The S&M of Publishing


I am getting ready for a road trip—really digging in to finish deadlines before I take off for 3 weeks on the road. And the editor keeps dumping page proofs on me. Things not on my schedule. Okay, I should have figured out that I would be getting them, but … well … I didn’t. It has been a while since I had a hard-soft deal—or in this case a trade-soft deal, and I forgot that the book had to be re-typeset for the mass-market issue.


For the newbies here, page proofs (galleys, etc.) are the pages from the printer after it has been typeset. It is the last possible moment for a writer to find typos, missing paragraphs (yeah, sometimes a typesetter will miss stuff) inverted sentences, and other horrors before readers see it. A hard-soft deal is when a publisher buys rights to publish your work in hardback and paperback. A trade-soft deal is for trade paperback rights and mass-market rights. Anyway, a writer only gets a very limited time to see the proofs and has to ship it back or fax changes in, like, a week. The Rogue Mage saga is being reissued, one book a month for three months, to much hoopla (supposedly, we’ll see) so I am getting the proofs bam-bam-bam too.


I had thought I’d have time off for some fun this summer (like 8 weeks!) and so far? Nothing. Three days off here and there, while pulling 7-day work weeks, 80 hours or so. So I am beat and the house looks like a storm roared through. And all this whining is to say that July 23 is the last time I will likely post here (or anywhere) for three weeks. I’ll have email access on the road, but I’m unlikely to bother.  A week of reeeeal vacation, WorldCon, and another week of real vacation. I am screaming inside with delight! And I will really have little to say. So, today, I’ll share about edits and the job of being a writer.


Misty’s agent and I were chatting the other day about prima-donnas and this client she no longer has. The book was pretty good, and the agent had sent it to a friend at TOR. This VIP editor (very high up in the org) read it and said, “I like it but I’d like to see a rewrite. If she can do this, this, and this, I’ll consider it.” The agent, all happy, calls the writer and passes along the changes. The writer says, “I am the talent. I am the writer. I’ll be happy to make any changes he wants *after* he offers me a deal.”


Needless to say—the writer lost both agent and potential VIP editor. She was a word-diva. A prima-donna. I am published, and I have been asked to make changes by agents and editors and I did my job like a good little bobble-head dog (yes, sure, I can do that) and I sometimes I made the sale, and sometimes I didn’t. Having talent and being a writer means producing a product. It isn’t a baby, holy scripture, or a sacred icon. It is a *product* for sale on the open market. Writing for a commercial market means creating a one-size-fits-most manuscript. It means making other people happy.


Edits? There are the edits that you, the writer, do to have a polished manuscript, the edits that a prospective agent requests, then the edits that a prospective editor requests. I’ve had an agent say, “Take out the first 25 pages,” and an editor turn around and say, I want to see some world building, and I added the 25 pages back in. Go figure.


At that point, one is likely to have a sale and the real work begins. There is the text edit and rewrite, where a writer cuts or adds plotlines, characters, chapters, etc. at the direction of the editor. Sometimes this is a 5 page, single-spaced rewrite letter, and is the dreaded letter we have all mentioned here before. It is followed by the copy edit and line edit and then the page proofs. Did I leave anything out? Probably. By the time I finish a book, I am pretty well sick of it. And the deadlines are imposed by an editor who is tired, overworked, underpaid, and likely abused by higher-ups in her company. Not a job I want, BTW.


So, if you are a word-diva or prima-donna, please publish online or self publish. If you are a professional, ie. a self-abusive masochist who can do without sleep, house-cleaning, or a social life, likes being tied up in deadlines and being at the beck and call of others, well then, welcome to my world. And hey—I’d rather do nothing else in life!


That said, I’ll post on the road when I find stuff to say!



2 comments to The S&M of Publishing

  • Just in case anyone wonders, no, Holly’s word-diva was not me. 😀

    Actually, my situation was very similar. The editor Faith mentioned eventually became my editor, but only after I rewrote my book twice. Only then, when he could see that I was willing to listen to him and that I was capable of producing work he could sell…only then did he make a cash offer.

    Seemed fair to me.

  • Great post, Faith. We’ve posted about stuff like this before and will again, because it is so important. There is more to being a professional writer than talent. Frankly, as a writer, talent is probably the least of my virtues. My greatest virtues? I work hard, I meet every deadline, I listen to my editors and my agent, and I’m easy to work with (even if I do end my sentences with prepositions….). It’s not enough to write like a professional; you also have to comport yourself in a professional manner.