Editing

Edward Garnett, an ‘Uncommon Reader’

11 December 2017

From The Wall Street Journal:

The honor roll of truly great modern literary enablers is a short one. T.S. Eliot had Ezra Pound, who cut “The Waste Land” down from a flabby hodgepodge into the allusively lean masterpiece we know. Samuel Beckett, teaching English in Paris, was inspired to try his hand at non-academic writing by another Irish iconoclast, James Joyce. William Faulkner had Sherwood Anderson to convince him to stop wasting time on poetry and start writing novels about his native Mississippi. Well before that, though, Joseph Conrad, D.H. Lawrence, John Galsworthy, May Sinclair, Sarah Orne Jewett, Edward Thomas, T.E. Lawrence, Arnold Bennett, E.M. Forster, H.E. Bates, Liam O’Flaherty and Sean O’Faolain all had Edward Garnett, a talent scout with an almost unerring nose for what we now recognize as the modernist note. Never before or since has one mentor been so influential in shaping the direction of English letters—not just for his own age, but beyond.

. . . .

Born in 1868 into a bookish middle-class Victorian family (his father was a librarian at London’s British Museum), Garnett had an extraordinary influence upon the creation and reception of some key works of the next century. Though Garnett started out with his own literary aspirations—he attempted both novels and plays, all daringly experimental and each an unmitigated flop—what allowed him to make his mark on English literature was his day job as publisher’s reader, first at T. Fisher Unwin, and later at Heinemann, Duckworth and Cape. In this capacity, Ms. Smith reports, he assessed about 700 manuscripts submitted for publication each year.

. . . .

In the days before professional literary agents had become commonplace, Garnett served many authors as promoter—bullying magazines to take their work and placing puffs in the national press—and as agony uncle and writing coach. Two of Ms. Smith’s chapters are called “Rescuing Conrad” and “Fishing Out Lawrence” (D.H., not T.E.).

. . . .

Ms. Smith notes wryly that as an editor Garnett adapted his approach “to the temperament of the protégé, reassuring the timid, cajoling the reluctant and bellowing at the bloody-minded.” Joseph Conrad, whom Garnett met when the sailor-novelist submitted the manuscript of his first book, “Almayer’s Folly,” to Unwin in 1894, needed to be constantly reassured and cajoled. Garnett saw that the highly strung Conrad, though still actively seeking a new berth on a ship, really “desire[d] to be encouraged to write.”

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal

Here’s a link to An Uncommon Reader: A Life of Edward Garnett, Mentor and Editor of Literary Genius

Driving Down the Price of Publishing

14 September 2017

From Good Ereader:

Not too long ago, self-published authors were collectively admonished about the need to invest in their work. Hiring quality editors, proofreaders, cover designers, and formatters before attempting to sell a book was the constant mantra of industry experts. While some hapless writers continued to slap their Word docs up on Amazon and hope to snare a few readers, authors who took their careers seriously made the proper investments.

Around that time, a number of startups emerged, all billing themselves as eBay-like marketplaces for author services. Many of those startups have shuttered their virtual doors, while a few that produced meaningful connections between authors and publishing service providers have managed to thrive. But that hasn’t stopped newcomers to the game from trying to continually undercut the concept of paying for quality work.

“When I first began finding clients through online freelance postings, the self-publishing industry was a different place,” stated one editor who did not wished to be named. “Authors who had done their homework not only knew how much editing might cost, but they also knew enough to have sent their work to their writing group for critiques or even beta readers before declaring it ‘ready’ for editing. Now, I find new job postings almost daily requesting full edits of an 80,000-word book for $100.”

That’s one of the double-edged swords of self-publishing, of course. An indie author without a solid backlist and sales to go with it may not be able to invest thousands of dollars for a full suite of services, but that doesn’t change the income needs of those who are expected to do the work.

“I love spending time with other local authors, but conversations about finding editors and cover designers have become heartbreaking,” said Andrea Patten, award-winning author of The Inner Critic Advantage: Making Peace With the Noise in Your Head. “Poor quality isn’t good for any of us. If we don’t support talented, experienced editors and designers, all that will be left are those who are willing to be the lowest bidder.”

