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Ask Editor Alison Weiss #1 (right in here!)

Post  Maggie on Tue Mar 01, 2011 12:31 am

Ask editor [You must be registered and logged in to see this link.] questions right in here.

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Last edited by Lizzy on Wed Mar 02, 2011 10:55 am; edited 1 time in total

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Re: Ask Editor Alison Weiss #1 (right in here!)

Post  Sarah on Tue Mar 01, 2011 11:22 am

I have one Very Happy What's your editing process?
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Re: Ask Editor Alison Weiss #1 (right in here!)

Post  Editor Alison on Tue Mar 01, 2011 12:04 pm

Sarah wrote:I have one Very Happy What's your editing process?

Wow! That's a bit of a complicated question, and I really could take pages to answer. But still, such a good one!

We acquire a book that we adore. We cheer. We high five. We do a little dance. But then it's time to get to work. What I love most about the editorial process is that it's a collaboration between author and editor, and here's where that collaboration begins.

When I'm editing, I like to ask a lot of questions. (And I don't always need answers.) I'll go through a manuscript a few times marking questions, noting sections I love, making suggestions. Then it's time to boil down all of my thoughts into an editorial letter, which addresses the key areas that I think need attention. The marked up manuscript and letter go off to the author. After they've had a little bit of time to mull and ruminate about my suggestions, we have a chat - we talk through problems, ideas, questions. And with lots of this back and forth, we work together to mold the manuscript to a version that's even better.

One thing that I think is so important for writers to know is that they should always feel free to ask questions. It's how you learn and grow as a writer, and how you get to the heart of a problem so you can fix it. There seems to be this fear of annoying your editor or agent, but it's not an annoyance. It's part of our jobs! I would so much rather someone just ask me what I meant about a comment than try to figure it out, waste hours trying to interpret, and then totally miss the point. We're really nice and friendly. (Most of the time. Especially when caffeinated.) Just ask.
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Re: Ask Editor Alison Weiss #1 (right in here!)

Post  Shahira on Tue Mar 01, 2011 2:55 pm

As an editor, what kind of advice can you give us to better our writing?

Thanks for taking the time out & answering questions. Smile
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Re: Ask Editor Alison Weiss #1 (right in here!)

Post  Editor Alison on Tue Mar 01, 2011 3:24 pm

Shahira wrote:As an editor, what kind of advice can you give us to better our writing?

Thanks for taking the time out & answering questions. Smile

Oh Shahira, I'm so happy to be here answering your questions.

I think one thing that's so integral to being a great writer is being an active reader. Read widely. Find authors that you love. What draws you to a particular work? What has the author done with a particular scene, or character, or description that is especially effective? How do they build emotion into a moment?

It's also really helpful to know what else is out there, especially when you're getting ready to start submitting your writing to agents or editors. Knowing how and where your book fits in the market can be helpful in that moment of hooking a reader to pick your manuscript out of the pile to read right away.

I've learned as a writer over the years (and I guarantee that I'm not nearly as accomplished as all of you!) that you should never fear just writing. Get the words out. Don't worry about if the phrasing is perfect or if that's exactly the right word. You'll have plenty of time to get it perfect when you revise (and revise, and revise, and revise.) Get your ideas on paper. Let your work sit. Go do something else. Come back with new energy and a new perspective. Some things will be brilliant. Some you'll want to scrap. Some may need a little (or a lot) of work. But writing isn't a do-it-and-done activity. It's a process. And the more time you spend with the process, the better off you'll be. I can't say it will make it easier, because it won't always, but you'll learn techniques that work for you. And those will help you get through the rough spots.
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Re: Ask Editor Alison Weiss #1 (right in here!)

Post  Maggie on Tue Mar 01, 2011 3:46 pm

I have one! I've always wondered, how do you know when you've edited a novel ENOUGH? For me I always feel like there is SOMETHING I'm missing and so much more to do, no matter how much editing I do (and that's just me.)

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Re: Ask Editor Alison Weiss #1 (right in here!)

Post  Editor Alison on Tue Mar 01, 2011 4:04 pm

Lizzy wrote:I have one! I've always wondered, how do you know when you've edited a novel ENOUGH? For me I always feel like there is SOMETHING I'm missing and so much more to do, no matter how much editing I do (and that's just me.)

Boy, do I know how that goes. And a secret: as editors, we do it, too! My favorite Oscar Wilde quote seems to be my constant companion: "I was working on the proof of one of my poems all the morning, and took out a comma. In the afternoon I put it back again."

So, how do you know? Well first, perfection is relative, and you're never going to get your piece absolutely perfect. I talk to writers who look back on their published work and wish they could make this little change or that small tweak. But at some point, you just need to let the work go and have faith that it's good enough. For me, that's when I'm so sick of staring at it that I need to just take that leap of faith. I think when you've reached that moment when you just keep doing the littlest tweaks, taking out the commas and putting them back in, then it's time to let go.

