The Next Circle of Hell, Vol. 2

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

literaryguitar

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I've just met a deadline on some edits (not a tight deadline, for a change) which is great, but now it frees my mind up to be completely paranoid and anxious about the synopsis that is going to acquisitions. I'm expecting it to happen this week, guys, and I am SCARED.
I guess this never gets better? You've published so many books at this point and it's still scary? Is your fear that if they turn it down that means it would elsewhere too? From my perspective, this opportunity you have seems like an extra bite at the apple, and that you still have full sub rounds if for some reason they don't bite (which, for the record, I bet they will). Do you feel like there's less point to sub if your current publisher doesn't want the book? Like they'd be the most likely to? Or is it more that you really want to keep going with this particular publisher and not have to keep returning to sub with new books?
 

RaggyCat

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I don't think sub EVER gets easier. Although it's correct that if this book is accepted it will be book no 7, after my first three books I had some pretty crushing experiences that destroyed my confidence with writing. I've not really got back from that, I don't think, though of course it's better than it was. My default still seems to be fear and worry. I guess too I'm aware of just how difficult it is to keep publishing books, and to sustain a writing career. You're right that I can still go out on sub if my present publisher passes - but I'd very much little to carry on working with them! So far they've been great.

There we go, the potted guide to my present anxiety! :p
 
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literaryguitar

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I don't think sub EVER gets easier. Although it's correct that if this book is accepted it will be book no 7, after my first three books I had some pretty crushing experiences that destroyed my confidence with writing. I've not really got back from that, I don't think, though of course it's better than it was. My default still seems to be fear and worry. I guess too I'm aware of just how difficult it is to keep publishing books, and to sustain a writing career. You're right that I can still go out on sub if my present publisher passes - but I'd very much little to carry on working with them! So far they've been great.

There we go, the potted guide to my present anxiety! :p
It's understandable. It's hard to fully grasp from this side of things without a single published book, but I get that it's like people who can't get an agent thinking we should be happy jus to have an agent when we feel like the whole point of having the agent is to get a publishing contract. To me, you've really made it, but to you the point is to have an ongoing career with books continuously published, and due to your past experience you have fear it could stop again at any point. I guess it's the same revolution of rising expectations. That old camping song: "The bear went over the mountain, the bear went over the mountain, the bear went over the mountain, and what do you think he saw? He saw another mountain... "
 

angeliz2k

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Apparently, my problem isn't that my stories are too loud or too quiet (or if so, no one's said so), but that they're too complicated. At least, that seems to be the theme so far for the ms I have out on sub, based on a fairly small sample size. I'm still a little bitter that four POV characters and a frame story are too difficult for (some) editors to understand. I know the ms is more on the literary end and is a bit more challenging. I'm beginning to think that that's more of a barrier than I realized!
 

literaryguitar

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Apparently, my problem isn't that my stories are too loud or too quiet (or if so, no one's said so), but that they're too complicated. At least, that seems to be the theme so far for the ms I have out on sub, based on a fairly small sample size. I'm still a little bitter that four POV characters and a frame story are too difficult for (some) editors to understand. I know the ms is more on the literary end and is a bit more challenging. I'm beginning to think that that's more of a barrier than I realized!
So.. too quiet, too loud, too complicated. Ugh.

Mine is literary and not very complicated plot-wise or POV-wise (though it's a little strange in both regards for various reasons), but it is more challenging in other ways (slightly experimental format, heavily psychological, dark) and I do think it's a marketing issue. If it doesn't look like anything else on the market, they don't see a way to market it. Which is fair, I guess, from a business perspective. Maybe that's what small indie presses are for, the books that the bigger presses don't know how to market. Since the small Indies don't do that much marketing anyway or expect blockbuster sales. That's my hope, anyway, if no bigger press picks mine up, that the small ones may still be interested.

I couldn't come up with comps for my book when I queried it. I did, but they weren't really comps and they were a bit ridiculous. I did get an agent, and she did suggest one comp that I hadn't read and does have some similarities (though it's a literary award-winner from a famous author who might not have been able to publish it as a first book because of how strange it is). But lack of comps may be a bad sign for Big 5 subs.
 

Gotham Scriber

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As someone who has just started querying his first manuscript, reading this thread makes me realize the jungle that lies ahead. I should just start measuring progress in years, not months.
 
