Posts Tagged working with an editor

No luck submitting my book to agents and publishers – should I hire a different editor?

I had this interesting email.

I’ve written a thriller. I worked on it for a few years with an editor who said it was ready to submit. However, following lots of submissions but no requests for the full MS I began to work with another editor. The two are like chalk and cheese and I`m now in a quandary as to the way forward. Is this something you can help with?

There aren’t any easy answers here. You’re dealing with a massive unknown – the reactions of the publishers and agents you submitted to.

No news is… no news

It’s possible that your manuscript is perfectly publishable in terms of writing standard, but not what agents and publishers are looking for in other ways. You might not be on trend, or you might be too close to a trend they have decided will soon be over (even if it won’t).

There was a time, a few years ago, when a publisher or agent might tell you if your writing made the grade in terms of quality. It was a thing: the rave rejection. Your writing’s great but we don’t know how to market it. Now they don’t reply at all.

The publishers and agents might also have reacted to personal characteristics you can’t change – gender, ethnicity, age. That’s pretty terrible, but it’s true, according to a dispiriting chat I had recently with a literary agent. You, personally, might not be marketable.

The two editors who gave different advice about the book

To your other point, about the different feedback from the editors you’ve worked with, I’m not surprised.

It’s possible that your second editor found extensive flaws, but it’s also possible that they noted you wanted a publishing deal, and thought the answer was a complete rework. The book might need those changes, it might not. It might already be darn good from a reader’s point of view.

And this brings me to another point. Freelance editors who are hired by authors don’t look for the same thing as editors who are hired by publishers. A freelance editor will judge the book by the suitability for the reader – will it satisfy them, is it fresh enough for current tastes. An editor working for a publisher will be shaping the book for the publisher’s current agenda, which may be totally different. A publisher might, for instance, be trying to forecast the tastes in the next two years because that’s when they’ll publish.

So… what should you do?

Do you need another editor? That depends.

No you don’t…  if you’re confident in the previous editor’s advice, and in the way the book has turned out with their guidance.

Yes you might… if you think you’ve now matured as a writer and could take the book to another level.

But will a new editor help you get a publishing deal?

That’s impossible to predict. Also, you might write many versions of this book, all of which would satisfy readers, and still not woo a publisher.

Fortunately, there are other good options! You could look for a small press who handles your genre and approach them directly. You’re more likely to get an actual reply and at least you’ll know if your book needs more work. Or go indie (in which case you will need editors for the production process, but that’s another story… more about that here).  

Best of luck.

Guys, what would you tell my correspondent? Let’s discuss in the comments!

If you’d like help with your writing, my Nail Your Novel books are here. If you’re curious about my own work, find novels here and my travel memoir here. And if you’re curious about what’s going on at my own writing desk, here’s my latest newsletter. You can subscribe to future updates here.

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How to cope with a hefty report from a developmental editor

Getting your manuscript back from a developmental editor can be an ordeal. Indeed it’s a writing rite of passage. But – deep breath – we’ve all been there. So here is some friendly handholding.

1 Rest assured, you are not alone in feeling anxious or, indeed overwhelmed. Opening a document with reams of comments usually feels like being disembowelled.

2 So much commentary? Most of us aren’t prepared for the level of detail. But editors are sensitive to issues, ideas and nuances you never thought would matter. This is what you want. They are a supercharged, supersensitive version of your ideal reader. Also, they are primed to explore the nooks and crannies you haven’t explored yourself, probably because you were intent on other things.

3 Many of the editor’s comments will be questions and appreciation, not deletions and corrections. They are working with your material, not against it. They are your book’s advocate.

4 Your first reactions won’t be the most reliable or useful. But you need to see everything, and quickly, so do a fast read just to see what’s there. Streak through the manuscript, perhaps with wine or a hefty bar of chocolate, but don’t take the comments too much to heart at this stage. That’s not to say they will be negative, but your book is a sensitive nerve and your first read-through will not be in your calmest state of mind. So read it, maybe sulk and fume. Then put it away. That first essential task is done. Take a break.

5 After this, it’s not as bad as you think. Read the report several more times. Now you’ve seen the worst – which is what you were looking for in the first read – look for other kinds of comment. A developmental report should be constructive, not destructive. Its aim is to help you make a worthwhile book for readers. Appreciate the report’s full scope. It should tell you what works as well as what doesn’t work. It should ask questions that are helpful, and guide you to solutions, not dead ends. Almost certainly you will fail to notice the things that the editor has praised, or the things that are not as bad as you think.

