Business Musings: Editorial Encroachment
Before I get into the rant that I know this post will become, let me state my credentials. In addition to my work as a writer, I am a multiple-award-winning editor. I have edited short fiction and novels since 1986.
I have trained copy editors, not just for the magazines I edited, but also for major publishing companies. I have saved books destroyed by line editors, as well as those creatures the indie world now calls “developmental” editors. I have worked with proof readers and book doctors. I have owned two separate publishing companies, and worked for many more.
I’m so good at editing that I get contacts every year from head hunters, seeing if I want to move and edit for this traditional publishing company or that content company.
I know what good editors do, and I know how destructive bad editors can be. I also know how mediocre editors dumb down a writer’s work. I’m so good at editing, I can even see when a major New York publisher has hired a bad copy editor for a New York Times bestseller. I can also tell you which major writers review their copy edits and which ones don’t just by reading a few pages of their latest work.
You got that? I have credentials for this rant that most of you reading this rant will never have.
So…ready? Here we go…
Last week, as I was searching for a friend’s book on Amazon, I made a loathsome discovery. My friend’s book, which is up for preorder, lists her name and the name of someone else on the byline.
I had never heard of that someone else. So I clicked on the preorder, and what did I see? A cover, with just my friend’s name on it.
So I glanced up at the title. Beneath it was this byline:
My Friend (Author), Annoying Person (Editor)
I went through the roof. My friend wrote that book. She hired Annoying Person to edit the book.
I looked up Annoying Person and found her terms and conditions. She sounds like a fairly knowledgeable editor. She only handles copy editing and line editing (although it sounds like she would have a pretty heavy hand). She explicitly says she does not do developmental editing.
Which means she has done exactly nothing on this book. She didn’t come up with the concept. She didn’t brainstorm the characters. She didn’t improve the plot. She didn’t imagine the setting.
All she did was tweak the words.
So why the hell is she getting credit for this book?
When I searched her name on Amazon, I found her listed on the byline of dozens of novels by many different writers—too many for this to be simple ignorance on the part of the writers themselves.
Annoying Person asks to be credited as editor on the book as part of her agreement with the writers. If they hire her, they have to list her as editor.
This is a great ploy by Annoying Person. It got me to look up her name. I’m sure it brings her a lot of business.
And it decreases the sales of every single writer whose byline she leaches onto.
Got that? Having her name as editor on that byline hurts sales of the books dramatically.
How do I know this?
See my preface above.
But let me explain it to you, using some established major names.
For years, traditional publishing has needed brand names to sell its books. Because traditional publishing has to go from bestselling book to bestselling book to meet its monthly quota, traditional publishing’s beleaguered editorial departments do what they can to manufacture bestsellers.
Some of those are movie tie-ins. Others are books that are “just like” the books by a big name. Mostly, though, the manufactured books piggyback off an established name.
Right now, James Patterson is running a regular fiction factory. By my count, he will have 25 new books with his byline on them in 2018. That doesn’t count the “James Patterson Presents” line where he introduces a book.
The dual byline thing is very generous of Patterson. A couple of friends of mine have worked with him on collaborative projects. He’s hands-on (unlike some writers who’ve done this), and he teaches his collaborators a lot about writing and plotting, even if they’ve been in the business a long time.
The dual byline usually boosts the sales of the secondary writer. I was familiar with almost every writer he worked with. All of his collaborators were established writers before they signed on to work with him. But as I scrolled through the list, I found a couple of names I didn’t recognize. I looked them up as well, and discovered they were established, but they were new to me.
That system works well for the secondary writer. It also works well for the publisher, because they’re minting money. And it works well for Patterson, because as he’s said in more than one interview, he has more ideas than he can get to in his lifetime.
He’s happy with this arrangement. And he’s not the only one who does this. Clive Cussler does the same thing, and has done so for decades.
This is actually a 1990s trick that publishers used to use a lot more than they do now. Now, most writers who want to let someone play in their worlds either do it with Kindle Worlds or something similar.
Or they do it the way that Meredith Wild and Waterhouse are. Those books have a theme and a specific subgenre, with plot beats, and the writers either collaborate with Meredith Wild or they write within the series itself.
