May 17, 2013 § 9 Comments
One step closer to publication–copyedits!
Copyedits are different than the editorial letters you may get from your editor. These all deal with the nitty-gritty of your manuscript–consistent spelling, where the commas should be, if your character is supposed to be going to the moon on a Tuesday or Wednesday, etc. Basically, copyeditors are like Nancy Drews for the book world.
This week I received my copy-edited manuscript from Candlewick and, thankfully, it was a pretty painless process. This is probably helped by the fact that I a) have worked in publishing, so I’m familiar with the process/terms and b) I’m a huge grammar nerd at heart. I feel like copyediting is basically a game in which you have to find all the secret, hidden mistakes. Get all the points with correct grammar!
A few things my copyeditor caught:
When I switched the spelling of one minor character’s last name and then switched it back.
- Missing words in quotes by Amelia Earhart (which is probably why I shouldn’t try to type while holding a book open).
- That if Halloween is on a Sunday, Christmas shouldn’t fall on a Tuesday.
- Missing commas (a comma fan like I am was only too happy to put them in).
- When I try to use words that almost sound like the one I actually meant to use.
I’m so happy that someone went through my manuscript and was able to pick out all these little errors that would have looked so horrific in print. And I’m even more psyched that this means we’ve taken another big step in the editorial process!
March 26, 2013 § 1 Comment
In recent book news, the New Yorker unknowingly rejected a story it had previously published. In fact, so did lots of other well-regarded literary journals. What submitter David Cameron learned from this experiment:
“Slush sucks. It’s as simple, and as unhelpful, as that…A part of me really wanted to be outed, to have some vigilant editor write back and say, “Nice try. Consider yourself blacklisted.” Or even to put me in the horribly awkward position of an acceptance!* That would mean there’s hope, that open submissions weren’t just, in so many cases, empty gestures.”
Okay, the slush pile does suck. It’s way easier for editors to overlook a slush gem than it is for them to pass on solicited story #54 by Famous Writer. Otherwise, my reaction to the experiment:
Submissions are all kind of a crap shoot, no matter how you look at it. Maybe the submitted story originally hit the New Yorker on a day when the exact right editor was reading and had the right amount of coffee and was really thinking about the story, not about her next meeting. Maybe when it was resubmitted, it was a really bad morning for that editor and she didn’t get captured quickly enough to counterbalance the lack of coffee. Or maybe it was read by an intern who is quick to hit reject on pretty much everything. Maybe it’s a story about dogs, and it was read by an editor who’s more of a cat person.
Basically, the submissions process is totally subjective. It depends entirely on one particular reading by one particular person at one particular moment. It doesn’t matter if this story is perfect or not. It could be the ideal story for that journal or publishing house or agency, and it could still get rejected. I’ve been on the reading side of the slush pile, and I’m sure I bypassed a lot of great stuff.
That said, it doesn’t mean that there’s no hope. You just have to wait for that moment the right editor at the right place will read your story at the right time. Does that suck? Kind of. But it’s the writing business. Literary journals and publishing houses aren’t putting together a puzzle and need one particular piece to fill their spaces. Anything can be rejected at any time. But that can also mean that this could be the moment that the right person reads your story.
The New Yorker experiment didn’t change any of my views about writing or publishing or submissions. Maybe it means I was cynical to begin with, or that I’m ridiculously optimistic. Either way, I’m powering on.
February 25, 2013 § 8 Comments
The cold, hard truth of submitting your work: your opening better be kick-ass. At the Ploughshares blog, Sarah Martin Banse shares her thoughts on why you need a great opening:
“If you want to get out of the slush pile, one of the worst things you can do is write a lackluster first paragraph. Don’t make the mistake of thinking: the really fine writing starts on page three of my story, and I’m sure they’ll appreciate it when they get there. By page three, I’m frustrated. If you want out of the slush pile, you must prove it from the first paragraph, from the first line.”
I think this is great advice no matter what you’re writing or who you’re submitting to. Editors and agents only have so much time in the day, and if you can’t hook them right away, there’s no way they’re going to keep reading to get to the really exciting part later on.
That doesn’t mean your first page has to be all explosions at the unicorn factory. (Although if anyone has that opening, I want to see it.) It can be quiet, but it has to challenge the reader in some way–an interesting image, the suggestion that today is going to be significant for the main character, a hint that this world is different from the one we know, etc.
