move that paid off! Having a mentor who’s right for your specific ms., whether it’s an agent, editor, or critique partner, can make all the difference.
 
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Harlequin

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Carrie, the agent sounds really promising! I hope it continues working out with him.

UK editor told me in our first video call yesterday that they are buttering up Neil Gaiman for a blurb, and I had a quiet heart attack. American Gods was a landmark book in my life.

Other than that, new wip is destroying me / proving difficult, but what else is new lol.

If anyone is UK based, I'm heading to fantasycon this weekend. Perhaps see folks there if so!
 

Carrie

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Fuchsia -- That sounds like a fabulous read! I want to know about the dangerous game of spin-the-bottle. (That is an inherently dangerous game, isn't it?) Love it.

Harlequin -- You are only having a quiet heart attack?!? I would be on the floor in convulsions. I will cross all my fingers and toes for you.
 
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A.P.M.

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It's great to hear about everyone's successes!

I got 7k words into my new project and then realized it needs to be YA, not MG. Should be an easy enough fix, and I think it will flow better from now on. Still have a few things to hammer out, though--I'm not used to outlining, but I'd like to avoid doing a page one re-write halfway through like I did on the last one.
 
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Carrie

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It's great to hear about everyone's successes!

I got 7k words into my new project and then realized it needs to be YA, not MG. Should be an easy enough fix, and I think it will flow better from now on. Still have a few things to hammer out, though--I'm not used to outlining, but I'd like to avoid doing a page one re-write halfway through like I did on the last one.
I don't outline in advance either, but I'm finding that an outline just to track my protagonist's journey is proving super helpful in this revision!
 

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Elle - Hope the proofs go down swimmingly. I'm never sure how much author blurbs actually matter- as a reader, I pay no attention to them. But maybe other readers respond to them differently?

Carrie - Even if it's not a proepr R&R, that feedback still sounds invaluable so I'd chalk this up as a win. It might be that you need time to turn over the points you've identified as needing work and a solution will come that way...

Fuchsia - I understand the fear of feeling your book will disappear on release (I've had one that did exactly that despite good trade reviews). I have that exact feeling about my April 2022 book despite having no grounds to believe so (different publisher, big gap, different type of book). I don't think those fears go away however much we rationalise! But it could be something lucky happens that changes everything - I'm convinced that most books need a health dose of luck to succeed, however good they are.

A.P.M - glad you figured out your MG to YA fix sooner rather than later and you don't have a whole book to edit!

Harlequin - I've been following the supply chain issues story, but it hasn't affected me as yet - in fact, I just yesterday got copies of my October (eek) release. My understanding is the real problem will come in the run up to Christmas, where speedy reprints will become tricky, and books may become available. As ever, it's probably the midlist which will be hit hard - I know publishers have taken issues to avoid problems with their "big" authors.

Me stuff: I successfully did my edits for April 2022 book and I've now met my new editor over Zoom. I feel reassured at her enthusiasm and my agent has only good things to say about her. I did hear that I might get a fourth editor coming in to work with me on my second IP book (which is not yet written)! But that's not certain yet. I'm now tying to turn my attention to the uncontracted YA I was working on before I got pulled off on edits for April 2022 book but I'm struggling to recapture the voice still.
 

litdawg

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So wonderful to hear all of your news--thanks to Harlequin, Elle, and Raggy for updates. Carrie, I'm really enjoying the saga of your interactions with founding agent. Such a great reminder that people run this business, and occasionally you make a connection. I hope it works out to where you have a project he'll represent, but your attitude about how the suggestions are improving the book is awesome.
 
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Carrie

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RaggyCat -- SO impressed with your ability to juggle multiple projects! And congrats on getting so many talented editors involved.

I was just about to put my "Lake Maribelle" book on the shelf. In fact, I had, and start working in earnest on the next thing ("Something less weird! Something easier to sell!") when I acquired my agent/mentor. He just wrote again yesterday to say he is "patiently waiting" for a revision and if I have any questions "just holler." This guy has not signed me, but he's given me more timely feedback than I ever got from my agent. At an absolute minimum, I now know what I should expect!
Happy writing everyone!
 
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Fuchsia Groan

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Have folks heard anything about supply chain issues affecting their releases or submission experiences out of interest? General question to all.
I am very much wondering about this re: ARCs for my book. Will post when I know anything.

Meanwhile, my cover reveal is live. It seems like every YA cover reveal I see on Twitter has 1,000+ likes and … mine does not. Every time I try to stake out even a tiny corner of the attention economy, I fall on my face and give up again. But I, personally, love this cover. I ended up ordering two other prints from the artist because I like his work so much. I feel like this whole book production is an elaborate gift to me. I just wish the book could actually earn its keep a bit.

 

RaggyCat

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I'd quite like to know about the ARC situation too. My publisher didn't do any for my October book but I had to turn that script around very swiftly so I assumed there wasn't time (I only signed the text off late July).

Your cover is great, Fuchsia, and a clever concept! I wish I could share some wisdom about Twitter likes and how and why they happen, but I'm terrible at understanding this social media game. I have noticed that my more successful tweets (and we're talking mediocre successful because despite my best efforts my followers are low) do well because more follower-heavy people retweet them. Could you try a tweet just with the cover, perhaps placed in a banner that fits Twitter's image specifications? (They're 1200x675). I always find Twitter clips images in an annoying way which doesn't help.

I also remain convinced that there is a huge dollop of luck in aceing this book game, and getting your foot over the doorstep is only a small part of things. I do also wonder these days how much the author his or herself matters, in terms of book successes? I often feel that I personally have nothing unique to offer, and am therefore not especially marketable.

My news... I have a book launching today! It's a weird feeling. It was an IP idea but the whole story and all the characters bar one are mine, so to all intents and purposes it is my book, but I still don't feel that true sense of ownership. Still a nice feeling, though - especially as my last launch day was eight years ago!
 

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