More on Markup

Dear Miss Snark,

You've been talking about mark up work as if it's a drag. I love that sort of work. I edit strangers' manuscripts in my spare time.

Is there a position in the publishing business devoted to fighting the good fight against extraneous italics? Would you ever consider contracting outside help to smack a manuscript into shape? Is it just copy editing? The copy editors I've worked with don't know drink drank drunk. I'm familiar with all three. (well Miss Snark is too, but maybe not exactly in the way that you mean here)

The trouble with "outside help" is that it violates AAR rules six ways to Sunday to send any client to an editor for mark up if the editor charges money. This is a rule I fully support because it came into being to prevent authors getting scammed.

Just yesterday I was talking with a colleague and we were bemoaning the tendency to "editorialize" ie markup cause it means we aren't selling. I was laughing about falling in love with a project and wanting to make it perfect and she was chastising me for being an idiot. She was right.

I wish I could send stuff out to a bevy of eager markers but as it stands, y'all got to do that on your own. My colleagues have put me on "editorial intervention" and my first call is from one of them saying "do not pick up the red pen, do not pick up the red pen". In fact, I have to mail ALL my colored markers to the Home for Wayward Bunions today. A sad day in Snarkdom.


doc-t said...

Soooo, an agent shouldn't copy edit?

Does this mean if you believe some things need to be changed, you tell the author what needs to be changed and insist on it?

Then again, if you tell them specifically what to change, isn't that really editing by proxy?

Or, do you just tell them "do some more editing."

This is confusing.

Anonymous said...

So does this mean agents don't correct grammar, or agents don't work with their writers on story structure and character development?

How does the author know when a MS is good enough to hand off to the agent?

kitty said...

I'm a greenhorn in the pub business as I'm still working on my 1st ms. So forgive my ignorance, but are you saying that our scripts are never scrutinized by editors? We are totally responsible for finding the mistakes ourselves? Cuz I gotta tell ya that I miss all sorts of stuff which is easily spotted by others.

M. G. Tarquini said...

This Wayward Bunion appreciates the care package, Miss Snark. I run through those red markers at a frightful pace.

Anonymous said...

Kitty, it's part of an editor's job to edit, not necessarily an agent's, unless they like that sort of thing.

I'm grateful that my agent likes to lend an editorial hand. Not the grammar/spelling stuff, but picture editing like pacing and story arc. I'm not told how to fix things, but the things that may need fixing are pointed out.

This is something to add to the list of questions when interviewing agents after offers are extended - are you an editorial type? Some writers will love that, some will hate it.

Rebecca said...

Interesting post MS, because in the May/June POETS AND WRITERS, Scott Hoffman with Folio Agency is interviewed and he talks about how the agent's role has changed over the years. He says a "specific type of agent is becoming more and more successful--the agents that pay more editorial attention to their clients' work." He says it's about 50 percent of his job.
That's a lot of hours in a week for editorial work. And it leaves only about 20 hours a week for reading queries and subbed material. What? Agents work more than a 40 hour week? Well, my stars. Who would've thunk?

Anonymous said...

I had the same wonderings. I can certainly understand them not wanting to work with authors who don't even TRY to do the editing themselves. Regardless of how good your story is, if you can't make sure your spelling and grammar are as perfect as you can get them, why should an agent bother with you?

On the other hand, I'd hate to think that an agent would let a major typo or other mistake stay as is, while shopping the work. Or worse, refuse to offer me their services because of the same error.

Anonymous said...

I could be wrong, but I think what she is saying is that if you are sending your project to a prospective agent, it behooves you to make sure you know your drink, drank, drunks from a gin pail with a hole in it, because agents these days don't have the time or luxury to fix that hole before sending it out. And editors would stop reading agents' queries if they did send them out in this condition.

It's quite a bit different from the author/agent who are already in an established relationship, and might want to polish something before trying to sell it. Especially if the author already has a track record.

I'll send a project to my agent, and she'll vet it, ask if she can make a few "corrections" (typos) before sending it out, or give me her initial reaction, let me know if she's sending it out or if it has a hole in the plot bigger than Planet Rabbitania. And, heaven forbid, if it needs to be scrapped and started over, she'll let me know that, too. (and that has happened.) But we've sold several books together. Clearly if we did not have this history, and I sent a book with massive typos, plot holes, or just plain sucky stories, she wouldn't give me the time of day.