Link to the rest at Good Ereader

Book doulas: the new way to push your writing into the world

7 September 2017

From The Guardian:

“Are book doulas a thing?” asks a writer I know. “I’d love to get one.”

Book doulas are a thing, because where there is a need, there is a service. Traditionally, they were non-medically trained professionals who cared for the emotional wellbeing of women in labour. These days, doulas are used in many other contexts where you may need someone to ease you through a process and provide emotional support, for instance abortion, divorce, death – and, now, for writing books.

Distinguishing themselves from agents and editors, book doulas offer a sort of coaching service, a kind eye to reassure nervous authors who are having trouble getting their book published. Ariane Conrad, who calls herself an “editorial coach and consultant, AKA book doula”, refers to her services as “bookbirthing”.

“I take my time getting to know you, your project and your voice. I listen and focus deeply. Committing your ideas, experiences or life’s work to writing can be intimidating. I will reassure you,” writes Ariane on her website, in the warm and fuzzy tone common to many birth doulas.

Editor, writing coach and book doula Ali Lawrence says the service involves: “Meeting my clients where they are most vulnerable – needing guidance, support, encouragement, empowerment, accountability – and helping them to achieve their book goals.”

Lawrence, who says the term “really resonates for me when thinking of the creative process of book writing”, stresses: “I’m not a publisher, I’m not an agent. I’m a partner in reaching your book goals.”

. . . .

But is it all marketing rubbish? When I describe book doulas to other writers, most take issue with the basic analogy. As a mother and writer myself, I agree that giving birth is most definitely more painful than producing a book.

Link to the rest at The Guardian

The Book He Wasn’t Supposed to Write

24 August 2017

From The Atlantic:

I had written five books for Scott Moyers, following him as he moved from editing jobs at Scribner’s to Random House and then to Penguin Press. We worked well together, and in part thanks to his strong editing hand, my last three books had been bestsellers.So what happened when I finished years of work and sent him the manuscript of my sixth book stunned me. In fact, I was in for a series of surprises.

They began about 18 months ago, after I emailed to him that manuscript, a dual appreciation of Winston Churchill and George Orwell. When I had begun work on it, in 2013, some old friends of mine thought the subject was a bit obscure. Why would anyone care how two long-dead Englishmen, a conservative politician and a socialist journalist who never met, had dealt with the polarized political turmoil of the 1930s and the world war that followed? By 2016, as people on both the American left and right increasingly seemed to favor opinion over fact, the book had become more timely.

But two weeks after I sent him the manuscript, I received a most unhappy e-mail back from him. “I fear that the disconnect over what this book should be might be fundamental,” Scott wrote to me, clearly pained to do so. What I had sent him was exactly the book he had told me not to write. He had warned me, he reminded me, against writing an extended book review that leaned on the weak reed of themes rather than stood on a strong foundation of narrative. I had put the works before the two men, he told me, and that would not do.. . . .

Partly, I was crushed. But even more, I was puzzled. How could I have been so off in my perception of my manuscript? This wasn’t a hurried work of a few months. For three years, I had steeped myself in Churchill, Orwell, and their times, reading hundreds of books, which were scattered in piles across the floor of my office in the attic of my home in Maine. The biggest of the piles was books by Churchill himself. The second biggest was diaries, memoirs, and collected letters by British politicians and writers of the 1930s and ’40s.

Scott followed up with a lengthy letter—I think it was about 10 pages—detailing his concerns.

. . . .

I spent the next five months, from mid-January to mid-June of 2016, redoing the whole book, rethinking it from top to bottom.

I began by taking his letter and his marked-up version of the manuscript with me to Austin, Texas, where my wife and I were taking a break in February from the long Maine winter. (Austin is a great town for live music, food, and hiking—and its winter feels to me like Maine in the summer.) I sat in the backyard and read and reread Scott’s comments. I didn’t argue with them. Rather, I pondered them. If he thinks that, I would ask myself, how can I address the problem? I underlined sections. At one point he pleaded in a note scrawled in the margin, “If you would only defer to the narrative, you could get away with murder.” I liked that comment so much I typed it across the top of the first page of the second draft, so I would see it every morning as I began my day’s work.