Now, in publishing, we also have these lovely things that offer an extra impetus--dreaded deadlines. We have publishing dates we need to meet, and to do so, we have to get books into copyediting on a specific schedule, have materials ready for our sales team to go out and sell our books, etc. And as much as we may want to fight these dates, they're crucial to sell the book. They make us decide what's really important and what we can let go. Sometimes I'll still have that niggling doubt, but that's when I close my eyes and hit send and hope for the best.
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Re: Ask Editor Alison Weiss #1 (right in here!)

Post  Sarah on Tue Mar 01, 2011 6:06 pm

Thank you for answering my question Very Happy, my next ones are sort of vague so feel free to answer it any way you want. Is there anything we should know or be wary of in the publishing/editing world? Are there certain questions we should, right off the bat, ask an editor? A silly question, but do editors get to pick the projects they do or do publishers assign them projects in the genres they work in?
Thanks again for answering all our questions! Very Happy
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Re: Ask Editor Alison Weiss #1 (right in here!)

Post  Renée on Tue Mar 01, 2011 6:39 pm

Thank you so much for sharing with us! I'm looking into being an editor/copyeditor one day (I love it that much,) and I was wondering what sort of advice you would give to a prospective editor. Like, college major (English with a focus on Writing?), how to get in to the business, simple techniques, etc. I hope that isn't too broad. Very Happy
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Re: Ask Editor Alison Weiss #1 (right in here!)

Post  Editor Alison on Tue Mar 01, 2011 6:43 pm

Sarah wrote:Thank you for answering my question Very Happy, my next ones are sort of vague so feel free to answer it any way you want. Is there anything we should know or be wary of in the publishing/editing world? Are there certain questions we should, right off the bat, ask an editor? A silly question, but do editors get to pick the projects they do or do publishers assign them projects in the genres they work in?
Thanks again for answering all our questions! Very Happy

Hi, Sarah. I hope it's okay if I answer your questions out of order Very Happy

Editors have manuscripts submitted by agents, and when they find something they really love (and get all of the approvals they need) they make an offer. Sometimes there's an auction (and that can be really exciting!) and sometimes it's just a straight acquisition. That's usually how things go. But sometimes, especially when you're a younger editor like me, another editor buys a book and then asks if you'll help them with it, or passes a book on to you. This is usually how young editors learn how to edit, start building a list of books they've worked on, make connections with agents, and start acquiring on their own.

One pit fall that I think all writers should avoid is trying to write to trends. An example (a little out of date, but work with me): We all know vampires are hot, so writing a vampire book seems like a sure thing. Every publisher will want to buy your book because they'll make lots of money. Right? Well, not quite. Because remember that the whole process from the writing of your manuscript to the time it hits the shelves takes a long time Often at least a year, and maybe many, many more. And chances are by the time your book is ready for book stores, vampires will be so last year. Instead, you should write the story you have to write--the one you can't get out of your head. And if it happens to be about vampires, well fine. But don't feel compelled to make it about vampires.

Questions you should discuss with an editor right off the bat, huh? I don't think there's any specific question, but most editors will have a general conversation about your book before they start their edit. What brought you to write this story. Things they've been thinking about. Questions that have been banging around in your head. One thing I'd encourage you to discuss is editing style--what works for them and what works for you. For instance, I often edit electronically, but maybe that's not going to work for whatever reason. Maybe your editor is expecting to get your editorial letter to you in a month, but that's when you're going to be on vacation in the French Riviera (I can dream, right?) It's always good to establish what you expect of your editor and what your editor expects of you. Communication is a wonderful thing.
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Re: Ask Editor Alison Weiss #1 (right in here!)

Post  Editor Alison on Tue Mar 01, 2011 6:53 pm

Renee wrote:Thank you so much for sharing with us! I'm looking into being an editor/copyeditor one day (I love it that much,) and I was wondering what sort of advice you would give to a prospective editor. Like, college major (English with a focus on Writing?), how to get in to the business, simple techniques, etc. I hope that isn't too broad. Very Happy

Hi Renee!

Advice, huh? A lot of people think you need to be an English major to be an editor. Not true. You do need to have strong reading and writing skills, because you'll be reading and writing. A lot.

My biggest piece of advice is to read as much as you can in the fields that interest you. It's so important as a children's editor for me to know what other publishers are coming out with and to be able to communicate what a book is like -- The Adams Family meets Cheaper by the Dozen (the brilliant pitch of our Executive Editor, Regina Griffin for Kristin Clark Venuti's Leaving the Bellweathers, but you get a sense of the sort of book you're in for right away).

It's also really important for you to get as much experience as you can in any way you can before you're applying for jobs. Work at a bookstore. Get an internship. Work on the staff of a student publication. Publishing is an insanely competitive industry, and already knowing how to do things makes you an even better candidate.
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Re: Ask Editor Alison Weiss #1 (right in here!)