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literaryguitar

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As someone who has just started querying his first manuscript, reading this thread makes me realize the jungle that lies ahead. I should just start measuring progress in years, not months.
Yeah, I did not have an appreciation of this when I queried. I got an agent pretty quickly and thought that was it, that the hard part was over. I did no research and was not part of any group or thread like this. So reality was a bit of a shocker. A week into the first round of sub, I was literally wondering why it was taking so long to get any offers. And... here I am 8 months later, still on sub.

That said, there are the rare birds who go on sub and sell in a few weeks and that's it. There have been several on this thread, in fact. It just seems to be fairly rare. But you never know. But I think the sane thing to do is to expect this to be a long slog and then be delighted if it's not. Coming at it the other way was not very helpful.
 
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iblamejane

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I took a look at my passes yesterday for the first time to see if I could glean any insight toward revision or changing approaches for the next book. They were pretty inconsistent, but I could definitely tell which readers likely hadn't gotten past page 50 based on their criticisms of things that only existed in the first part of the book. It seems like the premise I was going for with the book--a kind of breezy, plate-spinning farce of a romance--isn't hitting with a lot of the editors. Or maybe I didn't execute it well (though my agent absolutely loves the execution). I'm not sure that I'll change much about the WIP, which was going to be different in tone anyway. And like you all mentioned, there was complimentary stuff in there, too, but it's hard to take it seriously when the negatives outweighed anything good.

But I made my self a notes app note anyway with my positive feedback to try to pump myself up occasionally.
 

literaryguitar

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But I made my self a notes app note anyway with my positive feedback to try to pump myself up occasionally.
I've thought of doing that too. Though after reading through them again, maybe not!

I also could tell that a couple of editors didn't finish my MS. One actually wrote "I read deep into the MS" which explicitly indicated they didn't finish it. Another was really complimentary of the writing but put, as an example of what she loved about the writing, a passage from like page 7. Which made me think she didn't read much farther than that! In fact, other than a few who commented on the ending and the one who said they took it to an editorial meeting and had other editors read it, I wondered if any of the rest had actually finished the book. One mentioned something about substance abuse, which I did not consider to even exist in my MS, and then I realized that in the first 10 pages the MC is struggling to get off Xanax after taking it to cope with a death-- but after they do, it never comes up again; that too made me think they hadn't gotten very far, since substance abuse is not part of the plot. So yeah, I'd guess some of the editors who passed on yours probably did not read past page 50. Though to be fair, I read for a poetry book award, and if the first couple of poems don't grab me I usually just move on. So I guess I can't blame them.

It would be nice if there were some kind of standardized form they had to fill out indicating how far they read and specific questions about plot, characters, pacing, etc. so that we could derive something from the passes. But I guess their jobs are hard enough already.
 

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SUB GLITTER! I am convinced it works, so you can all have some.

Literaryguitar - You've hit the nail on the head with the bear goes over the mountain. Each stage of the publishing journey I think we fixate on the next one - nabbing an agent, getting a book offer, etc - and once you reach that next stage, the goalposts move again.

I've often wonder if editors read entire manuscripts too. Especially when they pass because "we already have something like this on our list" which makes me wonder why read at all, if it's always going to be no. A lot of the time you simply can't tell unless they say so specifically. I think keeping positive comments in a serparate document - whether that's nice Rs, comments from agent or beta readers - is a good idea. Especially later down the line when you may not remember this time so well.
 
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skydragon

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I remember reading somewhere a long time ago that you have to try to hook them in within the first 50 pages (this may have been a tip for agent querying though), because they'll just stop reading if they aren't into it. It makes sense to me because they get so many submissions, but it's obviously discouraging when you're on the other end of it. Some of them probably also know they aren't a good fit based on the pitch alone.

I love the idea of keeping positive feedback in a document. I do that for my work to give me a boost and to drown out the imposter syndrome (I'm self-employed) and I never thought of doing it with writing.
 
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angeliz2k

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I can't really blame editors for not reading past the first, say, 50 pages if they realize the ms just isn't for them. It's like a partial request from an agent that is ultimately turned down. And it's human nature, I guess, to imply that you [the editor] did a very thorough job in reviewing the ms, i.e. you don't say you didn't read the whole thing and let the author fill in the blanks.

One declining editor said my ms is an "intricately woven, enchanting novel imbued with the charm of the classic fairytale." Which sounds nice but makes me suspect they didn't get very far in, because, while I think there's some charm in the ms, I wouldn't compare it to a fairytale. Or at least our imagination of a fairytale (original fairytales were quite dark, of course). The ms is literally all about death and loss. Which doesn't necessarily become evident until about 1/3 of the way in but is abundantly clear if you read the whole thing. Or maybe I'm reading into it too much!
 

literaryguitar

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I'm reading into it too much!
I don't think you are reading into it too much. I think they stop reading at whatever point they decide it's not for them, but then try to make it seem like they read the whole thing. Which makes sense. It's just frustrating from our end when it's clear they actually missed a lot of the point of the book because they only read the beginning.
 

