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Ask Editor Alison Weiss #2 (right in here!)

Post  Maggie on Tue Apr 05, 2011 8:46 am

Ask away! