Tuesday, June 6, 2023

Publishers don't have time for that editing thing.

Funnily enough, I've only been what I would term "edited" by a publisher twice, out of 27 books and five shorts stories. (EDITOR: "There is no such word as funnily.")

I think there is an erroneous expectation on the part of beginning writers that publishers will work with you to fix a book, but in my experience, publishers don't have time for that. They get so many submissions, they can just accept the stories that already work. I suppose if you are a "famous" author, you have a hands-on editor--though I think the super famous authors can publish anything they want. (Some of the famouser SF writers weren't a rigorous with their later works: Heinlein, Asimov, Clarke.) (EDITOR: "There is no such word as famouser")

When I wrote my first book way back in 1980, I just assumed that the publisher would take it over, fix it up, and away we go. 

Instead, other than a few copy edits, nothing. 

In some ways, it was a rocky start. I let the book be published (How could I say no?) even though it might not have been ready. I will admit, they rejected the first effort at the third book because they felt I was trying too hard to make two books out of it. That was the right decision: in fact, years later, I combined "Snowcastles" and "Icetowers" into one book.

By the time I wrote "Icetowers" I understood I was on my own and thus that third book holds up much better than the first two. 

From the time I came back in 2013 and published "Led to the Slaughter," I hired my own editor, not just for copyedits, but for story changes as well. Lara Milton was great at it, and all my books benefited greatly from her suggestions.

But I had zero pushback from the publishers. And so it went for most of the books following. Because of this, I made the choice not to publish several books because I didn't think they worked. Maybe they would have been fine, but I wasn't sure who would tell me that.

Finally, in one of my last books, I did have a publisher who asked for major changes, not once, not twice, but three times. The first two changes were major improvements, but I felt the third change was too much. Again, I wasn't going to dispute a publisher.

I can remember a couple of instances where I got major push backs from my copy readers. I went back and adjusted "Led to the Slaughter" a couple of time to its improvement. 

I struggled over the decision to leave the second chapter of "Deadfall Ridge" in or not. There isn't a lot of action in the second chapter, but I felt it was absolutely crucial in developing the character of the main protagonist. I've always been glad I chose to keep it. 

The last thing I ever submitted was a short story. To my great surprise, the first two short stories I ever submitted were accepted to anthologies, which will always make me wonder if I missed my true calling. Anyway, on the second story, the publisher was very hands on. Again, I accepted the first two rewrites as improvements. Again, the third rewrite, for me, went too far...but I didn't fight the publisher over it. Once they accept a manuscript, I sort of feel like it's theirs. 

From now on, I'm going to stick to my guns on changes I don't agree with, even if it means being rejected. I'll have to figure out where to draw the line; in the two examples, the first suggestions were great, the last suggestions not so much. I think I could have tried to politely argue the point. I've now had so many books published, I don't fear rejection anymore. 

Like I said, it isn't common to be edited heavily, and I suspect it will be even less common in the future.

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