6 Let it settle. After a few days you’ll start to get spontaneous answers from your subconscious. Also, the outlook will seem more positive, especially if the report recommended drastic changes. At first, these might seem disruptive or impossible, and you might not adopt every suggestion your editor makes. The best solutions will come from you anyway. But after a few days you’ll have a new perspective on the deeper questions and you’ll see new possibilities. You might even begin to like the changes that initially made you despair.

7 Your editor will be waiting for follow-up questions, but allow time for their commentary to bed in. You will solve a surprising amount on your own, and soon a new vision of the book will take shape in your mind. Once you have that, you’ll find the most useful questions to discuss with your editor.

8 Also remember: you’re doing this for your book, because you believe in it.

Psst… there’s loads about self-editing and getting critiques in Nail Your Novel and my Nail Your Novel workbook.

Is there anything you’d add?

If you’d like help with your writing, my Nail Your Novel books are here. If you’re curious about my own work, find novels here and my travel memoir here. And if you’re curious about what’s been going on on at my own writing desk, here’s my latest newsletter. You can subscribe to future updates here.

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What can an editor do for me? Discussion video at Indie Author Fringe 16

indie fringe 16If you’re friends with me on Facebook you’ll have seen a good bit of gallivanting this week at the London Book Fair. As soon as Olympia closed its doors, the Alliance of Independent Authors began its 24-hour marathon festival of  advice and information for authors. Whether you’re indie or not, there’s heaps of interesting stuff for the 2016 author, such as: a cover design clinic, marketing advice and tips on crowdfunding.

I’m chairing a panel on editing – what an editor does, how you choose one, some misconceptions and some stories from the trenches. My co-conspirators are Ricardo Fayet of the Reedsy editorial marketplace; indie author Laxmi Hariharan; and author and editor Andy Lowe (who you may recognise from The Undercover Soundtrack). Do come over.

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Why your editor admires you (and why you might not realise this)

5730710531_07b49820e8_zWhen I write a report about an author’s novel, it usually runs to at least 25 pages of detailed notes and developmental suggestions, plus annotations on the manuscript. Sometimes I’ve written 60-page reports. Although I make my responses constructive and helpful, and discuss strengths as weaknesses, I know it’s daunting to receive such a screed. I know my writers think ‘crikey, she needed to say all that? Did I get it so wrong?’

And this: ‘I thought the book was perfect. What kind of shambolic half-wit does she think I am?’

Well today, I’d like to let you know how the editor sees your book.

My open letter to the edited

Although it may be hard for you to believe when you see the size of my report, I know your manuscript represents aeons more time than the hours it takes me to glide through with my editorial eye. I never underestimate the care you have put in – because I write novels too.

I know the painstaking research and life experience you’ve used to create the world and the plot.

I know you invented – from nothing – a long, twisty path between beginning and end, with carefully laid crumb trails, reversals and surprises. And that it didn’t all happen in one Eureka moment.

sidebarcropI know you’ve invented the people from thin air, with their lives, loves and losses.

I know you’ve chosen every name after careful deliberation – and possibly many rejects. Ditto for the style, language, themes.

I know this manuscript is the result of many decisions and readjustments, made month after month – and that although you might have beta readers, the only thing you could rely on was your own spider sense. Although I might remark on research, locations, character back story and other material that does not fit, I know that you have reams more, which you were already disciplined enough to excise.

I never forget that the draft you give me doesn’t represent just enthusiasm, but also dedication – to persist when the problems were drowning the pleasure.

So yes, you get reams of comments from me, and they’re usually a shock because you thought you were done. But when I write them, I don’t feel like I’m telling you you’ve done it wrong. I feel I’m pointing out the details you didn’t have time, distance or expertise to see because you were already doing a superhuman job.

And so, when this editor sends you her notes, she also sends her admiration.

Welcome back to writing in 2014. What are you hoping to achieve? I’m ploughing on with Ever Rest and aiming to get another Nail Your Novel book out (2015 update – NYN Plot is alive and kicking). Tell me your goals in the comments!

Thanks for the pic soccerlime

lf3 print treesNEWS The print edition of Lifeform Three is now available! If you’re wondering what it’s all about, it’s been amassing some nice reviews, which you can see here, and I’ll also be sharing its Undercover Soundtrack on the Red Blog this week. Hope to see you there.

 

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