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Editor Gripes, Take 1


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Editor Gripes, Take 1

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An author told me the other day that she'd been advised by another author to only accept 10% of an editor's corrections. If she accepted more, the second author advised, then the editor would be "changing the author's voice."

I had to literally remove my hands from the keyboard so I wouldn't type something extremely profane to the IM chat we were having. If we'd been talking on the phone instead of online, I'd have lost my voice from screaming imprecations. When I had myself back under control I asked the author (who is one of mine, btw) what she thought about that. She said that it had worried her a lot. The moron who gave her this wretched piece of advice was a well-known erotica author. My author didn't want to reveal whom -- I guess she was getting the idea that I was pretty upset by that time. She did admit this author had never been published anywhere but electronically. (Color me not surprised.)
EDIT: My snide comment about only being electronically published was a bad one. There are a great many very fine writers out there who're only e-pubbed and my comment denigrated them and the legitimate electronic publishers out there that also put out quality books. Mea culpa and fifty lashes with a wet fettucine noodle.

My author finally admitted that she'd talked about it to her husband who'd thought the advice was nuts. (Note to self: send author's husband a sixpack and thank you card) Her hubby is a technical writer and he told her that it didn't matter -- non-fiction or fiction, editors were absolutely necessary to make sure that only clean copy got seen by the public. My author and I talked awhile longer about her book and the editing we worked on together and how we both were happy with the final outcome of our teamwork. Then we said bye and signed off.

I've been thinking a lot about this conversation. I belong to a great many writer loops. Going back over some of the threads from the past six months, it really struck me just how many posts referred to an author "fighting" with her editor because the editor wanted changes the author didn't want to make.

Now, I'm not saying an author should make every change an editor wants. C'mon kids -- use your common sense! If the change isn't good for the book, it isn't good for the book and the author needs to talk to the editor calmly and clearly. If you don't explain why it's important to you that something shouldn't be changed or corrected then your editor really really needs to know. It's your story, you know your characters and background info and you know (if it's a serial) what's coming up. All your editor knows is what's on the pages you submitted for publication. If your editor is confused, you can damn well bet your readers will be too. A good editor will back down and, after discussion, allow the author to veto various corrections.


Yes, indeedy, a great big honking, in your face BUT.

Read my lips: it ISN'T changing your literary "voice" to accept grammatical, spelling, and punctuational corrections. It damn well isn't changing your "voice" to be asked to fix continuity errors. These corrections are NECESSARY -- mainly so readers and reviewers don't rip you a new arse-hole for putting out a product riddled with errors. I've been seeing a lot of reviews of (mainly) electronic novels lately where the reviewers castigate the editors for allowing a book to go out with many, many errors. And I always wonder if that poor editor had to endure an electronic Diva who refused to make fixes because - *shudder* *gasp* *swoon* -- it would "change her voice."

Free advice of the day: Your editor is NOT your enemy. Your editor's your right hand, your team-mate, the person who's there to help you hit a literary home-run, as it were. Your success is your editor's success too, you know. Your editor wants your book to be a best-seller as badly as you do. You make money, she makes money and the publisher makes money. It's a win-win situation all the way around. You can accept this fact of life. Or you can expect to be mediocre for the rest of your writing life. *shrugs* It's your call.

In other news of the day, my pirate name is:

Your Pirate Name Is...

Iron Fanny La Bouche

jmward14, you can quit laughing now. Or else I'm gonna hafta hurt you.

Peace all,
  • I offer sympathetic bogglement in your direction.

    I do NOT understand not wanting editors to do their editor thing. Heck, people often pay to be edited! Bizarre.
    • Makes you wonder doesn't it? 95% of the authors I deal with are absolutely great. Totally professional, really and truly wonderful to work with.

      And then there's that 5% who think they need no editing. I like to give those authors the benefit of the doubt and tell myself they have ARS (Anne Rice Syndrome). And who knows? Maybe they do.


  • I will behave regarding Iron Fanny, since I've seen your frying pan. Besides, my pirate name "Evil Ladyfingers", isn't a whole lot better. But I just gotta ask, what's a *litery*?
    Saintly hugs,
    • Wench. It's a secret code word we editors use. It means, "I'm trying to be arty-farty and failing miserably."


    • PS --

      I forgot to ask. About "Evil Ladyfingers" -- are they aquiline?

  • (no subject) -
    • LOL, don't want your head to fall off -- we like what's in it way too much!

  • So here's my leaning-towards-OT question: as a potential author who wishes to submit to a publisher and/or agent, how do I maintain the integrity of my "voice" (ick...this is the author's equivalent of the actor's "motivation") and make it properly punctuated and grammatically pleasing?

    You'll perhaps remember a conversation we had after the first Crescent Con where we all met in which you commented that after spending time with me, you realized that I write exactly like I talk...you could "hear" me when you read my stuff. So how do I preserve that without getting immediate rejection notices or driving an editor bonkers?

