AgentC Gives You Financial Advice--and Miss Snark has a snit fit

Let's say a miracle happens and I land $500 to spend any way I like. If buckets of gin and/or bribes to agents such as yourself or MissSnark are out of the question, what is the best way for me to spend my$500? Should I:

a) go to a conference (and if so, which one)?

b) hold the money and pray that my book gets published, then use it on promotion?

c) hire an editor to read over/correct my ms (and if so, how do I find a good one)?

d) use it for postage and supplies because, Lord knows, I will definitely continue to need them?

e) show up on Miss Snark's door step with aforementioned bucket of gin and
doggy treats for Killer Yapp and pray for the best?

Thank you for your help!

Re: Choice A: Meh. Maybe. You might meet a few people, but I don't think it's the best bang for your buck.

B is not bad, but won't help you right now.

Definitely not C. Sorry to those of you who make your living this way, and believe me, I've thought about doing it a hundred million times, but I just don't think it's the best use of this snarklings' money. Your agent and editor, fingers-crossed, will most likely edit it again anyway so why pay someone else to do it again?

My pick is D. Statistically, the more people reading your mss, the more likely someone will want to represent or publish you. You gotta be in it to win it, and other vaguely sports related slogans. Maybe you could subscribe to Poets & Writers or PW to keep up with the biz. Oh, or a monthly subscription to www.publishersmarketplace.com. It's cheap and uber-useful. Ok, enough shilling. Go forth and spend your hypothetical money little snarkling.

(And just for the record, AgentC is more of a vodka girl.)

Wait wait wait. Just a darn tootin' minute here. What happened to Option E????I vote for that..and so does Killer Yapp.


Stacia said...

So we buy Miss Snark some Bombay Sapphire, and AgentC some Grey Goose?

*makes note*

Anonymous said...

My vote is for C. Before I hired a MS consultant I was getting form rejections. Once I made some recommended edits I got a request for a full and a partial.

It depends upon your level of writing and finances. Maybe you don't need as many improvements as I did.

Where to find them? I asked around at the local literary center and found a published author who freelances for major houses and came with a good track record. I don't think I would have hired from off the web.

Good luck.

Anonymous said...

Interesting comment on hiring an editor. Editing is a big part of my business (as is ghost-writing and my own writing), but I have never taken on a fiction client. I always offer to read 10 pages free and tell the prospective client if I think I can help him or her. Usually, I end up telling the writer one of two things: 1) they need to take a class or somehow study writing to improve their skills or 2) they are ready to start submitting, and anything I would change wouldn't be big enough to justify my costs because it would be unlikely to change whether or not an agent would take them on (and I always advise people get an agent).

Nonfiction is another ball of wax entirely. I've edited a bevvy of business books that sold to top-tier publishers with very little further editing. In some of these cases (not all), there is no way an agent or editor would've bought the books without the groundwork I did with the client.

Anonymous said...

As to my hastily typed post above, lest I look like an idiot: of course I know agents don't buy books. I should've said "taken on."

Also, all my work has come from word-of-mouth.

Anonymous said...

I'll second the recommendation to subscribe to Publisher's Marketplace. Of all the writerly/publishy subscriptions, PM definitely gives the most bang for the buck. And you pay month-by-month, so you can quit any time (but you won't!).

Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said...

You sure any of you have kids? Five hundred extra dollars would go to clothes. No doubt about it. And shoes. And umm well stuff. Kids use up a lot of stuff.

Anonymous said...

For the Martha Stewart in you Agent C. Take bottle of Grey Goose (or other favorite brand), twist off top- drop in two vanilla beans which have been speared with a fork. Screw on top leave for a month. Consume.

Mark said...

Agree on the editors. The biggest disagreements I've had in forum world is with writers who do this for money in both directions. I wouldn't. Learn to edit.

Anonymous said...

While I agree that paying for editing can be a waste, in my long haul to publication, I spent $250 for an edit. At the time, I was a little disappointed with the editorial letter they sent, but overall, and looking back, it helped. Quite a bit.