Link to the rest at The Atlantic

8 Top Publishing Lessons Authors Need To Know

6 July 2017

From Digital Book World:

Writing is not the same as publishing. That may seem obvious to most. But picture a young author with a lot to say – This person writes and writes, day after day. Amasses a seven-foot-tall stack of words on paper. This person then thinks everyone would love to read what they wrote.

Why not? They enjoyed writing it. They know it’s good. They send one of their stories off to a publishing house – maybe two. Okay, they send it off to five dozen.

And the answers come back: Not a chance in H. E. double hockey sticks!

Our author is crushed, heartbroken. Vows to never write again!

Quick show of hands – How many authors approach their writing careers in the same way?

. . . .

1. You’ve spent hours writing your manuscript – now what?

After writing your manuscript for more hours than you can count, you’re not finished. Now it’s time to invest in a Manuscript Overview. What’s that? It’s a process whereby you send your work off to a trusted, experienced editor. They read your work and give you professional, genre-specific feedback: tell you what’s good, what needs work, if your manuscript is ready to publish. It can be painful – but it’s a necessary step on the road to publishing. A roadmap to make your work more successful in the marketplace. It’s to your advantage.

2. You’re tooling around on social media – time to get real.

At the same time as the Manuscript Overview is going on, begin strengthening your on-line presence through interactive social media. These days, even Fiction authors need a platform. Facebook is still a good way to do this, so is Instagram. Whatever you do, invite your community into a relationship. The thing to remember is publishers are looking for authors who already have a following that can be motivated to purchase books.

. . . .

6. Say cheese! Get a professional author photo.

What’s needed is a high-res, professional photo to place on your book, stick on your business cards, add to your sell sheets… get the picture?

Link to the rest at Digital Book World

Red Pens and Invisible Ink

16 May 2017

From Slate:

In 2008 I published a short piece in Cabinet magazine on the fate of writer Thomas Browne’s skull, stolen from his coffin 158 years after his death. It caught the attention of an editor at a small press called Unbridled Books, Fred Ramey, who contacted me and asked if I would develop it into what became my first book. He particularly praised the final line of the Cabinet piece, saying that line showed him I was a strong writer. I didn’t have the courage to tell him that the line in question had not been written by me but added by my editor at Cabinet, Sina Najafi.

Who can properly claim credit for such a line, written by the editor but appearing under the name of the writer? Where is the editor’s hand evident—if at all—in the writer’s work? Ramey asks these questions in The Insect Dialogues, a book-length conversation with another writer, Marc Estrin, on the role and responsibility of the editor.

In early 2000, Estrin submitted a 900-page manuscript to Ramey, then an editor at Penguin Putnam; Ramey agreed to publish it only on the condition that they cut 300 pages and significantly revise it. The result, Insect Dreams: The Half-Life of Gregor Samsa, went on to garner critical acclaim (though moderate sales) and initiated a professional relationship and friendship between the two. Ramey eventually left Penguin Putnam and co-founded Unbridled Books; there he published five more of Estrin’s books through 2009. (Ramey also published my second book, though we haven’t worked together in over five years.)

Since then, though, Estrin has founded his own press, Fomite Press, and in 2016 decided to publish his original, unadulterated manuscript, now titled Kafka’s Roach: The Life and Times of Gregor Samsa. While Ramey gave Estrin his blessing, he feared such a move might be seen as a repudiation of his original editing, and so a third book was born: The Insect Dialogues, a transcription of a three-month email exchange in which the two discuss the history of this book in particular and, through it, much larger questions of publishing, editing, and authorial authority.

So within these pages there’s a hint of recrimination, at times even bitterness. What’s clear is that Estrin, despite his gratitude for a publishing break, never seems to have considered Insect Dreams entirely his. He refers to it as “my book in Fred’s edit,” or “Fred’s Gregor,” the novel that’s been “fredited,” all the while keeping hold of the manuscript he calls “the original Gregor.” Ramey in turn sees Estrin’s decision to publish his original manuscript as, at least in part, a repudiation both of Ramey’s editorial work and the larger question of editing altogether. “At the end of the day,” he worries, “Kafka’s Roach will become and always be the real novel; Insect Dreams will be the artificial, tainted construct.”

