Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Let's Talk about Editors (Part 9 of 12)

Where do you find a competent editor? I put the question that way because I believe every serious writer hires an editor to go over the manuscript before sending it to a publisher or an agent.

Paying that person can easily make the difference between a sale and a rejection. Once you sell the manuscript, you still go through the editing process explained in the previous postings. No matter how well you write or how well you've been edited, another editor will find things that can be made better.

Think of the money you pay as investing in your writing career.

So where do you find a good editor?

Try to get a referral. Ask other writers or agents at conferences. Go online and type in freelance editors, but be careful that you get someone who has experience (and you'll want to read their résumé). A group called Freelance Editors has been around for several years and so has the Independent Editors Group. I know of two groups that edit Christian books: The Christian Communicator Manuscript Critique Service, owned by Susan Osborn, and Kathy Ide's Christian PEN: Proofreaders and Editors Network. There are many others. (I've used the same woman for years and I'll be delighted to send you her contact information, if you request it.)

Friday, April 24, 2015

Let's Talk about Editors (Part 8 of 12)

The back matter is one more thing where you get input—usually. But again, that's been true only for the past decade. The purpose of the back cover is to entice readers to buy the book. In most instances, that is the work of the copyeditor or associate editor.

You usually receive the material for editing. My experience has been that the copyeditor grasped the content of the book and stresses that. The problem I've encountered is that it doesn't read the way I would write it. So I'm delighted I have a chance to edit it.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Let's Talk about Editors (Part 7 of 12)

Somewhere in the editing process—and this seems to vary with publishing houses—the title of the book comes up. For some writers, this is a difficult time because they conceived the title before they wrote the book or they feel their concept has been downgraded. Instead, think of it this way. The sales force must sell your book. Good titles (as I mentioned long ago in another post) create an image, make sense, and grab readers' attention. The marketing people aren't always correct, but listen carefully to their ideas. They may have a better title than you do.

If you don't like what they suggest, you negotiate, and keep going until you and the publisher agree.

The same is true with the cover. Only in recent years have publishers consulted authors on the cover. I'm delighted they do because some of the covers of my older books are terrible.

My worst experience was when I received a cover showing broken flowerpots with pink flowers. I objected, "Pretty picture, but it looks like a woman's book." They sent me a second cover in all grays and blacks of Moses breaking the Ten Commandments. Again I objected.

They didn't consult me on the third and I saw it only after publication. I wish they had shown me. It's an off-yellow with some brown and is a picture of a potter. The problem is that no one recognizes that's what it is. And if you, the author, have to explain your cover, it will hurt your sales.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Let's Talk about Editors (Part 6 of 12)

After the proofreader has done her work, reputable publishers will send you page proofs. (In the typewriter days, we called them gallies and they were printed on one long sheet of paper.) These days, the page proofs show us what the interior of the book will look like.

Read your manuscript carefully. Computers sometimes goof on syllabication. Most publishers still print their books with a justified right margin (but you send in your manuscript with what we call the ragged right). The computers sometimes make what we call BB—bad breaks—by hyphenating words already hyphenated.

For example, self-conscious might be divided to read self-cons- and the rest of the word on the next line or even on the following page. The rule is that we never break a hyphenated word at the end of the line except where the hyphen already appears (self-).

When you receive the page proofs, you'll also receive a note saying that if you want to make any significant changes, you, the author, will pay for them.

The page proofs normally come in jpeg and they'll explain how to make those minor corrections.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Let's Talk about Editors (Part 5 of 12)

I haven't discussed some of the other editorial positions because publishers vary with their titles and job descriptions. I've presented the basic positions. Here are a few examples.

Associate editor, especially in larger houses, refers to someone who hopes to step up to the position of being called an editor or even senior editor. They probably don't edit manuscripts, but they do the scud work. The job refers to anything other than hands-on editing such as administrative work, formatting, and corresponding with the authors.

Assistant editor is another term that can mean the same as associate editor. Some houses have a managing editor who, as the title suggests, handles things to keep everything flowing on time. They may edit or function like supervisors for the editorial staff.

Editorial director is a term I encounter occasionally. The title says it. This is the top position. She may be an administrator or a senior editor. One editorial director with whom I worked was able to offer contracts to authors without going through the publications committee.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Let's Talk about Editors (Part 4 of 12)

4. Proofreaders do the final editing, and they're a special kind of editor. They see the missing comma or the left-out words. If you typed was for saw, a good proofreader jumps on it.

He is the person who catches the little things that we tend to overlook. You may read a track change that says, "You used begin three times in this paragraph," and he suggests how you can rewrite to get rid of one of them and perhaps two.

They see the manuscript after the design is completed, and the photos, captions, front matter, and back matter are all in place. They check headings, page numbers, typeface styles, and make sure that corrections by you and the the copyeditor have been inserted.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Let's Talk about Editors (Part 3 of 12)

3. Copyeditors usually come next. (Smaller publishers have cut out the copyeditors and expect the acquiring editors to function in both positions.)

Copyeditors are the techies who take over after you and your editor have polished the manuscript. They check for correct grammar, spelling, and punctuation. They point out inconsistencies and inaccuracies. Sometimes they rewrite an awkward sentence.

For my last few books, I've had two bad copyeditors. In both instances, they were new and still in the stage of proving themselves. One of the books Twila Belk and I wrote together was the worst. The copyeditor forgot the book was ours and her responsibility was to make it sound like us—only better. Instead, she eliminated contractions, reworded important sentences, and the style became stiff and very unlike us.

I appealed to the senior editor, who agreed, and they assigned an experienced copyeditor who did an excellent job.

Remind yourself that editors aren't the final word. It's a cooperative venture to put out the best product.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Let's Talk about Editors (Part 2 of 12)

2. The next editor is the developmental or substantive editor. That person will probably be the same one who took the manuscript to the committee. This is what I call the broad-brush editor.

Occasionally, publishers contract with a celebrity or a newsworthy person who hasn't written a book. Unless they assign a ghostwriter, collaborator, or book doctor, the developmental editor helps that author define the concept, especially in nonfiction, and figure out, among other things, the target audience. The word I associate with them is flow. They help the author produce a logical manuscript that will attract readers.

Sometimes a contracted book, even by a well-published writer, requires substantial revision and restructuring. Someone compared those editors to therapists: They don’t tell you what to do; they get you to tell yourself. Some developmental editors, of course, do the restructuring themselves, but the most professional ones make it a learning experience for a writer.

No matter what the editor's title, you will see the suggested revisions. Most of them use track changes in Word. (If you don't know what they are and how they work, here's one of several links to explain): http://shaunakelly.com/word/sharing/howtrackchangesworks.html.

Unless you sell a manuscript for a flat fee, any reputable publishing house will send you the changes they make on your manuscript.

That also means it's truly a mutual arrangement. The editor suggests changes and you, as the author, have the right to reject or respond with a different wording.

A word of caution here. Editors aren't your adversaries and they try to make it the best product possible. Try not to be defensive. Read the changes and ask yourself, "Does this improve the manuscript?"

Remind yourself that once the book is printed, readers will think everything is your work.