For the unpublished writer, it behooves you to have these things done before sending it to agents--unless you're sending in the first few chapters of the next best thing since THE HORSE WHISPERER (which was sold on a partial from a previously unpublished writer--not usually done.)


just Joan said...

I can see it now . . .

Miss Snark is reading a MS. She loves the MS, it is her dream MS. She knows just who to send it to! Laughing, she continues to read . . . but wait! What is this? A typo! NO! Suddenly, Miss Snark's hands begin to shake. The tremmors intensify and soon her whole body is trembling. Her stilettos tap out a frantic S.O.S. as she struggles to contain the urge to correct.

Unable to take it any longer, Miss Snark reaches for a red pen . . . but lo, there are no more red pens! Miss Snark remembers she sent them away to the Home for Wayward Bunions!

"What have I done?" She cries.

What will she do? Oh what will become of our beloved Miss Snark?

Anonymous said...

Kitty, I recommend joining a writers' group for help with editing. If you're looking online, find a well moderated site for writers of your genre. Don't join if there isn't a firm statement about copyrights and plagerism (no guarantee, but it sets the tone). Check that the query page is up to date and includes calls from respected, PAYING publishers. Lurk a bit to see if the group includes published, PAID authors.

It's not a good idea to post an entire manuscript on a public forum (duh!), but posting a chapter or two can help you meet people who will help you with your work. Remember to keep such relationships reciprocal; if you're not great at editing, you can review someone else's book, recommend them to an agent or editor, or even send cookies if that's where your strengths lie.

Anonymous said...

Okay, after all those secret codes, I finally figured out how this thing works. Anyway, after five secret codes, I finally hit Preview and I can't remember my original comment. I think it was something about approving a red pen, no matter who is looking at my manuscript. Especially an agent. I used to be a proofreader for my newspaper, and I took it on as a crusade. Even now, I cringe when a customer sends an ad request, calling it an 'add' OMG. I sent my first mss to a novelist who was a childhood friend of my mom, and she pointed out one thing: "He tipped the eggs into the dog's bowels" She was pretty sure they were supposed to be bowls. We had a good laugh over that.
If an agent tells me to do more editing, I will gladly incur the expense - never mind the questionable ones they might suggest - I have my own resources. But if an agent takes on the task herself (or himself) he or she will receive a grateful hug as well as their commission. I don't know what that hug will be worth....

Bonnie Calhoun said...

Oh..No!!! Mis Snark...do not give the head Bunion any more red markers...I tried my best to run her out of those!!

M.E Ellis said...

I don't mind my novels being edited. My editor is on my wavelength so the majority of the changes are with my full agreement, and of course, she sends me the edited files showing both my work and her suggestions, leaving the final decision up to me as to whether it goes or stays or changes. We've agreed on chopping out and re-writing chapters, I think I struck lucky with her.

What I'd hate is having to change it, or having it changed without being consulted - just to get it into print.

I don't think I'd ever agree to changes that didn't suit me (unless I was convinced it was for the good of the plot/novel)just so they took me on. You write those words for a reason and to compromise your work just to get your name on a cover kind of stinks to me, especially if the changes are silly ones.

But then I'm not particularly chasing the print dream right now, I'm working at my own level and once I've grown a bit with my work maybe then I'd consider bugging agents, which, let me tell you, would make me feel rude to try and sell myself to them even though it's the way it goes and works. Just me, but I feel weird about the whole agent approach thing.

"Excuse me, would you mind taking a look at my work?" kind of makes me feel a pain up the bum when they have so much else to do.

I ramble.

I'll shut up.


litagent said...

Well, I have the disease worse than Miss Snark, because I mark up a manuscript as I read it the first time if I think that there is any chance I will offer to represent it. In fact, if I start off not making corrections, and decide later on that I really like the ms., I will go back and try to find the mistakes I noted earlier. It only makes sense to me. I don't want to go through the same manuscript twice. I will read a revised manuscript, if substantial changes were required. Otherwise, I offer to represent the book, send back the ms. with corrections, and expect the author to take care of them.

Anonymous said...

"If an agent tells me to do more editing, I will gladly incur the expense - never mind the questionable ones they might suggest"

If an agent is suggesting specific editors-for-hire, especially questionable ones, the immediate issue is vetting the agent's legitimacy. This is not a good sign.