Fuchsia Groan

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I’ve had some editor passes that were basically just “I didn’t connect with the voice.” In that case, I would assume they didn’t bother to read far because the writing didn’t appeal to them.

On the other hand, there was one editor rejection that really touched me. She said she hoped the MC learned to understand that she was worthy of love, which goes to the heart of the book’s themes, though I had never thought of it that way before. Then she said the book straddled the line between literary and commercial in a way that would appeal to readers of neither, and oh boy, that one still stings. Personally, I like books that straddle the line between literary and commercial, and I want to do just that—but, you know, in a good way and not a way everyone hates. I remember that rejection much better than I remember any of the glowing trade reviews of my books.
 

Harlequin

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Dark fantasy, AFAIK. It looks amazeballs.
Wow, that sounds pretty amazing that you got that! What genre book is it again?

Apologies, I missed this question because my parents are visiting!

Special editions and crate boxes are crucial to the genre ecosystem in the UK. They are slightly extra versions of your book put out by bookstores or independent companies. Some have extra content or different covers or both. Some come with swag.

TBE has managed to get a special edition from Waterstones and Broken Binding here in the UK, and into an independent subscription crate company. Its really good news but also has kept me so overwhelmingly busy - the editions are signed, as Elle mentions, and in total I've signed 19500 title pages in 21 days, to meet the deadlines for these special editions, and also written a new epilogue last minute for one of them. There is another 3kish to sign a little further down the line. It is a good problem to have, and I never want to sound ungrateful, but to be honest it has also been stressful and incredibly time consuming. Plus it has eaten a month I really needed to draft next wip, which also has a deadline lol. I am, ofc, very behind on next wip.


Random unsolicited thoughts. Writing weird fic is hard sometimes because there is often a fine line between "hey this is cool and different" and "what the hell is this nonsense" and sometimes you don't know how a book wil land with folks. The last book I had on sub didn't sell because it landed in the latter category of "what the hell". But sometimes it does land, eventually - tbe is written in a canonically dead genre and has done okay. Just throwing that out there because sometimes folks get discouraged that a ms is too odd to sell, but I think it really varies and you never know, so always worth the shot.
 

mccardey

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I also could tell that a couple of editors didn't finish my MS. One actually wrote "I read deep into the MS" which explicitly indicated they didn't finish it. Another was really complimentary of the writing but put, as an example of what she loved about the writing, a passage from like page 7. Which made me think she didn't read much farther than that! In fact, other than a few who commented on the ending and the one who said they took it to an editorial meeting and had other editors read it, I wondered if any of the rest had actually finished the book. One mentioned something about substance abuse, which I did not consider to even exist in my MS, and then I realized that in the first 10 pages the MC is struggling to get off Xanax after taking it to cope with a death-- but after they do, it never comes up again; that too made me think they hadn't gotten very far, since substance abuse is not part of the plot. So yeah, I'd guess some of the editors who passed on yours probably did not read past page 50. Though to be fair, I read for a poetry book award, and if the first couple of poems don't grab me I usually just move on. So I guess I can't blame them.

It would be nice if there were some kind of standardized form they had to fill out indicating how far they read and specific questions about plot, characters, pacing, etc. so that we could derive something from the passes. But I guess their jobs are hard enough already.
But - but - why would they read on, if they know it's Not For Them? I would hope they'd jump ship pretty quickly, so they can get on with finding other mss that are for them. It's important to remember that their job is nothing to do with training up writers.
 
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mccardey

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Then she said the book straddled the line between literary and commercial in a way that would appeal to readers of neither, and oh boy, that one still stings. Personally, I like books that straddle the line between literary and commercial, and I want to do just that—but, you know, in a good way and not a way everyone hates. I remember that rejection much better than I remember any of the glowing trade reviews of my books.
I had the opposite thing, and it was just as horrible. A 'crossover' book and it got published because the publisher said, 'Look, there's a chance that it could fall between the two, but we think it's going to be pretty successful, and we're going to take that chance...' And the lit mags loved it and the book-selling reviews univerally hated it to bits. Really hated it. To bits.

I tend to remember the nice things and ignore the reviews, because I'm a sunny little person. But even with that, it took years and years to get brave enough to try again.
 
