Mark Up

Dear Miss Snark,

In today’s blog entry you’re talking about an agent doing a “mark up” of a manuscript. Being that I’ve never had any contact with any agent, I have to ask: what’s a “mark up?”

This is when the nitwit client can't spell worth crap and thinks "making the fir fly" is a what lumberjacks do. Sadly, they also happen to have really good books so Miss Snark grimaces, screams, curses, and hauls out her red pen and copy edits the stupid thing.

You might gather from this that Miss Snark is not happy about this. She's not. She's less happy about sending out anything that's got stupid mistakes in it though.

Thus: mark up. I mark up your manuscript, you fix it and send it back, then I sell it. I complain about this so often and so cruelly that you vow to never EVER need it again.

I only have to do this about three times a year. MOST clients have everything in apple pie order (that phrase always amazes me cause one thing an applie pie is NOT is orderly) but I still like to make sure it's correct. A second set of eyeballs catches the most amazing things.

Several of my colleaguse flat out refuse to do this and say in stern tones to Miss Snark "stop that, it's their responsibility." Miss Snark hangs her head in shame but continues to wield the red pen. I'd really like to stop, it sucks time like a hoover, but so far, I just can't.


Anonymous said...

Even though I'd like to think I put my MS through a fine toothed-typo comb, I find more typos when I go through it again. My comb is missing some teeth!

There's always something. I've seen typos in published pieces.

Still looking for the perfect comb.


Anonymous said...

I am a professional writer and editor (in business). What most amazes me, is how my eyes see what they want to see when I am editing my own fiction.

Even more surprising is when I have edited the work dozens of times and 10 other people, writers all, will each find an error everyone else missed.

It's become a mystery equal to lost socks in the dryer.

Anonymous said...


Where's that red pen....

(It's a well-known fact of life on the net that whenever you're criticizing someone else's spelling ability, that's when you are inexplicably infected with typoitis. Oh, the horror!)

Desperate Writer said...

OOOH, "applie pie" sounds fabulous.


MTV said...

What a sad day in Snarkdom! The admission that Miss Snark is impelled - yes you heard it - impelled to correct a manuscript that has merit instead of leaving the ill educated miscreant to grovel until they learn that spelling and usage do count and in fact could influence their livlihood!!!

I apologize in advance for this personal but loving attack! Miss Snark is quite a gal! As a newly devoted Snarkling this admission gives me yet some hope. Well, actually not - I've got the spelling down - it's the plotting that creates a bit of concern!

Rei said...

I'll never get over how I can read over my novel, think, "*There!* I've finally gotten everything!". Then I hand my manuscript to someone else, and I get it back with errors all over the place. "She took off her shoes here, but she's wearing them there." "This sentence is too long, and it has too many progressive verbs." "There's too much anthropomorphism here - the farms aren't actually changing their crops as she passes." "Who is talking here?"

So I make another pass. I go back and not only fix everything they mentioned, but look for more of the "types" of errors found. "Whew, I got it this time!" I give it to another person.

I get it back with errors marked all over the place. :P

It's one of those things that drives you crazy. I don't know how people manage to get a manuscript that agents see as "flawless" enough to send in as-is. I'm on edit pass #4, and I just keep finding things.

Sara Dennis said...

Speaking as someone who has had stupid things caught by a second pair of eyes after she's read over her submissions a dozen times in the process of getting it ready, thank you for taking the time to mark up manuscripts. Some of us do appreciate it, honestly.

McKoala said...

Sometimes you can't quite sink that stilletto in, can you. Bunny slippers are so much more comfortable.

Lady M said...

Methinks you've a bit of "EDITORITIS".

It is a fine disease and a helpful one. Perhaps you could edit and mayhaps become a small publisher?

Just a thought. LOL!

*ducks beneath nearest stilletto free zone*

Anonymous said...

That's rather nice of you.

ann said...

I like things "ship-shape, in Bristol fashion" myself. Could be from watching Thomas the Tank Engine too much with the kids.

Anonymous said...

I love spell check because it helps me find the most egregious errors (I leave auto-checking on and wonder where those red squiggly lines went on my hard copy). However, it's useless when it comes to homophones. I'm pretty good at choosing the correct one, but then I'll slip up on the most common of them--your when it should be you're, etc. It galls me because I know better. I'd understand the more arcane ones, but why I'm sometimes felled by the more common ones is beyond me.

Here's a little poem I found back when spell-check was new.


I have a spelling checker,
It came with my PC.
It plainly marks four my revue
Mistakes I cannot sea.
I've run this poem threw it
I'm sure your pleased too no,
Its letter perfect in it's weigh,
My checker tolled me sew.

;-) Anon-y-mouse

P.S. I ran Google's spell-check on this entry and no errors were found. :-P

Catja (green_knight) said...

Once you've taken on a client it makes sense to mark up the mss - because if you can spot flaws that would cause an editor to offer less or not at all, you'd be hurting your own income if you insisted on sending it out.

The trick lies, obviously, in only accepting clients that don't need major intervention.

I can see how clients who pay professional editors out of their own pocket would skew those calculations badly - the first mss needs only a light edit and flies, the second might be in need of a thorough pass - but *this time* the client isn't willing to pay out of her own pocket.

Termagant 2 said...