So it can work. But you must be VERY careful in your selection, and it must be timely for where you are as a writer.

Anonymous said...

A good critique group is free. (My crit buddies are fellow Sisters in Crime members.) Spend the money on a PM subscription and supplies. If you're lucky, you'll have enough left over to buy a kick-a** pair of leather boots and some chocolate (for the inevitable rejection letters).

Anonymous said...

I vote for none of the above and would spend the money on novels. The more you read, the better you become at noticing potential flaws in your own writing.

Anonymous said...

Eileen, I've tried that recipe with the vodka and the beans. It doesn't work. The vodka never lasts a month.


Anonymous said...

Eileen, shame on you for suggesting that Agent C should ruin a perfectly good bottle of Goose.

Goose should be served slightly chilled and straight up.

If you must marinate an olive in it for ten seconds, go ahead.

Anonymous said...

Vanilla Beans and Vodka? A recipe for a big ass hurl. My God, did Martha dream that up while behind bars?

Anonymous said...

Hmph. I thought vanilla beans and Grey Goose sounded like a fabulous idea, Eileen. Ignore the babbling of the gin-drinkers.

Anonymous said...

Probably a REALLY stupid question, but what does the initials: MEH mean? I see it all over writer blogs and my mind is too badly soaked in cheap beer to come up with a clever definition. I figure the snarklings are clued in and willing to let me in on the secret handshake.

Anonymous said...

And if you do hire a free lance editor don't mention it in queries or cover letters.

If the editor uses Track changes or inserted Comments be sure to delete all that before submitting electronically!

Very, very small epublisher. Got a sub in which writer told us it had been 'professionally edited' and it had the editor's virtual business card attached. Looked at a few pages just to see what they were like. Red, red, red with comments and corrections including one place where 'editor' had 'corrected' "She and I went..." in the original to "She and me went..."
MTZ, epress-online

Mad Scientist Matt said...

There's one other possible thing to spend it on: Research materials! If it's nonfiction, that could be interviewing sources, prior books on your topic, accademic journals, or possibly even buying something in your book to take it apart and see how it works. For fiction, a lot of good books to see how other authors do their storytelling, and maybe some books on how key technology or institutions in your book work in the real world. And for both, books on the craft and marketing of writing. Writing is a business of information, after all.

Mad Scientist Matt said...

December Quinn: I believe at one point Miss Snark clearly stated that she favors Beefeater and is not a fan of Bombay Saphire.

Like I said, market research is money well spent. :)

WagerWitch said...

Meh - Or MEH is a way of saying:

Yeah, ok, whatever, hmmm, blah, possible, Uhm, blecch and a few other translations that can verbally translate into a semi grunt type of sound, usually with lips curled in a sneer.

Sort of like a "Snarky-type" of "maybe, maybe not..."

Lady M
Creating verbiage garbage definitions. *grin*

Mark said...

Or you could keep the money and go to the library.

Anonymous said...

I'd have to agree with those who say skip the editorial services.

Early on, green as a leaf, I used a freelance editor. Let me just say while some of the insight was...umm..helpful. Yeah, helpful.

The edits were not what made it a stronger book in the end.

Had I kept using the freelance editor it would have gone into the thousands of dollars. And I still don't think it would have gotten much tighter since many of the edits were subjective.

We're not talking grammar - though any editor will point out glaring grammatical errors. Most freelance editors for fiction are and should be looking deeper.

Too expensive. Too subjective.

Skip the editor.

Hone your writing skills. Let an agent or editor, i.e. someone with a vested interest in the project selling, point out revision musts.

Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little said...

"Meh" is often the sound one's mouth makes when one's brain is unimpressed. Or noncommital. Something like that.

Lizzy said...

Meh: A term implying indifference or a verbal shoulder shrug. Used when one simply does not care or to consternate the questioner.

A: What do you want for dinner?
B: Meh.

A: Would you like vanilla beans in that vodka?
B: Meh.

A: That squid guy seemed so friendly. How did your date go?
B: Meh.

A: Your goat ate my dog's tam.
B: Meh.

Stacia said...

December Quinn: I believe at one point Miss Snark clearly stated that she favors Beefeater and is not a fan of Bombay Saphire.

Yes, but I keep hoping she'll come around.

Anonymous said...

I'd go with the editor. Have you seen how many typos the American publishing industry allows to get into print these days? Boggles the mind.

Anonymous said...

Five hundred bucks? Buy supplies AND go to a conference. Pick one that has people at it you've always wanted to meet. Fun can be morale-boosting.

Shadow said...

And I thought "meh" was the exclusive invention of my 16 y/o son. It's his answer to everything; like "whatever" but with fewer syllables. Or maybe it's female teens who say "whatever" while males say "meh". I maintain that it's adolescent-speak for f-you.

Anonymous said...

To those of you picking the editorial services, do you plan to do that with every book you write? Do you intend to spend huge chunks of your advance at every go making sure that some freelance editor (of questionable talent, experience and opinion) has turned your manuscript from "unsaleable" to "saleable"? (Acquiring editors can see past a few rough sentences if they like the book -- after all, you're going to have to have it edited with them as well!) And if that is the case, then aren't you rather kidding yourselves? I've never once seen someone who couldn't get their stuff past query stage sell a manuscript because they hired an editor. They aren't miracle workers, they're typo correcters -- and if they were miracle workers, I think that would me more of a clue for me that I didn't have what it took on my own.

Cheryll said...

Tsk! The vanilla beans in vodka isn't a recipe for drinks!!

That's how one must make real vanilla extract these days, since it is no longer possible to obtain pure food-grade grain alcohol down at the drug store.

Oh. And the reason one makes one's own real vanilla is because one prefers to know exactly what adulterants have been added.......

(Any snarklings besides me old enough to remember the Mexican vanilla scare some 30 years ago? Turned out all that lovely cheap stuff (people were bringing back pints and quarts of it from Juarez & Tiajuana) was artificially flavored to one degree or another...with bug killer!

Rhonda Helms said...

I agree with using the money for a subscription to PW - I think staying on top of what's being bought NOW is highly useful.


ps - I'm a vodka girl, too. Ketel One is my preferred brand. I find it's best served straight out of the freezer. mmmmmmm...

Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said...

Hey, we cowboys and goat herds tend to drink beer or champagne. Okay, so one of our neighbours who's pretty much a real cowboy only drinks iced tea made in a jar out in the sun and loaded with more sugar than any same person would use. But most of us Yeeee Hawwwwers drink beer or champagne. Yup. It's true pard.

yossarian said...

I would either extend my PM membership for that many months, or get a subscription to PW. Great mag but painfully expensive, that one.

Learn to edit yourself and find some quality critique partners.

Bernita said...

Doesn't ANYONE drink rum around here, as in bacardi cocktails?

Christine said...

How about E) Buy some books on writing. I think, in the long run, that you'll get more mileage from those than from a MS consultant. Personal favorite is "Self-Editing for Fiction Writers", and I've heard good things about "Writing down the Bones" and "Writing the Breakout Novel."

Anonymous said...

"To those of you picking the editorial services, do you plan to do that with every book you write?" ... "I think that would me more of a clue for me that I didn't have what it took on my own."

To the first question, no. I might pay someone look at the first chapter. But I'm past the point of needing someone to look at my entire second novel. I'm able to get into a more distant self-editing mode because of the consultant's advice.

To the second point... I get the not so subtle implication. And no, before the consultant, my writing did not have what it took. I however, did, and I chose this way of learning.

Hiring an editor was like taking a very focused class. I learned that I had a good story but my weak craft was holding it back. As others have mentioned I also learned a lot from reading books. Both well-written fiction and instructional.

I also learned that you can hand your work over to free parties but, *Friends* often tell you thing you want to hear. *Critique groups* are dodgy affairs for numerous reasons. Trust takes time. Time is money. My consultant didn't write my book for me, but revealed issues no group or book had done before.

Self-editing is not just about fawning over your second draft and polishing it a bit. It's about ruthlessly cutting and honing something past the wankfest most people call "revisions"

If you choose to pay a GOOD editor they will pull your head from your bum. It certainly isn't for all. But I'd still be back thinking my story was great and not understanding why it was being rejected had I not hired the consultant.

There are many ways to become a competent writer.

Anonymous said...

Does no one drink Tanqueray anymore? Am I so hopelessly out of it?

P.S. Verified word is "qladyh." I don't write speculative fiction, so those of you who do are invited to make use of it for a character name. :-)

Lex said...

Yes, some of my friends still drink Tanqueray, when they can afford it.

And perhaps keeping the money and going to the library isn't such a bad idea after all... to whoever mentioned that above. Save it until you have more to invest with, but send Miss Snark and AgentC some Tanqueray and Grey Goose in the meanwhile.

Anonymous said...

those hoping to be "edited" by either their agent or their editor should be warned:

agents get a manuscript into shape to be sold. that is not the same thing as editing, much less good editing.

once you sell your book, you will find that editors don't have time to edit. they spend most of their energy on office politics, on acquiring books, or on planning the marketing of their books. they rarely edit. they often give notes. that is not the same thing. sometimes their assistants "edit" the manuscripts. that too is not good editing.

if you are interested in making sure your book is the best it can be, and that you learn in the process so that your next book comes out better from the get-go, find a reputable professional editor to work with.

Mark said...

"To those of you picking the editorial services, do you plan to do that with every book you write?"

They're drumming up business for themselves and nothing more. This is typical vanity press fodder.

Anonymous said...

A friend of mine has benefited immensely from working with a freelance editor over the past year or two. An editor at a reputable company suggested it after enjoying my friend's manuscript but finding the writing not up to par.

I don't know whether my friend is going to make it big now, but she can at least write consecutive coherent paragraphs.

Anonymous said...

if you are interested in making sure your book is the best it can be, and that you learn in the process so that your next book comes out better from the get-go, find a reputable professional editor to work with.

Hmmm, I never did that and you can BET I got input from my agent, and tons more, including revisions, line edits, copyedits and proofreads from the house who paid US. "Professional editing" is a scam.

As a published author, I participate in a lot of critiques at conferences and the like, and I'm always amazed what a panel of so-called experts will say about the same piece. They're all published. All apparently good at what they do. So who do you trust? What if you'd trusted one "professional editor" who said one thing, when another would have told you something else? You're out the money, and no closer to a "correct" answer.

I advocate critique groups. Since the opinion you get is subjective anyway, might as well not have to pay for something you may never use.

Don't pay a "professional" editor. Find a "professional" who will make YOU money.

Or go ahead and pay some idiot a thousand bucks to correct your typos, or worse, go through changing "She and I went" to "she and me went."

Your choice.

Anonymous said...

Personally, I feel there are other avenues for editorial advice, which for me works better than paying out big bucks for one shot at my MS. I've been a member of Critique Circle ( http://www.critiquecircle.com/ ), which came in first for writers' workshop on the same Preditors and Editors poll that this site took first for Writers' Forum and Writers's Resource. CC also came in the top ten in those categories. The basic membership is free and premium membership is $24/year--a real bargain in my book. I think this is one venue worth the money (or do the free one and buy a treat with the $24).

One software product that's been highly recommended to me, although I haven't invested in it, is some editor software called Stylewriter( http://www.editorsoftware.com/stylewriter-software/ ). I think the main reason I haven't chosen that route is I'm afraid it might normalize my style such that I lose my individuality. That is purely a subjective opinion on my part. However, based on what others have said, it's worth investing in.

As far as stamps, etc. go, I think that should be done on a pay-as-you-use basis. Did you know you can establish an account with the US Postal Service ( http://www.usps.com/ ) and print your own Priority Mail Labels and also pay for them on line. The post office has mailing supplies which are free for priority, and for a flat fee of $3.85 you can send query material which you can track regardless of weight, but if the package is less than a pound, the mail carrier will pick it up from your letterbox.

Tribe said...

I don't know about you, but you can still buy very good dope for $500...and still have change left over to eat afterwards.

