/Tag: editors

Editors are not beta readers.

Which is to say, beta readers are great, and y’all should totally have them. But editors do something totally different. And “totally different” does not, as it turns out, entail tearing you and your work to shreds and making you feel like shit. No one “loves” edit letters because edit letters mean more work, often on something you just want to be over with already urrgh gods I’ve read it a thousand times why are you making me do this again? But the end result of an edit letter should be a manuscript you think is stronger than the one you had before you went into the process.

KJ Charles was an editor before she was an author, and here she lays down how to spot a bad editor (or “editor”, as the case may be). This includes a Handy List for authors, with the point being about ensuring you have a clause in your contract specifying your work will receive professional editing, with the emphasis on “professional”, because “professional editor” is, in fact, a skilled career with associated tertiary and professional qualifications, and should you suspect the editor that’s been assigned to you is, in fact, an “editor” rather than an editor, well then that’s breach of contract with the publisher.

Basically, you’re better to self-publish–or to not publish at all–than to go down swinging with bad edits.

2015-06-29T07:23:40+10:0017th August, 2015|Tags: editors, publishing|


[I]f you think for a moment, ‘This book is badly edited’ is kind of meaningless. What that actually says is, ‘This book is badly written and the editor didn’t fix it.’ But that’s the job. The author’s hacked out the raw material and the editor’s there to do anything from a light polish to a full-blown carving operation – but leaving no fingermarks, with no trace of her presence, just letting the story shine.

So when you read a book and you don’t notice anything wrong with it, spare a thought for the ninja editor, reading the clunky and the poorly structured, the repetitive and the nonsensical and the really quite alarming, the badly spelled and the just-not-quite-perfect…so you don’t have to.

–KJ Charles is a bookninja.

The other thing, of course, is that authors are vain, pompous creatures who push back against edits because MAH ARTEESTEK VEESHUUN!!!. So the answer to “why didn’t the editor fix this?” can also, very often, be “they tried, but the author threw a fit so they gave up”.

(In fact, in some respects I would suggest this accounts for some of the differences between debut and sophomore novels. There’s definitely a learning curve in there between “what I want to write”, “what my editors want me to write”, and “what the market wants to read” which is really only learnable via bitter experience. Editors, FWIW, are generally better at judging “the market” than authors are, and would really like authors to conform more to it. Authors, meanwhile, tend to want the market to conform to them. Hence the tension.)

2015-05-13T09:11:26+10:0030th October, 2014|Tags: books, editors, kj charles, writing|

Yes, really.

An agent’s job is pretty much to go out to breakfast, lunch, dinner, coffee, and drinks with every good editor in the city, and know what those editors are looking for, so that when you hand your agent your new book or proposal, your agent will know exactly which editor is looking for what kind of a book – know each editor’s taste intimately, so that your agent can submit to exactly the right editor at each publishing company and put you and your book in the position of making the best possible deal available on the planet at that moment.

Really. That’s what your agent does.

–Alexandra Sokoloff on agents.

One quibble: agents don’t have to be located in NYC (disclaimer: mine isn’t). The point about being in NYC is about having personal, first-name-basis access to editors, many of whom work in NYC, but changing technology means physical location isn’t as important as it might’ve been in previous decades. That being said, I still think non-NYC agents should be taking regular trips to NYC to meet editors and publishing people (also see: attending cons and conferences, and taking trips to Hollywood to do the same to film and TV types).1

One of the things you often hear about from the sorts of writers who don’t believe in agents is that agents are “useless” because they spend all their time “drinking Martinis in Manhattan”. This is always presented in a sneering tone as if it’s some of Bad Thing.

This is not a Bad Thing. This is a Very Good Thing.

Firstly, it’s not true (a fact I bet most harried-off-their-feet agents and editors curse daily), but even if it was… what, exactly, do you think agents are doing at those boozy liquid lunches?

If you answered, “Talking up client books to people who might like to buy them.” then ding ding ding ding ding! Gold star for you!

Yes. This is why agents go to lunches in Manhattan and opening night parties in Hollywood; to sell their freakin’ client books. These are work events. The fact that you, personally, are jealous of this because, I assume, you work in a different industry and have thus never attended one is completely irrelevant and something you need to get over.

  1. Yes, literary agents do this too. Film and TV rights are A Big Deal. []
2014-07-31T09:41:35+10:0011th September, 2014|Tags: agents, editors, publishing|

What’s up with manuscript appraisals anyway?

Call My Agent! looks at a service that seems to be fast getting replaced by freelance editors, anyway.

(Trufax: I almost used one of these, in a darker hour–i.e. back before I started looking for an agent in the US–but dayaum they’re expensive.)

2018-06-26T13:21:34+10:0010th September, 2014|Tags: agents, editors, writing|

When is a good time to query editors?

At Query Quagmire.

Basically nowish, and not during December or January, when editors (and agents) are stressed and frustrated over the amount of shitty NaNo and “New Year’s Resolution” manuscripts they’re getting flooded with.

That being said, this really only affects turn-around time; it’s not a Magic Publishing Formulae™ that will get you a contract A+ guaranteed if you only ever submit in the month of June. But it is still amusing how much everyone in the industry hates the immediate aftermath of NaNo.

2016-05-14T11:29:34+10:0023rd July, 2014|Tags: editors, publishing, query quagmire|

Agents and “agents”.

