Tag s | Agents

The Editorial Process

by Steve Laube

editorial-process

It is important to understand the process through which a book takes under the umbrella called “The Edit.” I meet many first timers who think it is just a one-time pass over their words and that is all that will ever happen. And many who self-publish think that hiring a high school English teacher to check for grammar is enough of an edit.

There are four major stages to the Editorial Process. Unfortunately they are called by various names depending on which publisher you are working with, which can create confusion. I will try to list the various terms but keep them under the four categories.

Rewrites / Revisions/Substantive Edit

These can happen multiple times. You could get input from your agent or an editor who suggests you rewrite or revise those sample chapters of the full manuscript. Last year I suggested that one of my non-fiction clients cut the book in half and change its focus. We sold this first time author. But the writer had to do a lot of work to get it ready for the proposal stage.

There are some publishers that will do this stage after a book has already been contracted because they saw the potential in the proposal. And note that this stage isn’t always necessary. It all depends on the quality of that final draft you turned in to your publisher. Few get it perfect the first time.

Line Edit / Substantive Edit/Content Edit

Already you can see a descriptive term repeated. This stage is where the editor, usually a senior editor, or an editor is hired by the publisher to look at the book closely. This stage can morph into a rewrite (see above) if there are substantive changes. In some ways it is like a mechanic pulling apart an engine and inspecting the parts, and then putting it all back together again.

Sometimes this stage is very light sometimes it can feel heavy handed. Neither is wrong. Trust the editor to have the desire to make your book better.

Remember that this stage can be a form of negotiation. Ultimately it is your name on the finished book. An editor should not dictate but should facilitate. It is ultimately a partnership. And if you find that perfect partner…do what you can to work with them over and over. But also do not blind yourself into thinking that you are always right.

Copyedit

This can be done in-house or with a freelancer. One friend of mine calls this stage “The Grammar Police.” The copyeditor’s job is to check grammar, punctuation, spelling, and consistency. If your book has unusual spellings (like characters with Czechoslovakian names) consider creating a separate document called a style sheet which should be submitted with your manuscript so the copyeditor will know you meant to spell a word that way. Consistency is the key.

This edit takes a special skill. The editor is technically not reading for content. They are looking at each word for accuracy in communication.

It can be a stage fraught with humor. Like the time a copy editor changed the phrase “woulda, coulda, shoulda” to “would have, could have, should have” because the first was grammatically incorrect.

Unfortunately this stage can also be fraught with danger if the copyeditor suddenly takes the role of substantive editor, after that stage has already passed. I’ve heard stories of character names being changed, entire scenes rewritten, etc. If you have trouble at this stage, appeal to your senior (or acquisitions) editor and see if the changes had been approved before being sent to you.

Again, remember that this can be a place for negotiation. But if you are breaking the rules of grammar or spelling be prepared to defend yourself. But please, “Never Burn a Bridge.”

Proofreading

If the line editor is looking at the paragraph for content, and the copy editor is looking at every word for accuracy, the proofreader is looking at every letter and punctuation mark for perfection.

Again, this takes a special skill. I once sat on a plane next to an amazing freelance proofreader. I proudly showed her an article I was writing. She found ten mistakes per page. Every one of them was my fault for being sloppy. I ate humble pie with my bag of peanuts.

This proofreader is the last protection you have before the book is tossed into the market.

Error Free Publishing!

With all these eyes on your book you are guaranteed to have a product with no typos or errors of any kind….oops…that isn’t true.

Despite every effort and a lot of smart people working on your book, an error is bound to slip through. I remember one book where we had the author, three of his students, myself, a copy editor, and two proofreaders go through a book. Eight people. The book was published and the author’s critics found a dozen errors within the first week. Sigh.

Do your publishers a favor. If you find an error? Make a note of it (page number, line number, and error) and write a quick note to the editorial department of that publisher respectfully pointing it out. A file is usually kept of every book and when it is time to reprint the book they can go in and correct the error. And in the ebook world the digital file can be corrected fairly easy.

Your Turn

Does this explanation match your experience with a Traditional Publisher?

Does your editor use “track changes” on screen or a red pen on hardcopy (like shown in today’s picture above)?

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Clarification on Sale of Heartsong to Harlequin

New information has surfaced regarding the sale of Heartsong to Harlequin.

In my post on Friday I made the assumption that the sale included all the backlist and the currently contracted titles. This was reflected in point #5 in the post.

That is not the case. Harlequin did not buy the backlist or the currently contracted titles. Those will remain the property of Barbour Publishing. Thus future repackaging opportunities remain for those titles. That also includes the Heartsong e-books that Barbour is releasing under the “Truly Yours” banner (also mentioned in #5 in that previous post).

Harlequin bought the brand name and the club mailing list, not the books themselves.

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Never Burn a Bridge

The sale of Thomas Nelson to HarperCollins and last week’s sale of Heartsong to Harlequin brought to mind a critical piece of advice:

Never Burn a Bridge!

Ours is a small industry and both editors and authors move around with regularity. If you are in a business relationship and let your frustration boil into anger and ignite into rage…and let that go at someone in the publishing company, you may end up burning the bridge. And that person who you vented on might someday become the head of an entire publishing company.