I’ve been on the reading side of the slush pile for both literary fiction and YA/children’s, and if a story didn’t grab me within the first few pages, chances are that I’d end up scanning the rest without much interest. Maybe some agents and editors are much more forgiving readers, but why take that chance? Make sure your first pages are irresistible.
February 20, 2013 § 2 Comments
From the Onion, the movie version of publishing:
“After being offered her dream job as an editorial assistant at a high-powered, nationally syndicated magazine last week, area film character Eleanor “Eddie” Edison moved into a beautiful brownstone home in the heart of Brooklyn, sources confirmed. “This place is perfect!” said the attractive, if naively hopeful, protagonist, who graduated with a degree in English/Creative Writing from a well-known northeastern university and now lives in a 5,000-square-foot waterfront property overlooking lower Manhattan.”
Change that around to “writer” and you’d have the same movie scenario, too. For anyone who wants to get into publishing/writing for the money, Amy Poehler has a suggestion:
Okay, so those of us in the book world may not have perfect brownstones, but we sure do love literature!
December 11, 2012 § Leave a Comment
First the basics: “The William C. Morris YA Debut Award, first awarded in 2009, honors a debut book published by a first-time author writing for teens and celebrating impressive new voices in young adult literature.” I love the idea of this, and I think it’s a great way for first-time authors to get recognition. At Stacked, Kelly lists the rules that apply to the Morris Award.
The problem mostly comes in with Seraphina by Rachel Hartman, as Hartman had previously self-published a graphic novel about the fantasy world used in Seraphina. Does that count as a previously published work and disqualify Hartman? The Morris committee doesn’t seem to think so, and Kelly and Liz raise good points about what the rules actually say and what that means for writers.
One part in Kelly’s post that struck me:
“I’m not convinced that self-publishing a book is not, in fact, publishing a title. An author does it for any number of reasons: they can’t find a traditional outlet, they prefer not to go through a traditional outlet, and so on and so forth. It doesn’t really matter why they chose not to go that route. What it comes down to is wanting to put a book out there and share their works. “
With more and more people looking to the self-publishing route, I think it’s going to have to be seen as a more viable option by award committees. Like Kelly says, an author is choosing to share their work with the public by self-publishing, just as they would by going the traditional route.
Not that I think this means Seraphina should be disqualified. As Liz notes, the rule regarding self-published books currently seems to treat them as separate entities than previously published books from a traditional publisher–which means that Hartman’s previously published graphic novel doesn’t count toward her Morris eligibility. And Seraphina is an awesome book, and I’m really excited about it being recognized for such a high-profile award.
But I also wouldn’t be surprised if the situation were different in ten years. Again, I think as more people look at self-publishing as an option, I think the committee will have to wrestle further with how that affects eligibility and what constitutes a debut.
If anything, I think this situation has started a really interesting conversation about the line between traditional and self-publishing with regard to awards, and how that line gets fuzzier every year.
November 26, 2012 § 1 Comment
If you’re a writer, you might be used to your family and friends asking certain questions about the publishing process. Questions like, “Is your book out yet?” and “Why don’t you just send it to the publisher?” Generally, these questions aren’t intended to frustrate you or make you grit your teeth as you reply, “It takes a while.” Most people don’t know much about the writing or publishing process, and all they can base their assumptions on is what they see in movies.
YA Highway has a pretty great take-down of TV/Movie Publishing vs. Real Publishing, such as:
“1. Books Are Published Over Night
I noticed this one most recently on Gossip Girl when Dan, one of the main characters, ended up with a book deal. The means by which he got that deal were one thing – totally unrealistic is an understatement – but even more ridiculous was the timing. The book was published just two or three months later. In reality, books usually take closer to a year or even two to publish after being sold.”
I would say that books usually take closer to two or there years to publish after being sold. There’s stuff to do, guys! Editorial! Marketing! Sales! It takes times!
Another I’d add would be that in movies/on TV, the first draft of anything is pretty much perfect. You write your novel, submit it to your editor, and you’re good to go. In real life, the revision/editorial process takes a lot of time.
Also, a lot of the time I see people in publishing depicted as cold and only caring about the bottom line. Even though publishers obviously have to care about sales, the majority of people I’ve met in publishing have been people who actively care about books. They got into the job because they love books, not to make a ton of money. For the most part, everyone is hardworking and encouraging and thoughtful. It’s a great industry, really!
Make sure to check out the whole list. It’s especially helpful if you’re at home for Thanksgiving and need an explanation for why people can’t buy your book at Barnes and Noble yet.