Link to the rest at Slate

Author Overhead, Pt. 1

10 March 2017

From the Draft2Digital blog:

One of the burdens shouldered by indie authors is the overhead of the business. With a traditional publishing contract, some of that overhead is mitigated. The author isn’t asked to pay directly for cover design, layout, or distribution—though ultimately the cost of these services is factored into the royalty deal between the author and the publisher.

Having those expenses covered up front can be one advantage of going traditional. But as an independent author, all those expenses and more may fall on your shoulders alone. In this two-part series, we’ll look at some of the expenses and overhead you’ll take on for your indie author business, and those you should avoid.

First, The Unavoidable

Death. Taxes. Overhead for your author career. There are some things you just can’t avoid.

Author overhead can be a bit tricky, though, when it comes to the ‘unavoidable.’ Because for the most part, there really are no barriers to entry in this business. Anyone with access to a public library’s internet connection can write and publish for free. Whether that book becomes a success, however, comes down to pure luck unless there is an investment on the part of the author.

A good rule of thumb when it comes to a successful author business is to accept that there will always be a cost to pay. You may pay that in dollars, as we’re discussing here. Or you may pay it in time—whether that means taking the time to do all the work yourself, or enduring the time it takes for your book to reach an audience without any investment on your part. One way or another, Overhead takes her due.

In that sense, it’s easier to just think of any money you spend as a shortcut for time. If you can pay for services to be rendered, you’ll save both the time to do the work yourself and the time spent waiting for readers to look past the flaws of your book and give it a chance. Overhead may be unavoidable, but it doesn’t have to be a burden.

. . . .

It’s true, you can edit your work yourself. Particularly if you are skilled at copyediting—finding typos, grammar gaffs, and logical omissions in writing. If you are meticulous enough, you can certainly find and fix any errors that appear in your work.

That’s good news for many authors, who pride themselves on being savvy perfectionists. But the truth is even the keenest editing eyes among us have trouble objectively reviewing their own work.

Editing your own book can save you a few hundred dollars, but what it doesn’t save you is time. The fact is, when you edit your own work you spend more time reading and rereading and re-rereading. It can slow down the release of your book by weeks or even months. This is due to a bit of hardwiring in the human brain.

Humans are wired to look for shortcuts. Think of stereotypes: If I say ‘doctor’ or ‘nurse,’ there’s a very good chance you pictured a man first and a woman second. Never mind the fact that in our much more enlightened age women can be doctors and men can be nurses. There’s a pre-wired pattern (learned from years of cognitive bias) that makes you fall back on a stereotype in the absence of any other evidence. The stereotype is a shortcut for you brain, so that it doesn’t have to work as hard to create a mental image.

. . . .

The way this impacts our editing is simple: We wrote what we wrote, and we know what we meant.

When we’re reading our own work again (and again, and again) we’re often seeing our intention rather than the actual words on the page. This is how you can read the same sentence a dozen times and never realize you left out a “the” or even a noun or a verb. You have a built-in expectation of those words being there—your brain is biased to expect them so the sentence will make logical sense. As you read, your brain fires up its shortcut and inserts the missing words into the flow, even though they do not appear on the page.

Link to the rest at Draft2Digital and thanks to Alexis for the tip.

On the Use of Sensitivity Readers in Publishing

18 January 2017

From The Literary Hub:

In the past few years, authors concerned about the accuracy of their cultural representations have started using a new tool. Sensitivity reading, or beta reading, involves manuscript review where the author is writing about a marginalized group to which they doesn’t belong. A sensitivity reader might have a particular medical condition, sexual orientation, ethnic background, or any experience or identity that may be poorly understood by the majority culture.

Some might consider the use of sensitivity readers an eye-rolling exercise in identity liberalism that has become bruised a bit by recent political events. To others, sensitivity reading is a welcome means, though by no means a sufficient one, of working towards a more inclusive and less cliché-ridden publishing industry.

. . . .

Becky Albertalli’s experience with sensitivity readers provides a useful snapshot of this trend. When she was writing Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, published in 2013, she hadn’t heard the term “sensitivity reader.” But the book, which centers on a closeted teenager, passed through the hands of many gay men as part of the process of consultation. This was basically a form of sensitivity reading, although not formalized.

When it came time to write her next book, The Upside of Unrequited, sensitivity reading had become more familiar. We Need Diverse Books was launched in 2014, and major lists of available sensitivity readers were created in 2016. For this book, Albertalli wanted to be much more deliberate about the process.