For example, last October, Waterhouse bought the entire front cover and front cover flap ads on Publishers Weekly, advertising Meredith Wild’s Misadventures of a Virgin, her collaboration with Mia Michelle called Misadventures of the First Daughter, and two other books without Wild’s name on them at all, one by Shayla Black (Misadventures of a Backup Bride), and the other by Lauren Rowe (Misadventures on the Night Shift). [link http://misadventures.com/about]
There are a million ways that writers can collaborate like that. BundleRabbit.com, the bundling site, has even built a collaboration feature to make things easier for writers who want to collaborate.
So this is a Thing.
But remember that I called this a 1990s trick? It happened a lot in the 1980s and 1990s, so much that writers who are notoriously tight-fisted about their prose were approached to do the byline sharing. Those authors tried it, and one at least, took the books back from his collaborators, rewrote them to his satisfaction, and reissued them, never to try this kind of writing again.
(And before someone reminds me, yes, I know. This has not only been a part of writing in the 20th and 21st centuries, but also in 19th. Some believe that Alexandre Dumas (pere) built the first fiction factory. If you read about what he actually did, he sounds a lot like Patterson—a man with too many ideas to write them all himself without help.)
How is any of this relevant to my rant?
Well, you see, I got to see lots and lots and lots of sales figures from these joint byline books. I know young writers who were brought in to work with the established writers, and I know established writers who mentored young writers.
I also was in the thick of publishing when this Thing was important in traditional publishing. Dean and I, as Pulphouse Publishing, were in a co-publishing deal with Bantam Books, and as such, were privy to a lot of their business decisions back in the day.
To a person, everyone involved in these co-writing ventures acknowledged that books with a joint byline did not sell as well as books with the author’s single byline.
These books did not have a negative impact on the brand of the single author name, however, because the joint byline was considered a different author by bookstores and distributor computer systems. So these joint bylined books had a different accounting structure.
You see, readers are pretty savvy folk. Readers know that a book by James Patterson And This Other Writer You Should Be Reading will have a different flavor than books by James Patterson alone. Readers will segment their reading down further.
First, they’ll buy everything by James Patterson Alone. Then they’ll buy something with James Patterson And The Most Recent New Byline. But if they don’t like Patterson And The Most Recent, they won’t by anything else with that joint byline.
Readers will weed down the plethora of choices—with some readers reading everything that Patterson touches, some readers reading half of the bylined books as well as the single books, and the remaining readers only buying the four (or so) books with Patterson’s solo byline.
Why am I harping on this in a rant about editing?
Because, my friends, readers make their decisions in a blink.
The book I saw by my friend was a Kindle pre-order. When I saw the byline My Friend and Annoying Person, I thought, like any reader would, that Annoying Person was a collaborator the way that Patterson’s collaborators work.
Which changes the very nature of the prose or plot of the book.
I did not realize, until I dug deep, that my friend wrote the entire book alone. The book I saw is her work 100%. And yet, by letting Annoying Person share credit, my friend is losing sales, maybe in droves.
The thing is, her readers won’t tell her that they’ve run away from her book. They’ll ignore the books she “co-wrote” with Annoying Person. Her sales will either go down or they won’t grow as much as they would have if Annoying Person’s name wasn’t listed as part of the byline on Amazon’s website.
I looked up my friend’s book on other sites. There, Annoying Person isn’t listed. Which is good. But, in the States at least, Amazon is where the bulk of ebook sales occur.
And Annoying Person is credited with my friend’s book on Amazon. And with a dozen other books by a dozen other writers besides.
Why is Annoying Person on Amazon? Why is she all over Amazon?
Because writers don’t understand the “editor” field in KDP. That field is for anthology editors, like Fiction River. When we do a Fiction River, and I edit it, we list Kristine Kathryn Rusch as the editor. Because I compiled the damn book. I chose the stories. I put them in order. I line edited them. I worked on the theme with the writers. I wrote the introductions to the stories.
The volume has my fingerprints all over it, and not because I changed someone’s words or added a semi-colon here and there.
Stop, stop, stop acknowledging this new breed of “editor” in the sales material of your novels. You’re hurting your own sales and doing free advertising for those “editors.” (And yes, dammit, I’m using the quotes on purpose.)
If you need to acknowledge the “editor” as a term of your contract with her, then do so inside the book in the acknowledgements. Write: Thanks to Annoying Person, who copy edited my manuscript. She knows more about the Chicago Manual of Style than I do.
