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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Open Discussions About Writing » The Elusive Editor

   
Author Topic: The Elusive Editor
djvdakota
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Currently reading Self-editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King. They say, essentially, that the publishing industry no longer has a strong backbone of editorial support for authors--especially up and coming authors. The work of well-established authors go into print as submitted (which could explain Rowling's last book), the work of new authors is "printed rather than published." "It no longer pays," the writers say, "[for] a publishing house to develop a manuscript to its fullest potential and its author to fame and/or fortune."

Is this true? Is this disturbing yarn true? Can I no longer trust a publisher to provide me with a competent editor who will help me polish my WIP into something worthy of publication? Do I have to undertake my own quest to find an independent editor?

If this is so, is there a demand for good editors out there (I mean aside from you guys), and how does one become an editor? Is the internet and (dare I say) communities like Hatrack biting into the career field of the paid editor?

Or is it all a myth--like the myth that the industry is harder to break into than it was 20 years ago--meant to sell more copies of Self-editing for Fiction Writers?


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HSO
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Wouldn't all of this depend on one's view of "worthy of publication?"

I mean, in a way it's every writer's dream to be unedited -- to have their work put out there as is. On the other hand, we don't want to look incompetent.

Perhaps it's all subjective. A story that works for one editor won't work for another. And possibly, established authors have contracts that state their work is not to be tampered with. Publishers want the easy buck, and wouldn't it be easier to give in to the demands of a best-selling author just to have the chance to capitalize on their selling potential?

Or maybe some editors/publishers are just lazy...? More fairly, maybe they have enough to do and can't find time to work with any author, let alone up and comers. Every business looks for way to cut costs, so hiring less editors to do twice or thrice the work seems plausible, thus limiting the amount of time an editor can effectively deal with an author.

Really, I don't know. Just thinking out loud...


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Beth
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I have read in numerous places that substantive editing is a thing of the past - I don't think Brown and King made it up. And not only has actual editing got shafted, but publishing is becoming geared more and more to the bestsellers, and screw the midlist and new authors who need some time and attention and marketing in order to develop a following.

That is one of my favorite writing books, btw. Full of excellent advice.


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EricJamesStone
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I know some new authors with publishing contracts who are in the middle of protracted editing processes. Now, a lot of what makes it protracted is merely waiting, which tends to indicate the editors may be overloaded with work. And, of course, I don't know about the competence of the editors. But it seems that some publishing houses still have editors who suggest changes to the novel.

However, I don't think you should rely on a competent editor to turn your work into something worthy of publication. You should try to have it to that state before submitting it.


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JBSkaggs
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As an editor I might offer my POV. Editors are just plain damned too tired and overwhelmed to work really in depth with contributors. People have no idea the volume of submissions publishers receive. I mean literally several feet thick stacks of texts a day. (I don't get this, as I receive everything via email THANK GOD!)

They don't have time to even read the slush pile let alone actually help you rewrite it.

Now some smaller pubs like mine will actually review, critique, and edit the work IF we are particularly moved by the writing or the person. But even so I am not able to do deep edits of every submission. I reject on the first major error or if I have not been hooked within 5 to 20 lines. I just have too many stories to read.

Some people actually hire editors to help them. Smart writer's will hire an editor to ensure they are not submitting garbage. Even Stephen King uses an editor to help protect his reputation as an author.

But it is not free and publishers are just too cash strapped and time strapped to do this anymore.

JB Skaggs


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Shendülféa
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Hearing all of this kind of scares me as I'm still unpublished. How are new writers supposed to get their work published anymore if editors and big publishing companies are catering to the established best-sellers? I understand that they have a lot to do and not enough time to read every manuscript much less do deep edits of them, but how do they expect to make money once the best-sellers are finished or retired?

At any rate, it seems like the situation is looking bleak for us unpublished authors...


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Jeraliey
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Naw, people are definitely still looking for the next big thing. That's something that's not going to go away. Although it doesn't necessarily bode well for simple hobbyists such as my humble self...

[This message has been edited by Jeraliey (edited March 23, 2005).]


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Shendülféa
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Still, I knew that this field was competitive, I just did not realize exactly how competitive until I started trying to get something published. I get discouraged by all those rejection letters and start to think maybe I'm not good enough. See, my theory is that if you really are that good, it should be relatively (I said "relatively," mind you) easy to get published. Maybe I'm wrong. Nonetheless, it still frightens me to think about how competitive it is to get something published. I may have better luck in the art field, although that's a highly competitive field as well (so I hear from fellow artists). Geez, I must have a certain penchant for competitive fields.
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Josh Leone
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Everyone was unpublished once. That there are so many published authors despite that should provide hope.

Also, while there are many good books on writing out there, many use scare tactics to make you think that you need their book. so take it all with a grain of salt.

Josh Leone
www.JoshLeone.com

[This message has been edited by Josh Leone (edited March 23, 2005).]

[This message has been edited by Josh Leone (edited March 23, 2005).]


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Beth
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yeah, really. a string of rejections may mean your work isn't quite publishable yet. or it may just be the nature of the game - everyone gets rejections. just keep plugging on, and try to enjoy the process for itself, and not get so hung up on a particular outcome that you're not having fun.


