Friday, June 20, 2008

The great editorial debate?

A friend sent me to a blog where someone was talking about "the great editorial debate", which happened when New Concepts Press decided to go edit-free. I'm not sure how much of a debate there is because some e-pubs have been moving toward edit-free status for years, and some are notoriously hands-off.

It's like the Popcorn report. If you see the coming wave, don't be surprised. What did surprise me was how many people obviously didn't want to look up and see the tsunami. In other words--it's about the bottom line.

Publishing is a business, and businesses have to take care of number one. In corporate America that usually translates to "our shareholders", in an e-pub, someone needs to get paid. Low sales to a niche audience equal low profits, and while low overhead lets those same pubs take a risk on non-traditional projects, when all is said and done--there's not a lot left over.

If you look at the current status of formerly open houses (and this applies only to romance, because I'm not interested in other markets), many are stratifying into micro-niches, leaving only a few of the larger pubs to handle multiple sub-genres. These smaller houses have found a formula that works for them in maintaining profitability.

The writer went on to talk about part-time editors versus a paid, staff editor who doesn't write and devotes her entire day to editing. Which is a beautiful pipe dream. A pedigreed professional who works all day on nothing but edits, is going to work in New York, or a major publishing house. She isn't going to work untold hours for pennies on the dollar. Even editors need to eat.

One one level, want ads that say, "we don't want people who are writing seriously for publication", are dead serious, because editing is an incredible time drain, and on another incredibly optimistic. If you want me to give up my writing in exchange for fixing other people's writing, you'd better be paying me serious cash, and I know that's not going to happen, I don't care what small house it is.

People can talk about editors who will "fix" work all they want, but really--work that needs fixing should never have been contracted. If it's got holes wide enough to drive a Mack through, logic and structure issues, then it's time to hit the craft books. Quality starts with the writer. If you can't fix it, don't assume some over worked, barely paid person you don't know will--for a pittance of your pittance--fix your problems.
A few questions I found I thought I'd answer...(lol!)

# How many writers - e-published mostly but also pubbed by large New York presses - actually understand editorial requirements and instructions given as edits of their work?

...from my experience--uhm, none. Unless it's extremely blunt and very detailed, there's often misunderstanding. People love their babies. Hell--I loved my baby and agonized over edits, but I was extremely lucky to find Laura. She helped me get over myself, and move on.

# What exactly does an author understand by “poor editing or lack of editing?”

...a better question is "is the author at a point in her career where she's trying to be the best she can be, independent of outside influences?"


Unhinged said...

Pass the bong.

cough, cough, hacka-hacka

Okay. I'm not too [fill in the blank] to admit I'd probably be one of those idiot writers.

But not because I thought of my work as a BABY (Hoooh, no, I learned that lesson long ago).

I'd be scratching my head over is the author at a point in her career where she's trying to be the best she can be, independent of outside influences?

Because, you know. That's a hum dinger.

jodi said...

It amazed me when I wrote this how much of an "article" it turned into. It's probably the first post I've ever written where my expository voice overrode my "voice". Hey--that said, what can I say?

I think it's an internal thing, you know? It's those people who work at craft because of their vision, because it "is" a craft. Sure, someday you'll have to compromise, but should reflect your internal standards. And for some people--that's very low because yeah--they figure, "oh, when I get an editor. She'll fix it for me." And it's like a devalutaion of your editor's time and knocks your chances of getting published down a notch because the competition is so fierce.

Dunno, Unhingey--maybe I'm just getting tired. I need to take a nap.

Jeanna said...

I think editors should come with my articles the way mac should come with cheese.
Pun intended.

Unhinged said...

Hah! Jodi, you have to admit Jeanna has a point.

But while I don't doubt you're tired, I'm sure you've made a legitimate point. So keep making 'em.


Kaige said...

Hope you get some sleep!

Seems to me like edit-free is an interesting way to tilt at the bottom line windmill.

If the pub is picking up stuff that doesn't need editing, they won't irritate your readers. However, if they pick up stuff just to have a catalog, I think shooting themselves in the foot might be less painful in the long run.

Seems to me if they've got the reputation to weather it (or faithful readers who will tolerate it), cutting costs where they can makes sense.

However, I can only read so much bad writing before I throw it against the wall. (This is not a good idea with e-books, btw) *grin*

jodi said...

lol, e-readers are expensive.

You're right, Kaige. It's pretty stupid to shoot yourself in the foot, but there aren't a lot of places where the "cause" outweighs money. And stuff sent in for submission--presently, to my eyes--is pretty rough.

It could benefit from either a serious polish, or an honest cp with a good grip on flow and mechanics.

Kaige said...

I was telling DH about this post and he went along nodding and yeahing until I hit my reply. He doesn't think that the house's branding and reputation aren't as tightly tied as the writer's. It could be he's thinking much bigger houses and only thinking of purchasing e-books through a place like Amazon. He says he rarely knows what house some of the stuff he gets is from.

Most of the e-books I've bought have been from the pub's site so maybe I'm biased? I dunno.

But either author or publisher, I think it's a bad gamble to not utilize possible resources to give it that serious polish. *shrug*