Wednesday, November 16, 2011

A line in the sand

The most difficult thing for a new writer to figure out is where to draw the line in the sand. You know that line. The one where you take your stand about what you will—or will not—change in your book.
In the five years since I was offered my first contract, I’ve had eight editors at four publishers. They’ve ranged from the excellent to the truly awful. In an ideal world, your editor will do all he/she can to make your book a success. Most editors fall in that category. However…there are some who are not.
Signs that you might want to discuss a change of editor with your publisher:
1)      If your editor is ever denigrating of you as a person. If your editor tells you that you’re dumber than a box of rocks, it might be time to move on. Publishing is a business and all communications should be business-like.
2)      If your editor fails to respond to polite, business-like email after five days. I once had an editor quit in the middle of editing my book. The first I knew about it was when a totally strange woman emailed me about how thrilled she was to be working with me.
3)      If your editor ever tells you “because I said so” when you ask why something has to be changed. Any editor worth her salt should be able to provide a valid reason—even if it’s simply because the offending material doesn’t meet the publisher’s guidelines.
Now the caution. Be very sure, very sure the reason you’ve drawn your line in the sand is worth the possible cost. If you truly cannot come to an agreement, you may lose your contract. A few things are absolutely worth taking that stand. Most are not.
Anny Cook


Katalina Leon said...

Helen, I had the pleasure and honor of having you as my very first editor. You were kind enough to offer me, my first contracts and showed caring patience with a rank beginner.
I know you've worked with hundreds of authors and edited countless books but you'll always be my first!
Thank you so very much.

Amarinda Jones said...

A contract or your own self belief in knowing what is right for you and your words? Cross that line? I'd run a tank over it.

Amber Skyze said...

I've been lucky in the sense I haven't had to draw a line. If I felt passionate about something staying, I normally could justify it.
Helen was a fantastic editor to work with and I'll never be able to thank her enough for all her help over the last three years.

Cindy Spencer Pape said...

With a good editor, there's usually a work-around, unless, like you said, something simply doesn't meet publisher standards (like a not-happy-ending in a romance line.) "Because I said so," is a certain reason to run screaming.

Kenzie Michaels said...

I've only had to draw that line once, and told my editor I'd take the heat if anyone complained. She left it alone and so far, no one's yelled at me for it:)

Helen Woodall: Freelance Editing said...

Thanks Anny for your thought-provoking post.
Thanks Kat and Amber for your kind remarks.
Exactly right Cindy.
Amarinda is also right in that there is a time when you have to remain true to yourself and not sell your soul even for a contract.
Thanks for visiting Kenzie.