Anonymous said...

On Book Doctors--

One of the problems here is that when people here are talking about hiring a "frelance editor," they are talking about at least 2 very different things.

1) Some of you are imagining detailed line edits to fix the weak spots in your prose.

2) Others are talking about someone who reads your manuscript and gives you the feedback that a good acquiring editor would give you if they decided to buy your book--that is, how can we make this story better?

My advice on 1) is, if your actual prose craft requires work, take a class, or workshop, or join a critique group. The kind of help you need is a longer-term proposistion, and is best done in a give-and-take environment. If you actually need line editing, you're not ready yet for prime time.

And, I might add, you don't need to be able to go to Princeton and get into Joyce Carol Oates' class. Some of the best workshops aren't in the MFA programs, but in extension courses, night schools, and at community colleges. These are the places working writers are most likely to be found teaching.

If, on the other hand, your prose is up to snuff, but you are concerned with larger structural issues, then you need someone who will write you a detailed book memo--option 2). I did this once and got back ten pages of critique. I found it immensely helpful; there were suggestions about where cuts could be made, about pacing, about places where the story needed a few more complications. I dropped a couple of chapters, added a few scenes...and ignored a few suggestions.

I thought it was money well spent, although an outsider might look at the before-and-after manuscripts and say that I'd only changed about 5% of the book.

A class or workshop or critique group is unlikely to be able to give you this kind of big-picture guidance, because they'll be looking through it on a chapter-by-chapter basis. I can tell you from hard experience that it is possible to write a book where every chapter is praised by readers--where the opening chapters encourage a dozen agents to ask for the full ms.--but where the novel doesn't work as an entity.

If you decide to go down this road, the problem, of course, is finding a good book doctor rather than just some clown. I don't know how you do this other than by word of mouth; I believe the one I used is now writing full time and doesn't do this kind of work any more.



The big hitch to all this is that I can't advise you on how to find a good book doctor...other than 'ask around.' Even then it's like shopping for a psychologist or counselor--you stand a good risk of finding that you spent money and didn't get the help you wanted.

I had a great experience, but caveat emptor.

Anonymous said...

If, on the other hand, your prose is up to snuff, but you are concerned with larger structural issues, then you need someone who will write you a detailed book memo--option 2).

With regard to finding "structural issues," I recommend an unlikely group -- friends and relatives. While they are unlikely to give you honest criticism, questioning them closely after a read will help you discover where their attention waned, or where they got confused. The best piece of advice I got on my first novel came when I cross-examined a friend about his reading my draft. While he'd highly praised the novel at first (surprise), he got more and more evasive under questioning until he finally admitted skipping several chapters where the action slowed. Bingo!

Anonymous said...

if your goal is to make sure that the other guy (the publisher) pays, you will get exactly what you pay for.

commercial publishing houses try their best, but their best shouldn't be good enough for you, the writer. it's your book, with your name on it. if you are content to have a "good enough" rather than a "good" book published, then by all means do without the services of a professional.

the reality of today's publishing business is this:

as soon as your manuscript lands on your editor's desk, it will be hustled by marketing onto the next possible list and shoved through the production process. it will be copyedited and proofread by free-lancers, who have no vested interested in anything other than getting a check in the mail.

if you are worried about getting ripped off, ask your literary agent for a referral to a professional editor.

every reputable literary agent has a list of trusted freelance editors (many of whom were once employed as editors in commercial publishing houses). many of these freelancers are well known in the industry. their names are listed in the acknowledgments of books; they advertise in publishers marketplace; you can 'look inside the book' at amazon and find their names.

if your agent doesn't have such a list, s/he is a fool or, worse, ignorant of the basic realities of commercial publishing.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous (my aren't there a lot of us here with that name!) what you're saying it not true...not for the three publishing houses I've worked for--all of them "big." My manuscripts are vetted very nicely, thank you, with lots of insightful editing by my editor. I have had excellent copy edits at two of the houses...both the freelancers were excellent at their jobs. One house could have better copyediting, I'll admit, but at the line edit and revision stage, everything is top notch. Does stuff slip through? Sure it does...happens to everyone.