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skydragon

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Random unsolicited thoughts. Writing weird fic is hard sometimes because there is often a fine line between "hey this is cool and different" and "what the hell is this nonsense" and sometimes you don't know how a book wil land with folks. The last book I had on sub didn't sell because it landed in the latter category of "what the hell". But sometimes it does land, eventually - tbe is written in a canonically dead genre and has done okay. Just throwing that out there because sometimes folks get discouraged that a ms is too odd to sell, but I think it really varies and you never know, so always worth the shot.
This is very encouraging, thank you. My adult fantasy currently on sub straddles this weird line (it's sort of a mash-up of historical fantasy, the gothic, horror, mystery and fantasy elements). So this is something I've worried about! I loved writing it, and my agent's reactions to my initial pitch and the final draft that went out were very encouraging and exciting. But I do wonder how it will land with editors. My agent says it can sit on both traditional SFF lists and can go out to publishers who may be interested in a "crossover" book, though, so that's good. Our first round has been mostly traditional SFF places.

On that note, four weeks on sub today. Or, in Sub Land, It's been eighty-four years...
 

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I think I am meeting raggedy this year at yalc! If I have remembered the username right 🤣
That me! :D (I swear there are three people with raggy/ragged/raggedy as usernames, so confusing!) Yep, we're both at YALC on the same day.

AMAZING that you have special Waterstones editions! Super impressed. I've only been appreciating recently that those are A Really Big Thing.
 
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literaryguitar

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in total I've signed 19500 title pages in 21 days, to meet the deadlines for these special editions, and also written a new epilogue last minute for one of them. There is another 3kish to sign a little further down the line.
omg, that is a lot of singing to do. I can't imagine. But then, I also can't imagine selling 20k+ books! That's truly incredible.
 
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Harlequin

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This is very encouraging, thank you. My adult fantasy currently on sub straddles this weird line (it's sort of a mash-up of historical fantasy, the gothic, horror, mystery and fantasy elements). So this is something I've worried about! I loved writing it, and my agent's reactions to my initial pitch and the final draft that went out were very encouraging and exciting. But I do wonder how it will land with editors. My agent says it can sit on both traditional SFF lists and can go out to publishers who may be interested in a "crossover" book, though, so that's good. Our first round has been mostly traditional SFF places.

On that note, four weeks on sub today. Or, in Sub Land, It's been eighty-four years...
I agree with your agent! Multiple ways to position a book gives you options. Fingers crossed those publishers see it the same way. I truly believe it can be a strength. There's an element of gamble but the payoff is great if it works - crossover books can reach wide audiences.


That me! :D (I swear there are three people with raggy/ragged/raggedy as usernames, so confusing!) Yep, we're both at YALC on the same day.

AMAZING that you have special Waterstones editions! Super impressed. I've only been appreciating recently that those are A Really Big Thing.

Ty Raggedy! And I look forward to meeting you on the day! I will be hiding behind Harper people and wearing a rainbow dress, probably.

I've never been to a con before of this type so it will be fun I hope. I bought my partner a photo op with Bernard cribbins for a fun birthday present while we are there 🤣
 

Harlequin

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omg, that is a lot of singing to do. I can't imagine. But then, I also can't imagine selling 20k+ books! That's truly incredible.
No reason at all it cannot happen for you! I think these things are hard to even envision while on sub - I could never seem to look past the next rejection or imagine an editor of any kind liking the books I wrote lol. But then suddenly one day somebody does and it changes. Many hugs and hang in there x
 
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literaryguitar

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No reason at all it cannot happen for you! I think these things are hard to even envision while on sub - I could never seem to look past the next rejection or imagine an editor of any kind liking the books I wrote lol. But then suddenly one day somebody does and it changes. Many hugs and hang in there x
How many books did you sub before this one?

I'm not young and I'm also not able to churn out books. I've only written the one. I started another but it's something my agent says she wouldn't rep/ there's no market for and I haven't worked on it in over a month, maybe more. I have another idea she really likes and wants me to write, but it will take years if I do it, as it's historical and requires a ton of research before I can even really nail down the entire plot and characters, much less write it. And it's a little hard to get going on that when the one I already wrote isn't going anywhere, because I know there's a decent chance that one won't either, even if I spend years on it.

So my one book is still out on round 2 of sub, but just with large indie presses (and maybe one Big 5 imprint is left, I'm not sure). It's dark and somewhat experimental literary fiction. So I think it's extremely unlikely it will ever have the opportunity to sell 20k books. I'd be very happy at this point (probably always would have been) if it gets picked up by anyone and sells 5k. That would seem like a big success to me.