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Beth
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because the thing is, you get published, and then suddenly that's not enough, then you're upset because you're not getting paid tons of money in big magazines. then you get that, and then you're not satisfied until you get your novel published. then that happens and now you're not happy because you didn't get enough good reviews or sell enough copies. and then you're on the NYT bestseller list but now that isn't enough, you need to be #1. then you make #1 and now you're depressed because you were only #1 for four weeks instead of six months.

it never stops. enjoy the process as much as you can.


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ScottMiller
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Shendi (may I call you Shendi?): I always get stomped on whenever I bring this up, so I'm always a little hesitant to bring it up, but--

You're not just competing against the likes of us (really, I don't think of it as a competition, but never mind). You're also competing against people who:

--Don't know how to spell and are too lazy to spell-check or have their stuff proofread;
--Don't bother to have anyone check for quality;
--Don't realize that people will recognize the story of Odorf the Tibboh and his quest to destroy The Fancy Bracelet in the fires of Mount Heck;
--And are just plain incompetent. (I edited on my high school paper for a little while, so while I'm no expert on what pros have to look at, I can assure you that ten years ago at least there were still a number of people who believe the "it was all a dream" ending is still original and unique and not at all a hideous cliche. I doubt it's changed much in the intervening years.)

I've been shouted at a few times on other boards (most notably Asimov's) for bringing that up, but I stand by it.


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dpatridge
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quote:
I can assure you that ten years ago at least there were still a number of people who believe the "it was all a dream" ending is still original and unique and not at all a hideous cliche. I doubt it's changed much in the intervening years.

i have no personal fantasy opposing this, however, i have used the "it was all a dream" near-ending (the true ending was a little more complex, it was: "it was all a dream which fortells of future events") in a recent story of mine. i know full well it was cliche, but the entire story was written as a spoof of other things which are by now considered cliche...

basically you have to be aware of what you are writing, if you are writing a spoof piece, cliche is ok, as long as your writing reflects it obviously and makes it appearant that you KNOW you are using cliche and are doing it anyway in an attempt to put a grin on the readers face!


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JBSkaggs
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For those of you who are worried that your pieces willbe rejected out of hand. That is not usually the case.

The stages manuscript acceptence are like this:

1. Is it submitted in the format and way we asked you to? If not we reject. About 1/2 of submissions are rejected for this reason- because it means the writer did not take the time to study what the publisher wants.

2. Is it the genre and type of story / book we publish? if not we reject. Don't send sci-fi to a christian romance publisher. Of the remaining submissions that survived the first check- about a 1/3 of the remaining stories are rejecting because they are the wrong genre.

3. Is the story appropriate to the age or group? if not we reject. Don't send your Penthouse letters to Highlights kid's magazine. Avoid needless controversy, gore, and sex in mainstream publishing and make sure it is age appropriate.

4. Is the story cliche or undesired? If so reject. Check the submission guidelines if they say no time travel DO NOT SEND TIME TRAVEL STORIES! Editors get miffed when writers are too lazy to read our submission guidelines.

5. At a minimum your writing should be professional- it's expected. If not- then it's rejected. Most editors reject at the first sign of innappropriate adverbial usage, glaring POV error, poor spelling, etc. If you write poorly get your writing checked by someone knowledgeable in English grammar. Even if you have to pay for it.

6. Lastly if your story does not grab and hold onto the editor within the first few paragraphs they are not going to finish your book. Why? Becuase they have 200+ more books right behind it and they will not waste time if you don't have the skill to hook them on the first few paragraphs.

Why did I say these things? Because you CAN be published. YOU HAVE TO LEARN THE MARKETS! If you don't know the markets and know who might want your book, then randomly submitting will not result in a sale. learn your market. Learn who does what. Submit how they want it, when the want it, like they want it, and you will be read and given the chance to sell your book. But too many authors do not study markets and are lost as to who does what in the industry.

If you were a flour factory. And you wanted to sell your flour would you try to sell your flour to auto part stores? Or to bakeries?


JB Skaggs


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EricJamesStone
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> If you were a flour factory. And you
> wanted to sell your flour would you try to
> sell your flour to auto part stores? Or to
> bakeries?

My flour is a work of genius and should be instantly recognized as such, and any business owner who rejects my flour is obviously a moron. Of course, business owners nowadays only want the "big name" flour anyway.


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djvdakota
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This has turned into quite the discussion, eh?

Here's actually what I had come to hope from any publisher insane enough to accept my work . I had the expectation that my manuscript would be accepted based upon its merits, that it would be of high enough quality that it would be 'worthy of publication' but that a competent editor would be assigned to me to help me tweak it just that little bit more that would take it up a notch or two. I especially hoped to look forward to this on my first novel, as I learn the business and the process of bringing a novel (and my dream) to life.

But, it looks like I'll have to find one on my own.

Hey, EricJamesStone. Now that you're famous , are you in the process of snagging that publishing contract you've been working toward? What's it like? What are you learning along the way?


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