That’s it. And if Annoying Person doesn’t like it, if that doesn’t fulfill the terms of your agreement with her, then don’t work with her again.
This isn’t just a problem with one editor. It’s showing up everywhere. Inside some traditionally published books on the copyright page, it now says, “edited by Really Big Ego-Driven Editor.” (Okay, I have a specific editor in mind as I write that, because she’s the person I’ve identified before as the worst editor I ever worked with [that’s saying something!] and of course, she wants credit for work she didn’t do.)
(Wait! I have two editors in mind, because the person who started this annoying trend, who is now [mercifully for literature] dead, did so because he had an ego so big that it filled all of Manhattan and then some, despite his incredible incompetence. [He killed two different book lines through mismanagement—and that was before I met him.])
Editors do not write your book. You write your book. The idea is yours, the characters are yours, the setting is yours, the plot is yours, the voice is yours—unless you paid one of these “editors” to “fix” your manuscript, which considering how inexperienced most of these idiots are, consists of removing every trace of originality from your prose.
Even then, shades of your voice and your perspective remain.
Your book is yours, not theirs. Readers aren’t reading your book because Annoying Person took a red pencil to your prose. Readers are reading your book because you’re a hell of a storyteller, and they like the stories you’re telling.
Have some confidence, folks. Stop giving these egotistical editors so much credit. They’re people you hire, people whose advice you can (and should) ignore if they don’t understand your work or your voice.
You should never ever ever ever ever make a deal with an editor in which you must give her credit for your work. If you hate the job she did, then you shouldn’t have to acknowledge her, even in the acknowledgements page.
You should be free to hire someone else to copy edit your work, preferably someone without the ego. Someone who knows that they’re working for you.
You’re right if you sense just how peeved I am about this. There’s a lot of editorial encroachment going on right now, because the old traditional publishing system is breaking down. For some reason, writers need to be validated. Or they need approval of someone with the word “editor” near their name.
And so writers are giving up the heart and soul of their work to “developmental” editors who have never written a book, don’t have a creative bone in their bodies, and have no idea how to fix anything. Yes, some of these “developmental” editors worked for big traditional publishing companies.
And guess what? Those companies still exist, but the editor doesn’t have a job with them any more. Most publishers do not work on the last-hired first-fired system. Your editor isn’t working there any more because, by the metrics of those big publishers, she was (to use a lovely British term) redundant. Someone else did the same job as well or better than she did.
Got that? Your fancy New York editor ain’t as fancy as you think.
And mostly, even when she was working in New York, she wasn’t trained on how to “improve” a manuscript. She was writing sales copy, acquiring books, working with the sales force, producing profit-and-loss statements, and…scheming about how to find the next James Patterson.
The skills she’s marketing now aren’t the skills she learned in her traditional publishing job. At all.
So have confidence in your work, writers, and for God’s sake, take your damn copy editor’s name off your sales material. You’re costing yourself a shit-ton of money, and alienating your readers.
Now, I’m going off to do the real work of editing. I’m going to read some manuscripts by very good writers and see if those manuscripts are a good fit for the anthology I’m editing. My name will be on that anthology as editor.
Oh, and then I’ll line edit another anthology—and my name will not be on that anthology, because all I did was flag unclear antecedents and the occasional confusing paragraph. That kind of work, while important, is not worth a byline. Or even any credit.
And besides, we give the writers a chance to say, “Hell, no. I meant for that paragraph to be confusing. Because it hides information about the murderer/puppy/alien on a stick.” And when the writer says something like that, often with a simple stet, we respect it.
The work belongs to the author after all. We don’t take credit for it…because we shouldn’t.
Grrrumphf. Grump. Grrrrrrr.
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“Business Musings: Editorial Encroachment,” copyright © 2018 by Kristine Kathryn Rusch. Image at the top of the blog copyright © Can Stock Photo / bonairina.
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What about short fiction? I noticed recently (before you wrote about this) that Fireside Magazine is listing the editor with each story right below the author of the story. I get that they have multiple editors, but I find this a bit jarring and haven’t seen it elsewhere.
I also watched a little video from another pro market that talked about the thousands of submissions they get for each issue and how hard it is to get in. They also mentioned after the slush pile “getting through edits and rewrites.” I know edits are normal, but are rewrites?
Is something shifting here?