My agent has no list--or at least, she's never told me about it--and she's a top agent who has been in this business for a long time, cutting her teeth at William Morris before starting her own agency, which she's had for over 10 years and she represents quite a few "listers."

I don't think you know what you're talking about. (BTW, I've published 25 books with three major publishers since 1998). Over a million books in print. And I can count the errors that have come through in my books on, well, two hands. But that's pretty good for all those words in print.

Anonymous said...

25 books in 8 years is astounding. I don't know what you write, but I'm sure you'd agree that some books take years to write and might require more content editing than yours. I spent 5 years writing my first book. I scrimped and saved and paid a well-respected freelance editor thousands to help shape, develop and make my book the best it could be. As a result, I found an agent and sold my book. The editor who bought it is wonderful, but nowhere near as demanding and focused on me as my freelance editor is. Maybe I'd have landed a book deal without her help, but I have no regrets about the investment.

Anonymous said...

I make most of my living (at this stage) from freelance editing - all fiction. About 98% of it is for good publishing houses, but I take on the very occasional book from an author who wants a better shot at getting an agent or publisher.

I would ONLY recommend this for a first novel (and not always then). If you've had one novel edited by a good editor, whether through a publishing house or on your own, you really shouldn't need that level of editing ever again. Go through everything your editor did and suggested. You should be able to get a very good idea of what your strengths and weaknesses are. Then you should be able to correct the weaknesses - at least to the point where they won't damage your chances of publication.

In other words, in some cases, I think getting your first book edited can be a good investment. The problem is that it can be hard to tell whether you're one of those cases or not. I think I've made a big difference to several authors - showed them how to strengthen their books in pretty crucial ways. I've also turned down several books because I felt nothing I could do would really make a difference to the writer's chances - either because, as One of Them said, the book was already ready to submit, or because it was frankly hopeless and would not have had a chance in hell no matter what I did, short of ghost-writing. All those writers thought an edit would help their chances. Not all of them were right.

The problem is that not every freelance editor will tell you if you don't need this edit. I will, and One of Them will, but there are those out there who won't.

Anonymous said...

It's gettin' snarky in the house. Hope to see a new post before people start drawing weapons...

Anonymous said...

25 books in 8 years:

you sound like a professional writer and thus not in need of the services of an outside editor--especially if you "worked for" three houses.

the use of book doctors is a "secret" in publishing--that is to say, an open secret. no one advertises it, but everybody does it. usually it's done discreetly. sometimes it's wide out in the open.

bill clinton's book was, famously, edited by outside editor bob gottlieb, a former wunderkind of publishing and now "retired." there are many others like gottlieb, few of them as well known.

some agencies actually employ editors. a lot of editing is done on the agent's side these days, because it's well known that books will not get the attention they need in house.

publishing is a brutal business. every book needs all the help it can get to have even a slim shot at success. smart publishing professionals know this and do everything they can to maximize the chancess of success. smart writers would be well advised to do the same.

getting an agent and a book contract is just the beginning of the process.

Mark said...

"I don't know whether my friend is going to make it big now, but she can at least write consecutive coherent paragraphs."

Yeah they call this training college. I highly recommend it over freelance editors.

Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little said...

every reputable literary agent has a list of trusted freelance editors (many of whom were once employed as editors in commercial publishing houses). many of these freelancers are well known in the industry. their names are listed in the acknowledgments of books; they advertise in publishers marketplace; you can 'look inside the book' at amazon and find their names.

if your agent doesn't have such a list, s/he is a fool or, worse, ignorant of the basic realities of commercial publishing.

This is very dangerous advice in the ears of the newbie writer. There are too many scammers out there posing as literary agents who make their living on not book sales but on the kickbacks they get from the "book doctors" they send all their clients (read: victims) to.

My impression from reading blogs such as this one and forums in which Actual Multi-Published Writers post is that real, legitimate, ethical agents do not in fact send their clients to book doctors. I could of course be wrong, what with not fitting the description of A. M-P. W. myself, but when I get conflicting advice from 25 Books In 8 Years and from 1 Book So Far, I'll go with the one who's got more experience in the biz anytime.