The protagonist of The Upside of Unrequited, which will be published in April 2017, is a fat, anxious, cis, straight, Jewish teenage girl; this adjective soup is autobiographical for Albertalli.

. . . .

One example came in the very first scene of the book—which Albertalli wryly notes was a high-stakes situation. Here the narrator mentioned outright that she was straight. A bisexual sensitivity reader critiqued the overtness of this, saying, “That comes off as super ‘no homo’ to me.” Albertalli agreed. It was obvious by page two that this character was straight, and she realized that in aiming for political correctness, she had struck a false note. She reshaped the scene.

. . . .

Sangu Mandanna is an author and editor who has been doing formal sensitivity reads for over six months. She’s listed on the best-known database of sensitivity readers, compiled by Writing in the Margins.

Mandanna’s experience inhabiting these multiple roles shows that sensitivity reading makes for a unique set of demands on a reader/editor. “You’re not looking for plot holes or world-building inconsistencies, for example; you’re looking for places in the text where [characterization] or a narrative arc or even just a turn of phrase could be a problematic or downright harmful representation.”

These can be seemingly minor issues, but the very fact that they’re often overlooked points to the ease with which a majority culture can reproduce stereotypes. Mandanna gives as an example the frequent exoticizing of brown characters. “Take phrases like ‘glowing brown skin’ or ‘eyes like jewels’, which are phrases I see very often. These phrases are meant to be positive, but the author would never use them to describe their white characters.”

Link to the rest at The Literary Hub

Kill Your Darlings, and Some Trees

31 August 2016

From PubCrawl:

So you’ve written the first draft of your novel! Now what?

Most writers will tell you to put it in a drawer for a week or month, to spend some time apart from it before you return to the manuscript with fresh eyes for the first round of revision. That’s great advice, but I’m going to take it one step further and say you should literally put the manuscript in a drawer. For that you need a physical copy of it, which means I’m telling you to print the darned thing out. That’s right. All of it. On paper.

What? But that’s so wasteful! Those poor trees.

There are always studies that suggest reading on paper is different from reading on a screen. Makes sense to me. I think many of us have become accustomed to skimming websites and social media updates and blog posts (I bet some of you are doing it right now!), which means our brains are now trained to not look at text too closely on screens. There’s also something less permanent about something we see on the screen versus a hard copy before us, and so I think we treat words on the screen less critically. Science tells us that creative writing is a left brain activity, while critical thinking and editing is a right brain thing. It seems that it might be helpful to distinguish those activities more — such as by only writing your novel on your computer but editing it on paper. At least, this helps me. I’m the guy who prints everything I’m line editing or revising at work, from e-mails to manuals. Maybe that’s wasteful, but I consider it part of the cost of business, like my salary; my job is to catch and fix mistakes, and I notice more on paper than I do staring at a screen, especially subtle changes in font size and spacing.

. . . .

If I’m editing on screen, I’m mostly tinkering, the same as I would do while drafting — deleting a word here, moving a sentence there, adding a description. But once I have it on paper, with pen in hand, I can look at the bigger picture. I have no problem putting slashes through entire pages or chapters, rewriting and commenting in the margins, often with helpful notes like “Make this better.”

Link to the rest at PubCrawl

BookBaby Launches e-Book Editing Service for $1,200

11 July 2016

From GoodEreader:

BookBaby has just announced that they have a new editing service available to self-published authors. They will copy edit a 60,000-word eBook for under $1,200, which is 50% lower than other competing premium offers.

. . . .

“Every book needs editing–that’s an established fact,” says BookBaby President Steven Spatz. “Now every author can get the kind of top-notch editing they need. Our goal was to provide a cost-effective solution for self-publishing authors while maintaining the quality that they expect and deserve.”

Here’s why our program is different–it’s not just about speed and price. It’s about providing a book editing service that keeps authors’ best interests as the priority,” says Spatz. “Our editing process is personalized by matching authors with book editors that specialize in their respective genres to yield the best possible results. And while the editor’s goal is always to improve the book, we understand this is a subjective process and authors may not always agree with the changes. But authors will always have the final say on their work, retaining control throughout the entire process.”

Link to the rest at GoodEreader

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