Edits and rewrites are normal and always have been. The writer should agree to them, though, and have the choice to walk away if need be.
Oddly, this sort of thing has happened even with reissues of older books. Some 15 years ago I saw “Edited by Eric Flint” on the cover of a Baen paperback of Schmitz’s The Witches of Karres. I had long been familiar with that novel, flipped through the Baen edition in the bookstore, and didn’t see anything unexpected. So I found Flint’s corporate e-mail address and asked him what (if anything) he’d changed; he sent a friendly reply that he didn’t do anything to the text, and I didn’t interrogate any further – evidently the credit was some kind of intra-Baen perk.
As an editor of all kinds of manuscripts since 1985 (mostly science journal articles, but also works by deceased SF authors such as Robert Heinlein – I handled the first seven Virginia Edition volumes), I simply cannot get my mind around the concept, much less the reality, of an egotistical copy editor.
They will come.
I should not reply too late in the night!
I made the mistake of listing my editor once. As an indie, I wanted to make sure readers knew it was edited because of the large number that aren’t. Imagine my surprise when she was listed as “author” instead of “editor” as I’d chosen. I even double-checked. Yep. “Editor” was marked. I removed her since it wasn’t showing up correctly on the book page.
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Thanks so much for writing this. I have seen the editor listed on the cover become more common and it makes me queasy every time. It seems to give into the idea that indies have bigger editing issues than traditionally published authors and it also seems to play into the editor worshipping I hear from traditionally published authors about how they would be nothing without their editors. I like a nice clean manuscript as much as the next person, but not enough to make you co-creator of my work.
Hopefully coming from you people will listen to what your saying.
P.S. I would love a book about editing too ?
I am a professional freelance copyeditor/line editor, and among my colleagues, the strong and successful editors believe we should be invisible. I agree. Our mantra is, “It’s not my book, it’s not my book…”; and when we are invited by our author clients to be highlighted in their acknowledgments, we often decline. Many of us, self included, have clauses in our contracts declaring that the author is responsible for the ultimate content of the book, and we hold no rights in the material aside from the right to withhold the edited manuscript until we are paid for our work. (Some editors claim a copyright interest on the edited content to strong-arm recalcitrant clients into paying, but I don’t agree with that practice.) Point is, editors who act like those described in your blog are, IMO, wannabe writers and glory seekers, which is antithetical to the true editorial mentality. Editors are both romantic and pragmantic. We believe in the art AND craft of writing, and our job is to help on the craft side to make the book the best it can be. Having happy authors who want to trumpet our wonderfulness is a bonus, but not required.
Thank you, Carolyn. Exactly.
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Funnily enough, I’ve been thinking about using the KDP editor field to enter my name into on a book I’m ghost writing for a friend.
Wow. Never had Annoying Persons as editors or people who demanded to be credited as editors (although I always acknowledge the person who proofread the manuscript, but I never listed them anywhere)!
And when I do anthologies or bundles at BundleRabbit, I call myself a curator, not an editor, and if I get on the Amazon listing, it’s as author because I include one of my own works in the bundle or anthology.
The world is full of megalomaniacs…
So, about co-writing, the best thing would do to have an umbrella pen-name for both authors, like Joanna Penn and her mom, instead of having two names on the cover? Still have to convince a friend to write with me, but if I ever manage to bring her onboard, I want to make sure I know what to tell her! 🙂
And it’s also very clear about the “illustrator” tag – I never listed cover artists, but if I ever do my dream illustrated book for adults as collector’s edition, I’ll definitely add the illustrator to the listing and probably write her on the cover as well (“Barb’s Great Story Illustrated by Wonderful Artist”), is that correct?
Thanks as always for the great analysis!
You got it on the illustrator, Barb. As for bylines, if you both have solid names, why not use both? Or if you’re just developing and you’re working with a bigger name, it’s to your advantage to use your real name. Just another business decision, with all that entails…
I made the mistake once of entering the editor’s name in the Amazon box when I was uploading the book for publication. I quickly removed it when I saw the book page and that her name was on the byline. However, I do mention the editor in my acknowledgements. I mention my beta readers. I mention the forum that gave me insight into Pashtun expressions and culture. I mention the midshipman who corrected me on a technical aspect on an airplane. I mention my cover artist. And so on. I essentially mention all those who’ve helped me, whether I paid them or not.