Anonymous said...

No, "everybody" does NOT use book doctors. Celebrities writing big-advance memoirs and "novels" do. Sometimes.

Real novelists write their own books.

This post is getting completely ridiculous. It's pretty obvious that the people advocating this practice are the ones looking to fill their pocketbooks with their little scam.

Oh yes, publishing houses care NOTHING for the quality of their books. They just want to rush it out on their list without even looking at it. The only way to guarantee that your book is edited is to pay for it yourself. Because some person you hire out of a phone book is going to atually do the job, whereas the people who your publisher pays to do that job do... what, exactly? All those editors and line editors and copyeditors and proofreaders the houses have on staff... well, they're just there for show. Their salaries and health benefits? Also with the "just for show." You gotta do all that stuff yourself. And hire your own cover designer too. Get real, people.

My first book went through two rounds of revisions with my acquiring editor, then line and copyedits, then proofreading. Twice. It was very in depth. I got a lengthy revision letter. That's what a publishing house DOES.

Oh yeah. The publisher was Random House. But this must be unusual, right, because, you know, RH doesn't publish much...

Anonymous said...

a published writer:

1) you were lucky, and i'm happy for you

2) real writers write their own books--agreed

3) the freelancer who posted before is right: for a good writer, working closely with a good book doctor once, on the first novel, should suffice. non-fiction writers often need a lot more help, and repeatedly.

4) all real writers need editors; the realer the writer, the more s/he wants--no, "craves" would be a better word--an editor who will take the time to read and re-read and talk over and throw around ideas, etc.

5) there is only one house left that employs full-time in house copy editors and proofreaders. it is not random house, which has production editors and title administrators, none of whom are paid to edit or read. they supervise the work of freelancers.

6) there are many dedicated individual employees in commercial publishing houses who will help you give birth to your book

notwithstanding 6):

7) institutionally, the publishers long, long ago moved away from editing and into marketing.

if you don't believe me, ask miss snark why, when she sends out a manuscript, she makes sure before she sends it out that it's in shape to be published.

i have spent my adult life helping writers give birth to their books. i don't need business, nor do i see the logic of your argument. i posted here anonymously--why would i be proselytizing? for some cabal of book doctors?

i've written these things in order to be helpful, not harmful, to writers. my message is this:

it's your book, your writing, your pride, your brilliant career. take care with them.

don't expect paid employees of a commercial outfit whose only concern is the bottom line to help you develop or maintain any of the above.

Anonymous said...

it's your book, your writing, your pride, your brilliant career. take care with them.

I do, which is why I took care to find an agent who would handle my business affairs, and a publishing house and editorial staff who would handle my editorial affairs. I handle my writing affairs.

I know several dozen published novelists, from the debut to the midlisters to the huge NYT bestsellers, and not a one of them use the method you describe. They all write their own books and let the publishing house edit them. So are they all just "lucky" or is that really the norm, and the houses full of editors who sit around all day twiddling their thumbs, which you seem to think is the case, the sad reality?

Miss Snark makes sure her books are publishable before she sends them out because, with the loads of stuff being sent in, only the best ever GET the chance to be bought and get time for editing from the publisher. That's like a student hiring someone else to take his entrance exams. How good of a student is he going to be once he's in school?

Were our manuscripts "publishable" before our in house editors got their hands on them? Perhaps. But because the publishing house cares as much about hte quality of the product they sell as the authors do, they worked even harder on it.

"Good" is part of "marketable." You're in error if you think that houses don't realize that.

But it's clear that this myth is the easier one to peddle. Hire an editor, and you, too, can write like Hemingway! Talent is overrated. Throw enough money at the project and we'll make you into John Grisham. Whatever works for you.

Off to write more.

Anonymous said...

Yeah they call this training college. I highly recommend it over freelance editors.