    Sorry, but this has been on my mind a lot recently, and I want your take as well as the others who frequent here.
    • If certain forms of spelling/punctuation/grammar are necessary for effect: most notably character speech traits for genre fiction, then when you send your synopsis, note that. If there's anything in the first three chaps you send that you believe will catch an editor's eye, cause them to think error, again -- explain.

      I will warn you that a little colloquialism goes a longway. A little fancy-schmancy-ness with punctuation/grammar goes a long way. A good author can give the flavor, the sense to their readers they're listening to a Scot or southern accent without beating them over the head with god-awful continuous "you-all jist cain't hardly b'leve" or "dinna worrit yerself, lassie" dreck. The best advice on how to do that is to read. Find the pros who do it best and learn from them. Then work out your own style and go for it.

      Mainly, just be true to yourself, your story and your characters - there is no way you can go wrong doing that. A tip: before you send to an editor take a good, long, hard look at your manuscript. Read it out loud -- not only to yourself, but to an unbiased friend. Do the cleanest copy you can, write a good cover letter (simple and straight-forward is best - I can't speak for other editors, but I get totally turned off by cutesy or smart-ass cover letters. ) And, don't forget to make sure your cover letter is free of errors, same for your synopsis. Remember those are the first things we editors look at. If the cover letter and synop are full of errors, that's sure a big clue to us that the manuscript probably is too. I've rejected manuscripts based on execrable cover letters and badly written synops alone.

      Gina, I've gotten to the point that I truly dislike that term "voice". An author's so-called "voice" is not impaired by good grammar, correct spelling and proper punctuation. Some gimmicks are allowed or tolerated -- but I'll tell you this: if you must resort to gimmicks to try and sell your book, then you ain't got a book. You got a one-trick pony that's not likely to find any kind of viable circus to call home any time soon. Dump the gimmicks and just write good strong dialog and descriptions. Have interesting, three dimensional characters. If you do that, you don't have to worry about "voice". Your manuscript will sing like a canary for you.


      • I agree about the use of the term "voice" as an excuse for poor writing or laziness. That's why I used the analogy of an actor and his "motivation." It drives me nuts!

        I appreciate your response, and I completely agree with your discussion about gimmicks and dialect. I was actually referring to syntax and structure that varies. But again, you answered me, so

        THANKS! *hugs*
        • Again, it varies from story to story and what each one requires to tell the tale in the best way.

  • frankly, I don't understand people. Really, if you just apply common sense instead of supposed rules you'd get a lot farther in this business. I've gone through edits, let's see, eleven times now and there's only been ONE where the editor was actively trying to change my voice and just dealing with her made me tired and depressed. By far, my experiences with my editors have been very positive. Not that I haven't gone a few rounds over things I thought were important, most of the time if I can represent myself well enough, it stays my way. But if you trust your editor, you know she's making your book better with her changes. That's the whole point of editing.

    But can I just say that it sort of comes off pretty derisive to say - "She did admit this author had never been published anywhere but electronically. (Color me not surprised.)"

    Correct me if I'm wrong but YOU edit for an epublisher right? Are you saying that your authors are less talented than paper authors? That kind of statement (and your follow up comments about e pubbed authors) is precisely why it sucks to be an eublished author even though I work damned hard on my books. It just totally rubbed me the wrong way and made me want to scream the same way I'm sure you did when your author made that editing comment.

    BTW, I got a review this weekend attacking my book from Samhain for continuity errors and poor editing. (The same book that got a JERR gold star award and several other 5 star reviews) I asked the reviewer to be specific because that book was gone over by Angie with a fine tooth comb along with me, beta readers and a proofer for the print galley. I'm still waiting for an answer. Just because a reviewer says it, doesn't mean it's true.

    And no, your editor isn't your enemy, she should be your greatest ally.
    • That comment came off badly and I do want to apologize for it. Like anything, there are good electronic publishers and there are bad electronic publishers. And the same goes with print presses, small and large. In my irritation and anger I made a sweeping statement that I shouldn't have and that was wrong.
      I think what bothered me the most is that a supposedly multi-published author (no matter if she's only pubbed electronically or not) would tell another author to only accept 10% of her editor's changes --and also to never trust her editor because they are all just failed writers anyway.
      (This last is the latest from my writer who, I have a feeling, is starting to take an unholy joy in sending me this other person's silly comments. She's such a little stinker. LOL.)
      And, for the record, I don't consider Samhain to be an electronic publisher. Crissy calls us a "micro-publisher" and I love that. But I also think of us as a small press and I totally and truly believe that in a year or two, that's what the world will classify us as too.
      But, still -- the comment was ill-advised and it shouldn't have been posted. Mea culpa.

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