I doubt very many people read that far in the front matter. I know I don’t when I am reading. But I think it is simply being considerate to give a tiny tip of the hat to those who assisted, be that in a minor or major way, in the production of the book. I don’t want to hurt my sales, and while I can accept that by having someone else on the byline can hurt sales, I’m not so sure that having an acknowledgement in the front matter will affect sales one way or the other.
Acknowledgement in the front matter is fine, and really not my point. My point is don’t put the editor in your byline. If you want to credit someone in the front matter because they did a good job, more power to you. I’ve done it many, many, many times.
I also think that you should not be required by contract to acknowledge anyone in your front matter or anywhere else. Unless that person is a true collaborator, like…hey!…a collaborator. Or the artist who illustrated every page on your kid’s book.
I’ve had my name entered on the copyright page as editor, which I find odd and disconcerting as I was not asked, and as my real name is odd and I like to at least attempt to control where it goes, especially since the U.S. is fine with the existence of websites that collect all your info and aggregate it into nice convenient alphabetized entries for random stalkers, complete with a Google Maps picture of the front of your house. (It was understandable when the indie author did it, though I’d rather go on the acknowledgements page if I have to go anywhere, but the small press that did it as a matter of policy freaked me out a bit.)
That and — okay, they say that every job has about a 20 percent failure rate. The problem is, when you’re doing a good job copyediting, no one notices, and that’s good. People only notice the (copy)editing when something has gone wrong, and THAT’S when you’re name is right there, nice and convenient to be demonized, while the bulk of errors, the ones you did catch — are invisible.
Just give me my hourly rate, that’s quite enough recognition.
I have a damned fine editor for where I am on the author curve–she catches my screw-ups, she sharpens me, and best of all, she compliments me (and only tells me after the fact) on social media. I credit her in the acknowledgements section by my own choice because I am grateful for her work on my behalf. She has never instructed me to do this, nor refrain from doing it. If she gets more business from this, well and goo
If you want an amusing example from the past with all the bodies revealed, look for Piers Anthony’s 1989 Tor paperback original called “But What of Earth?”. Get this version.
The original was published in 1976 with a co-author (unauthorized by Piers apparently) and it sank without a trace. Piers got the rights back along with the original manuscript, simply covered in editing.
This version (the 1989 Tor paperback) has the original Piers text with an introduction to the follies, and 167 footnotes referring to the back 70 pages that include all the remarks by the team of dueling editors, the editor in chief and the mystery co-writer. Piers lists them as Pencil, Black, Blue, Red, Purple, Writer, and Editor as that was how they marked up the manuscript.
You will need to read this with two bookmarks, one for the text and one for the footnote section. I got my copy at a yardsale to read on the way to Florida. My dear husband and I took turns reading it during the endless trip down I-95. As a professional newspaper copy editor, he could not believe what the various editors did to an innocent manuscript. He would have been fired.
The most amazing thing about it all is that all this effort was expended on a throwaway paperback.
Oh, my. I need to find this. And yes, that kind of effort is often expended on traditionally published books, even now…
Heck, I can also tell when a publisher doesn’t budget enough for copy editing. And there’s the shift to word processing, where what you can tell is that it was run through spell check but not really edited.
Ok, so a question. Amazon has a ton of “contributor” fields. Editor is one of them. Another is Illustrator. I listed my daughter on the books where she did my covers, and she is now listed on the Amazon byline. Ditto with her book – I’m listed as editor, although in her case we hoped it would help her. So you’re saying this is a flawed strategy and we should stick to one name only?
(BTW Smashwords and D2D also have contributor fields, but those don’t pop up the same on the store’s interface.)
Thank you for pointing this out. I might have to change some book details.
If you have a children’s book or a lot of art, then list your illustrator. Otherwise, don’t. In other words, list someone who has made a material contribution to the story, or interior of the book, but nothing else.
-giggles- Thank you! I had no idea what the Amazon editor field meant so my first book lists my editor. Live and learn. 🙂
This drives me bonkers too! In romance, I’ve even seen covert artists given a byline.
I’m on my second editor. I learned a lot from the first one, but she lacked in the communication department and made no attempt to understand my themes or my whys. I couldn’t talk to her about anything. Current editor gets me at a very deep level and does exactly what I need. And nothing more. I adore working with her. We’re also great friends, and I talk a lot of stuff out with her via email while I’m writing.