That's a good option, Mark, but not everyone has the time and money to devote to going back to school. The couple thousand bucks my friend paid the editor wouldn't have covered tuition and books for one semester at the college closest to her, even assuming they had a fiction program, which they don't. She already writes excellent marketing prose; it was the fiction part that wasn't working. For her money, she got individual attention from a competent person who could focus on her specific issues and spend time teaching her how to correct those problems. Her writing's better. She's happier with it.

Would I do the same thing? No. It's not something I feel I need. My problems lie in other areas. Does that mean I think she made a mistake or wasted her money? Absolutely not.

Anonymous said...

My, my what a to-do. I'm going to go with the conclusion that there is no set recipe for success here; one method may work for some, another for a few, and nothing nothing short of black magic or self-publishing for the rest.

BTW, what's the difference between copyediting and line editing? I think I know what a line editor does, which is he checks every line for typos, grammar, spelling etc. Copyeditor? Looks at overall structure? Help.

Anonymous said...

"I think I know what a line editor does, which is he checks every line for typos, grammar, spelling etc. Copyeditor? Looks at overall structure? Help."

No. A copyeditor checks the copy -- which is checking for typos, grammar mistakes, spelling, continuity or factual errors. There is no such thing as a "line editor" in book publishing -- your editor does both structural editing and "line editing", which is similar to what a copyeditor does (only less rigidly focussed) with the addition of editing for issues of style and clarity.

For a poster far above complaining that typos indicate a poorly edited book -- you are confusing errors in the typesetting process with actual editing. It is not the editor's job to correct every error generated in the typesetting process -- that the job of the proofreaders, who do their best to catch every misplaced letter in a several hundred page book. If you speak to the printing companies that do jobs for the large houses, they will tell you that it is actually impossible to produce a book without any errors in typesetting whatsoever. The rate is something like one every 20 pages. It is a simple mechanical process, and errors both human and machine are inevitable.

I do not even want to address the statement that "editors don't edit anymore"." Suffice it to say that the only people I have ever heard pass this old chestnut around are either a) offering services for money or b) unpublished authors.

Anonymous said...

Thank you anonymous above for clearing up for me the line editor/copyeditor confusion. Much appreciated.

Anonymous said...

For those who want to know, especially Mags, who enjoys a good T&T from time to time:

"Qladyh" isn't an SF name. It's Gladys with her mouth shot full of Novocain.


Glad to be of service.

Anonymous said...

dear indignant published writer who has arranged to have an editorial staff at his disposal and who has dozens of fabulous, immaculately conceived writer friends:

ever consider flacking for the publishing industry?

indeed, your own house could use an image burnishing right about now…


Anonymous said...

Excuse this long comment, but I'm frustrated and would VERY MUCH like feedback of others as to what I perceive as a sad decline in the industry. I've freelanced for approximately 23 years--copy editing and proofreading not only college textbooks, journals, and scholarly books for university presses but also, for the last 11 years or so, MOSTLY NONFICTION TRADE BOOKS for some of larger pub. houses.

I've primarily taken on "supposed" proofreading jobs (more bulk, less stress?!) but am becoming increasingly appalled by the ALMOST NONEXISTENT lack of developmental editing as well as inadequate preliminary trouble-shooting/communication between acquiring editors and authors!Then it seems the managing (production editors)are often clueless even as to subject matter--and just shove out book to copyeditor. He or she thus is often first person to see the manuscript draft! Seldom have I received instrux on particular unique author preferences--be it re: spellings, colloquialisms, or sensitivities to certain copy changes, all important functions that shouldn't come to freelancer via telepathy.
AND LAST: I'D REALLY LIKE TO HEAR FROM SOME OF YOU ON THIS!!! When most glys (first-pass proofs)get to me for "proofreading" task, I'm finding so many unprofessional errors (likely combo of inexperienced editors AND RIDICULOUS DEADLINES--with no distinctions made for due dates based on complexity of ms.)that I'm doing much more than proofreading pay provides!

Whew! Thanks for letting me vent, but I've always prided myself on professional standards, but budget and schedule--while of course are important--are starting to swallow up my enjoyment of the work.