Basically, a good agent should be able to bypass the slush pile, or, at minimum, get your project onto the “slush from agents” pile rather than the “slush slush” pile. I know when Sara was shopping me, for example, she wasn’t just throwing my MS at publishers to see if it stuck; she was targeting people she knew professionally and personally might be interested, having spoken to them previously at business lunches or at cons or because she has other clients at the same publisher or whatever.

A good agent has a professional relationship with good editors; one established outside of the slush pile and one both sides want to maintain. This is one of the points of getting an agent, and I think it’s a point that’s not always… obvious to neophyte authors. Because, I mean. Let’s face it; writing is creative work and, like all creative work, it’s all-too-easy to fall into the trap of “well obviously my book is genius and obviously everyone should just recognise that so of course I don’t need any of this ‘personal networking’ which is all obviously just a nepotistic conspiracy invented by New York to keep the in group in and the out group out so hah! I figured it out so buy my book”.

(Conveniently forgetting that almost every Big Name Author you can think of, living or dead, had their decades in the wilderness and their detractors and their pile of rejections and so on and so forth. Basically, if they’re not Special Snowflakes, then neither are you, kid.)

Writing is creative work but publishing is a business, and not even genius sells itself. Most of the time, even it needs a leg-up from a friend-of-a-friend. Hence agents.

(Of course the fact that even Big Name Authors have agents should be a huge honking clue that the pitching-and-selling is only part of an agent’s job description. But I guess it’s the part that’s most immediately relevant to newbies.)

2016-05-14T11:30:24+10:0021st July, 2014|Tags: agents, books, editors, publishing|

My first copyedits.

So today, for my sins, I got My First Copyedits for Liesmith. This is the part of the job i’m not good at, i.e. the attention-to-fine-detail-and-small-inconsistencies part, so I have so much respect for people who do this job like you don’t even know.

Reading copyedits is a surreal experience. In a way that’s sort of hard to describe or even conceptualise. Like, I’m used to reading my own work. I’m even sort-of-almost used to other people reading my work and telling me how I should change it.

But having someone sit there and carefully ensure I’ve used the correct form of jötunn or jötnar in every instance in which they appear? Making sure it’s not 12 AM in one place and 4 p.m. in another?

That level of detail is… something else. Kind of amazing, even.

Anyway. That’s the sort of misty-eyed paean a glass of red wine will give you. So while I’m here–and before I take a deep breath and steel myself for the actual marked-up manuscript–some entries from the Official Style Dictionary for Liesmith, presented for your amusement:

badass; bloodred; bonefall; Comic-Con; craptonne; dropbear; draugr; fanfic; Fantales; godmonster; Hel; kayfabe; níð; nonce; nothingspace; ohmigod; salarymen; Stephen Fry; valkyrjur; waif-fu

2017-11-16T11:36:52+10:008th July, 2014|Tags: books, editors, gonzo author stories, liesmith, wyrdverse|

“Poetic” book titles

I’ve noticed these sorts of titles have gotten really popular in fanfic in the last year or so. They’ve always been around, but usually as an affection of a particular author. Now it seems everyone is calling their fics things like “and here but in the darkness do I find the last drops of your soul.” or “First in summer, then in spring: gentle is the shimmering beat”. And it’s not like the fics themselves are necessarily pretentious. Just the titles.

My theory? Titles are hard. I’m freakin’ terrible at them, which is why I have an editor to tell me what my books are going to be called (thanks, Sarah!). Before I had that, I accrued a startling number of things called “untitled”. Pretentious pseudo-poetry titles–particularly ones taken from actual poems/quotes/songs–are easy, since someone’s already done most of the work of figuring them out for you. And they do have a certain appealing lyricism.

So yeah, I confess I use them now myself. Which is why I’m lucky I have an editor to beat them out of me before I go to print (profic being a different beast to fan- in a lot of ways, this being one of them).

2016-05-14T11:29:12+10:0027th June, 2014|Tags: books, editors, fanfic, publishing|

Work for effort.

[Agents and editors] are underpaid. Think about it—they are making money off of the income of writers, who may only be next to dancers in the least amount of money paid per hour of preparation and professional effort…which means that much of what they do is done for love.

–Kathryn Craft asks who are agents and editors anyway?

Not to point out the obvious, but it’s probably no surprise that publishing–with the exception of executive positions in the big houses–is one of the most female-dominated professional fields. (Not to mention the fact that novels in particular have historically also been a woman’s medium.)

Women’s work? Undervalued? No-oo-oo!

As an example, according to salary-dobbing website Glassdoor–and taking into account the exchange rate between Australia and the US–I’d need to be (say) a director of something at a Big Name Publishing House to be making a similar salary to what I’m on now in my (male-dominated) day job where, just as a hint, I’m not a director. People in similarly “sized”/”positioned” roles are on about two-thirds to a half of one of me. Senior editors get paid about what my direct reports get paid. There are some jobs–specifically editorial assistants–that are, apparently, paid less than what our grads get paid (these are kids in their first year straight out of university, potentially with no previous work experience; a year or so of that and they “graduate” up into a higher pay bracket).

Not all work is for the money, it’s true. But whenever anyone starts getting on a high bookshelf about fancy lunches and sipping Cosmos in New York?

Yeah. Not so much, hey.

For what it is–professional/white-collar, high-skilled, labour-intensive–publishing work is underpaid.

2016-05-14T11:01:53+10:005th June, 2014|Tags: agents, books, editors, publishing|