Boy, can I identify. I just got a MS back from the publisher's editor, and I made some boo-boos I didn't believe myself. My editor is herself a fine writer, but with a sense of humor...so methought: did she slip some of these gaffes in herself, just to yank my chain? We've worked together on two previous books, and we "get" each other, so even if she had, I wouldn't have minded.

But no. The slip-ups were mine, all Mine! (insert evil cackle here)

And this book was seen in the past by some half dozen people, none of whom caught everything, including the Author.

What's a non-stiletto wearing Snarkling to do?

T2, whose verification word is vegskippl, sounding like a casserole of potatoes, green beans, carrots...hmmm, supper idea?

Mags said...

Apple pies are orderly until they're cooked.

Martha Stewart's pies stay that way, most likely out of fear.

Anonymous said...

Apple Pie Order: (from some site I googled)

The phrase may originate from the French 'nappes pliees' = neatly folded, or from 'cap-a-pie' = heat to foot. There's no definitive evidence to support this though and the origin remains uncertain.

Anonymous said...

My brand new agent recently read my first ms and loved it; she said that it's ready as is - not an error in sight, no changes to be made. Then I re-read the epilogue and found where I neglected to close quotation marks in one instance. Ha!

This after I went through the thing at least 20 times, then did the second-pair-of-eyes test.

I can't believe Miss Snark actually marks up - that should earn her a halo award, imo. Yet another reason I could never be an agent: I taught high-school for 20 years, and if I ever see a red pen within a 50 yard radius I scream and faint dead away.

just Joan said...

To author is devine, to err is human.

No one is perfect, except Miss Snark, of course.

BuffySquirrel said...

Ah, yes. "Why isn't that gate locked?" was a question I asked myself about my mss recently. Not to mention "Since he needs a gun, why doesn't he just take the one belonging to that man he's just killed?"

Cringe and cringe again. My husband found "waiter" for "water", once.

Anonymous said...

And then there are those authors who ask, "Isn't that the job of the copyeditor?" You're a marvel, Miss Snark.

Rei said...


I've seen a lot worse than waiter/water. Check out this thread:


Just a few gems from the first page:

"He had blue eyes and brown eyes that was in need of brushing,"

"I pierced my eyes in a thread of remembrance."

"He gasped painfully from the air going out of his throat as it entered."

"The sun was bright enough to make him want to eat."

"The cold weapon was shoved into his hands. It was cold hard steel that made the reality of the situation press firmly into his mind. The air was silent and cold. Around him, the room was dark and cold with a dampness that crept over his entire body....."It's now or never, kid." The words were cold."

"I know you always hard me."

Anonymous said...

The weirdest error I didn't find in my own writing: "crushed eyes" instead of "crushed ice."


HawkOwl said...

If "apple-pie order" comes from the French, it would make more sense to take the simplest possible explanation: the French apple pie. If you look at the way the French make apple pies (tarte aux pommes), they take really thin slices of apple and arrange them very very neatly to cover the whole shell in a fish-scale sort of pattern. Very pretty.

Thank you, Miss Snark, for answering my question. Without snarking at me. :)

Anonymous said...

I work in academic publishing, and our copyediting has been offshored to a firm that *introduces errors* in the name of improvement.

Some things are "corrected" by a robochanger that ignores context; the rest of it, I assume, is the result of slave wages and sweatshop conditions. Conditional tense doesn't exist; edits are made inconsistently; incorrect grammar and awkward constructions that should be caught are not.

I always make a pass through manuscripts before they go to typesetting, but I have to be even more eagle-eyed on the proof pages to catch not only things that I missed the first time through but also things that have been made wrong (and yes, I do compare proofs to the raw version that was uploaded to the compositors).

Those of you who have competent editors and/or merciful agents (stilettoes notwithstanding), thank your lucky stars.

They are worth their weight in gold.

McKoala said...

Stiletto. Grrr. There's something about this thread...a spell, a curse... I'll stop typing before I make even more mistakes.

Anonymous said...

My own absolute least favorite event is finding NEW mistakes in the corrections you've just made for previous errors. It's a hall of mirrors, receding into the distance. Or to quote Roseane Roseanna Dana, "It's always something."
(And not even to mention the mistakes you find looking at your own copy as soon as something you've combed over at least a dozen times is irretrievably in the mail.)

Anonymous said...

From TOWFI, one of the most fascinating places on the web:

Ever wondered about the phrase in apple-pie order? It doesn't seem to make much sense, does it? The contents of an apple pie can hardly be said to be ordered. The answer lies in the original French nap plié ("folded linen") which was heard as "apple-pie". There is a bonus explanation here, as this also accounts for apple-pie bed, an old practical joke in which the bed linen was folded short.

M. G. Tarquini said...

The spellchecker poem is from The Journal of Irreproducible Results:



Candidate for a Pullet Surprise

Written by:

Jerrold H. Zar
Department of Biological Sciences
Northern Illinois University

Read it in its entirety. Put down beverages first.

Steorling said...

Has anyone else stumbled upon another of the limits of Word in that the more pages you have in your document the less likely it is to save an edit? I have a typo in a book of about 470 pages that I have corrected from EVER to EVERY about six hundred times. {Yes, I know it's this one, it's marked in a hardcopy as being corrected at least three times.} I opened it today, it's still EVER!! *banging head on keyboard and muttering incoherently*