Another useful (and never dull) report, many thanks!
To be specific, it sounds like you’re saying the problem comes from listing an editor in our Amazon bookshelf’s “Contributors” field (or some equivalent field in other sites). Amazon seems to be giving an anthology-level importance to any editor metadata there, as if they assume only editors who deserve that much credit would have been entered at all. So for most cases, we should leave editors out of that field.
Or go back to Amazon and edit that “editor” away, even if it means rewriting the ebook’s Acknowledgements to cover some obligation to mention them.
(And of course, not build the frickin’ cover around giving away half our credit!)
I’ve done copyediting and line editing (the latter being what comes out for folks who need help saying what they meant and are still learning stuff like how participial phrases connect to the prose).
Some of my clients have put me on the “editor” line, or offered to do so, asked if they should. I always tell them no. In fact, after that happened a few times, I started proactively mentioning what that “editor” line is for.
Whenever I find someone’s done it, I contact them privately and ask them to stop. Most folks do. Sadly, clients who were uncooperative on the editing tend to be uncooperative there, too.
Editors don’t share your income stream, they shouldn’t share your byline.
Heh, heh. I’ve got some wacky editor stories, like the editor who changed a character’s name after the galleys were approved because it was only then she noticed it was consistently misspelled throughout the book. Uh, no it wasn’t. I think everyone has stories like that.
As for contract requirements to acknowledge the editor in the book, I’ve seen those and always said, “Nope.” My experience has been anyone who demands praise is not deserving of praise. It is praise being demanded. I don’t think an editor with a mandatory acknowledgement clause would be happy with, “I am contractually obliged to acknowledge the contribution of my editor who by missing the point whenever possible and being tone deaf to voice made everything she touched worse.”
Any plans to write a book on editing, Kris? I’d love to learn from you and it sounds like you have a lot to teach!
Oh. My. What an idea. I didn’t have any until now, Audra.
If you write it, I will buy it.
Thanks, Teri. (No pressure, right?) 🙂
Not to add any pressure, Kris, but when you have a few free moments, such a book would be a nice addition to our libraries. grin
No pressure but I’d snap this book up too ?
Thanks for another great post, Kris!
I can edit it and you can list me as a contributor so I show up in the byline. 😉
If you write it,they will vomc…
I think a book on editing that included the mindset of how to edit rather than just the mechanics would be fascinating. Also how work with an editor; when to hire one, what various editors do, how to take and not take edit suggestions. A lot of people on both sides of the manuscript have some very odd ideas about the writer/editor relationship.
And it must include some humorous, juicy stories—anonymized of course.
LOL. Okay. I’ll consider this.
I think this is a great idea! As an author, this would be very useful.
Kris, I’d buy two copies. One for me and one for my editor. 🙂 I let my first editor destroy a trilogy by dumbing down my work. I wasn’t confident enough to ignore her and I deeply regret that. I have since replaced her and am very happy with my current editor who only looks for misspellings, extra spaces, confusing sentences, etc. and leaves my story alone. I learned that from you and Dean, thank you very much.
You know, Marsha, you can always rerelease your trilogy without the editorial changes… Just a thought. (And thanks.)
How do you find a good editor? I’ve tried a few. I had a developmental edit that told me to trash the entire thing, LOL. Another did a ton of things they did that frustrated me, but the worst was when she rearranged the punctuation in a paragraph containing dialogue so that the character’s motivation became the exact opposite of what it had been. I did find a good line editor who just went through and caught a few typos and inconsistencies in a novella I wrote, but not having it “torn apart” made me feel like it couldn’t possibly be done yet…
It sounds like you already found a good editor. That line editor, the one you had on the novella, is all you’ll ever need. Sounds like s/he did just fine. That’s how an editor should work.
Thank you! I’m going to go with her from now on. 🙂
“Hell, no. I meant for that paragraph to be confusing. Because it hides information about the murderer/puppy/alien on a stick.”
Heh. Now I want to read a story about a murderer puppy alien on a stick.
On a more serious note: do you think said editor is trying to drum up business by being listed there? Or do they get an actual slice of the pie from Amazon for being listed in that field? (I’m just an amateur, so I have no idea how it works, but I’m curious.)
