Tag s | publishing

I Love Change, Especially For Someone Else

Several decades ago, the British magazine, The Linguist printed a graphic with the phrase, “The strongest drive is not to Love or Hate; it is one person’s need to change another’s copy.”

In the cartoon, the word “change” was crossed out and replaced first by amend, then by revise, alter, rewrite, chop to pieces, then back to “change.”

I am not sure whether the cartoon necessarily struck a sensitive nerve among it’s readers, or simply revealed a common occurrence everyone could understand. But it was memorable!

The need to change someone else’ creativity is almost to the level of a universal truth, on the same lofty plateau as, “Every action has an equal and opposite reaction,” or “Always drink upstream from the herd.”

No matter what you write, many people who read it will first think, “If I were to have written this, I would have written it this way.” And then proceed to make the changes in their mind.

Every pastor of every church has at least one “sermon editor” in their congregation, who is not around during the preparation of their sermon, but is more than happy to offer a critique with suggested edits for future reference after the church service.

Relatively few people have the ability to discern whether something created by someone else accomplishes an intended purpose and leave it alone. The same principle plays out for any artistic endeavor from performing a song on the accordion to painting a bowl of fruit.

“Why did you put the bananas on top of the apples and oranges? Everyone knows the bananas form the base for the fruit bowl, dummy. Your painting will be all wrong!”

Hey, maybe they were going for something different, did you ever think of that?

Authors who work with editors (and visa versa) feel this tug-of-war every day. Most often the give and take is a collegial, collaborative effort, making for a better book, but sometimes it rises to the level of mortal combat, depending both on the strength of the author/editor relationship or respective personalities.

One attractive aspect of self-publishing is the elimination of an editor-battle. The author’s perspective will prevail if a disagreement ensues, a guarantee against loss of creative control.

The same potential battle happens between publisher, author, designer, editor, marketer or sales person, over many other elements of a book, such as:

Covers – the question is not who likes or doesn’t like a cover, it is whether it effectively portrays the book contents to a potential buyer. And the opinion of the book merchandiser at a major retailer really matters. “Frank says to make it green with black letters and they’ll buy 50,000 copies. Anyone care to disagree?”

Interior layout – an under-appreciated part of the book. Efficient page-use is not nearly as important as a pleasant experience for the reader, which are often different values entirely. Likewise, being overly creative on an interior can create problems for the reader. (How the interior layout translates to an eBook format is also important.)

Product description – this is more about key word use and clear communication about the contents of the book than spinning a creative tale. In the online retailing world where search engines rule, the choice of words will have an effect on sales. For this, effectiveness is more important than creativity.

Whichever side of the equation you might reside, keep focusing on the goal, to make a better book to sell to as many people as possible so it can be read and enjoyed.

Sometimes setting aside your personal opinion is key to achieving this goal. Maybe, just maybe someone else’ creative approach might be just fine and needs no editing.

But of course, it goes without saying your creative approach is always perfect. (Insert appropriate emoji depending on how much a sense of humor your have.)

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Ask Me Anything

With Summer in full mid-form and some planning the rest of their year’s writing efforts, I thought it might be a good chance for you to post below any question you might have about the publishing business. Editing? Proposals? Why so many rejections? How does it all work? Will Amazon …

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Houston, We Have a Problem

Today marks the 46th anniversary of the launch of the infamous Apollo 13 mission to the moon. Two days after the launch an oxygen tank exploded jeopardizing the lives of the astronauts and scrapping the mission. Their ingenious solutions and subsequent safe return on April 17 were later portrayed in the …

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Is Book Publishing Fair?

Anyone who has been around young children has heard their cry of protest, “That’s not fair,” when some sort of consequence is meted out for misbehavior. In reality, what is being objected to is fairness, as consequences were spelled out ahead of time and known to all. Parent: “One more …

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Publishing Acronyms

After being in an industry for a while there is a natural tendency to speak in code. Acronyms flow freely and can be a foreign language to those new to the conversation. Below is an attempt to spell out some of the more common acronyms in the publishing industry and …

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The Great Slot Mystery

Every traditional publishing company has a personality or focus that defines them and their product. Usually that personality or focus is determined by past success. They also know how many books they can effectively publish during a year. Combining focus and capacity, you have the beginnings of a publishing strategy. …

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Time Travel?

Most people find it astounding how long it takes for things to happen in traditional publishing. Even after spending months or even years writing, an author waits for weeks or months to hear from an agent, who if they agree to work together, wait weeks and months for publishers to …

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The Anatomy of the Publishing Cycle

If you ask an editor or an agent “What’s hot right now?” you are too late with the question. The nature of the publishing business is that what you see selling today are books that were conceived, written, published, and marketed over the past couple years or more. That is …

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How Publishers Make Decisions

We all agree that book publishing is changing fast. New technology, new formats and new ways to sell books have changed everything.  Well, almost everything. One thing has not changed…the fundamental way decisions are made as to what new authors an agent represents and publishers publish. It has always been …

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