Post  Amanda on Tue Mar 01, 2011 7:13 pm

Thanks for answering all these questions! I have two(possibly three). About how long do most books take to edit/how extensive are the edits once they get to you? I don't know if there's any way to generalize that, or if it varies a lot between books. Also, what are your thoughts on word count? I've read that a lot of people(agents, editors, ect.) don't like the higher word counts(90k to 110k-ish) because of how much time it takes to go over them, and over again. Is this true for most, does it vary from person to person, or is there an entirely different reason not to like them? Thanks again! Smile
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Re: Ask Editor Alison Weiss #1 (right in here!)

Post  Stephen on Tue Mar 01, 2011 8:38 pm

I have two questions: When editing a book do you also edit translations? how is a book covered by law for that it is not copied illegally?
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Re: Ask Editor Alison Weiss #1 (right in here!)

Post  Mayaah on Tue Mar 01, 2011 11:07 pm

Hi! Thank you for answering our questions, your answers have been very insightful!
Okay, so my question is, is there a lot of conflict when working with a writer/author? Such as, what if you both don't see eye to eye? Do you trust the author with their story or do you persist a certain thing should be edited? Or, are writers generally willing to hear feedback and respond to it?
Hopefully that made sense!
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Re: Ask Editor Alison Weiss #1 (right in here!)

Post  Editor Alison on Wed Mar 02, 2011 12:03 am

Amanda wrote:Thanks for answering all these questions! I have two(possibly three). About how long do most books take to edit/how extensive are the edits once they get to you? I don't know if there's any way to generalize that, or if it varies a lot between books. Also, what are your thoughts on word count? I've read that a lot of people(agents, editors, ect.) don't like the higher word counts(90k to 110k-ish) because of how much time it takes to go over them, and over again. Is this true for most, does it vary from person to person, or is there an entirely different reason not to like them? Thanks again! Smile

Amanda - how long the editorial process takes. Such a great question! And the answer is that it depends. Sometimes from acquisition to bookstores can be really fast - a couple of months if you crash a book, but usually the span is longer. It can be years if the author and editor are going back and forth and really crafting a project. At the Egmont, because our list is still pretty young, it's not uncommon for us to buy a book and get down to editing right away. We typically will have a couple of rounds of edits before a book goes into copyediting. Then, there are a few more rounds that tend to be more inhouse. About a year (maybe a little bit more) is about average, but it often depends on where the manuscript is when we start.

I'm not much for word count -- I'm honestly better with page count--but my philosophy is that you should use the exact number of words necessary to tell your story and not a single word more. If your story really needs to be 400 pages to tell the story and it works that way, then that that's that. But padding books because you can--that's a nono with me.

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Re: Ask Editor Alison Weiss #1 (right in here!)

Post  Editor Alison on Wed Mar 02, 2011 12:10 am

Stephen wrote:I have two questions: When editing a book do you also edit translations? how is a book covered by law for that it is not copied illegally?

Books from other countries can translate amazingly to our American market, and we certainly do look for projects from other countries. But if we buy a book from a non-English speaking country, we would have the text translated to maintain the spirit of the book, but still make it easy for our readers.

When you buy a manuscript, you're buying the right to publish it in a specific area of the world. So if I were to buy US Rights on a book originating in France, let's say, I'm paying to be able to bring that book out in the American market. But there are still copyright laws that apply. We have our own laws about registration in the US, and so do other countries. And when those rights are violated, then the author and rights-holders have the right to pursue legal action to get paid back for those violations. Great question!
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Re: Ask Editor Alison Weiss #1 (right in here!)

Post  Editor Alison on Wed Mar 02, 2011 12:17 am

Mayaah wrote:Hi! Thank you for answering our questions, your answers have been very insightful!
Okay, so my question is, is there a lot of conflict when working with a writer/author? Such as, what if you both don't see eye to eye? Do you trust the author with their story or do you persist a certain thing should be edited? Or, are writers generally willing to hear feedback and respond to it?
Hopefully that made sense!

Oh, it makes perfect sense! I'm not going to pretend that authors and editors don't sometimes disagree about the direction of a book, because it does happen. But the fact is that it's not the editor's book. It's the author's. As an editor you make suggestions, and you may try to push a point that you feel is really important, but you try not to bring your own agenda to a book. Usually, it's a dialogue. And what I love is sometimes you end up with a fantastic end result that was wholly unexpected from either side! That's why I really like to think of the process as a collaboration. I have colleagues who look at the editor's job as a coach. Sometimes you're there to cheer an author on, sometimes you need to try to lay down the law, but ultimately, you're on the same team, and you want the same successful end result.
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Re: Ask Editor Alison Weiss #1 (right in here!)

Post  Maggie on Wed Mar 02, 2011 10:56 am

A big thank you to Alison for taking time out of her day and answering our questions! We'll look forward to next time. Smile

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