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Barbour Sells Heartsong to Harlequin

Today Barbour Publishing announced they have sold their Heartsong Presents line of inspirational romances to Harlequin.

For those of us who have been wondering about the eventual buyer, this comes as no surprise. We have known they were being sold since last Fall. In December I spoke with Barbour’s president, Tim Martins, and he confirmed that the sale was in its last stages of negotiation but he could not say who the buyer would be. With their Love Inspired lines of Christian romance, suspense, and historical titles and a strong member subscription base Harlequin is well suited to sustain the Heartsong line for years to come.

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The Perils of Social Media

Facebook. Twitter. Shoutlife. LinkedIn. Dopplr. Google+. Plaxo. Blogger. WordPress. Shelfari. Goodreads. Writer’s loops. Conference loops. Endless loops.

By the time I finish updating my status, writing my blogs, tweeting, pasting my bulletins, my newest pictures, my URLs and YouTube links, recruiting friends, recommending friends, sharing reads, rating reads, ranking reads, ranking friends, tagging friends, responding to posts, responding to friends, responding to blogs, ranting, reblogging, re-bulleting, re-accepting (plants, gifts, pinches, bits o’ karma, flowers, flare, tickles, candy, drinks, siege warfare by angry goats and lil green patches–what the heck is a lil green patch anyway??) it’s time to repost my status–and respond to those responding to my status who are reading their walls, shuffling friends, organizing bookshelves, recommending contacts and waging mob wars.

By then, the day is over. I have missed my hair appointment, my deadline and a conference call, needed to go to the bathroom three hours ago, blown off dinner, ticked off my friends (who live in town and did not check my wall to see why I never showed up), neglected my Significant Other, alienated my family, and defaulted on my mortgage.

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2011 – The Year in Review

It is a good exercise to reflect on the past year. Count the blessings, reflect on the hard lessons, and remember the good times.

The highlight was bringing both Tamela Hancock Murray and Karen Ball into the agency in late May. I was and continue to be very excited about the talent and work these two are doing on behalf of our clients.

That hard work had visible results as we secured sixty-four (64) new book contracts that will cover 113 new books. That works out to a new contract every four business days.

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Before You Say “I Do”

Thirty-two years ago today I said those very words to my darling hubby, Don, in a candlelit service, surrounded by friends and family. Ours was a whirlwind courtship and marriage. From the time we met to the wedding was a total of 8 months—and we were apart for 3 of those months. Yes, we were young. And yes, in many ways, we were incredibly foolish. But now, 32 years later, I can tell you that though our journey has not been smooth or easy, it’s taught us more than I ever thought possible about love, about faith, about obedience, about grace. God has used two imperfect people to forge a strong, lasting bond, and He’s knit our hearts and spirits together as I once thought impossible.

As I thought about all this today, and about all it’s taken for us to not just survive as a couple but to thrive, it confirmed something I’ve heard and experienced: the author/agent relationship is very much like a marriage. There’s the wooing and courting, often on both parts. There’s trying to figure out how to win the heart of the desired. There’s that flush of excitement when you discover your interest is reciprocal. There’s the proposal, and the happy “I do.”

And then there’s the freakin’ hard work of the relationship.

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Bon Voyage — or A New Adventure?

On Monday, Barbour Publishing informed the industry that they will be discontinuing their Heartsong Presents imprint. After 18 years and 1,000 titles, it will end its run in December 2011. Publishing has always been fluid. Steve Laube says that it is important to stay flexible because “A publisher can dramatically change directions after a meeting on Tuesday.”

I never thought Heartsong Presents, a line for which I proudly wrote, would collapse. Ever. But their line isn’t the first. Remember, for instance, Palisades? Or Alabaster? Both of those romance imprints were published by Multnomah but abruptly disappeared. Or the Three Rivers imprint or the Jan Dennis imprint at Thomas Nelson (both of which ended on the same day in the 80s). Many times a writer has been waylaid as these situations changed for them, sometimes in mid-contract.

If you are an author whose line has been discontinued, you must summon the courage to take the next step. This is where your agent can be invaluable. 

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Three Questions About Agents

In meeting with writers on the cusp of their careers or flush with new success, we find that three big questions come to the forefront. Today, Tamela shares her answers:

How do I find a literary agent?

1)      First and foremost, visit the Agency web sites to see which ones are actively seeking the type of work you write.

2)      Talk to your agented friends to learn about their agents. Referrals are a big part of our business.

3)      If time and finances allow, attend a conference or meeting where your preferred agent will be appearing and meet the agent.

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The Myth of the Unearned Advance

by Steve Laube

A common myth permeating the industry is that a book is not profitable if the author’s advance does not earn out. I would like to attempt to dispel this myth.

First let’s define the term “Advance.” When a book contract is created between a publisher and an author, the author is usually paid an advance. This is like getting an advance against your allowance when you were a kid. It isn’t an amount that is in addition to any future earnings from the sale of the book. Instead, like that allowance, it is money paid in advance against all future royalties, and it must therefore be covered by royalty revenue (i.e. earned out) before any new royalty earnings are paid.

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