My understanding is that such editors are simply selling shovels to prospectors. Since the “gold rush” is over (supposedly), the best way to make money (supposedly) is selling tools to those who are still dreaming of striking it rich. So unless there is a collaboration contract where royalties are split, the editor is just a one and done hire and should not share the byline.
At least the authors you mentioned shared their byline. I think we can guess at authors who didn’t. (In fact, there are reviews on Amazon of some of the JD Robb books noting new stylistic differences between old IN DEATH books and some of the newer ones).
Nora has repeatedly stated she is the only one who writes those books. Reviews are just opinions of people who didn’t have anything to do with creating the book. I think I’ll believe the author on this one because I can see how a writer’s style could change over 20-30 years. Interestingly as this blog post is about editing, I do think there were some disruptions to her editorial team over the last few years.
Very interesting. Being an outsider to the industry and having 80K words sitting on my thumb drive in want of an editor I take what you say to heart. I suppose until I hit the New York Times best seller list I have little to fear about my name being diluted. Well, that might be a bit ambitious. Nevertheless, I’m not predisposed to pay someone to take any portion of the credit for what I’ve written. Do you think, that authors that do that are insecure? Maybe, they think their work suffers enough that it isn’t presentable without the services of an editor, thus want to give credit where they think credit is due.
I read a book a few weeks ago that the author in the preface stated that he wanted to have it edited but couldn’t afford it. “So, here it is”, he says, “I did the best I could.” I had to chuckle and read the book. You could tell it hadn’t been edited by a professional. Yet, the strength of his writing and creativeness carried the book for me. Perhaps in his financial state he would have traded a byline for an editor going over of his book. I don’t know. Just wondering.
That’s my rambling. Thanks for the peek of the inside.
Holy sheep yes, on stetting idiot editors. On the romance side, I once got a pair of editors, both working on my book, comments in different colors in the margin, that probably drove my blood pressure up by a good thirty points. Just as a frex., I had a character refer to a soft drink as a “Coke Classic,” and the editor “corrected” it to “Coca-Cola Classic,” because, she said, sounding like a stuffy little schoolteacher, that’s what it was called on the Coca-Cola Company web site.
In what universe does it matter, in fiction, in dialogue, what a company calls a product on their web site? I know literally nobody who calls it “Coca-Cola Classic” in conversation. [headdesk]
The edits were FULL of this crap. I wanted to put my fist through my computer screen by chapter two. I probably could’ve written a couple of short stories in the time it took me to read and reject all the crap edits I got from that pair.
And if they’d wanted their name on, or even in, the book? I’d have probably at least contemplated committing some kind of felony. :/
Later on, I talked to a couple of younger writers who’d submitted books to the same place, who said they just accepted all the edits. I felt very sorry for them, and thought even more bad words at the editors. [sigh]
We need a class for newbie writers on how to work with editors. What you can or can’t ask for or demand or reject, and how to check your contract for same before you sign, whether with a publisher or an editor you’re hiring yourself. How to resolve disagreements in a professional manner, and what professional behavior on the part of the editor looks like, so the writer knows when they’re not getting it and are right to be angry. And what to do about that. Most newbie writers are pretty timid when it comes to working with an editor, or rejecting edits they disagree with, and a how-to about that could be valuable.
The best example of that kind of cluelessness I heard about was from a Doctor Who novel in the 90s. The copy editor got final say, so the line “the ship escaped from the planet’s gravity well” became “the ship escaped well from the planet’s gravity”.
You made me almost choke on my lunch.
A nice and juicy rant from the editors desk. More things to keep in mind and avoid.
Huh. This explains much about Amazon, when I’ve wondered why some people would WANT to take credit for editing something when it was so horribly edited. Often to the point where it wasn’t even copy edited. Or sometimes not even spell-checked (The “development” is left to your imagination).
The reviews and comments are usually full of people telling the author to get their editing money back. Or, what makes me laugh, telling the author they should have gotten an editor. I don’t think they’re being sarcastic, I think they didn’t notice the extra name at the top of the listing (since it’s not on the book) and could tell nobody with any clue had worked on it.
And yes, I avoid those “editors” from then on.
“I’ve wondered why some people would WANT to take credit for editing something when it was so horribly edited”
Some folks do it despite or against the editor’s wishes. And with how editing is a cooperative effort…even a good editor’s hands are tied when the writer ignores or erases objectively correct suggestions without reason.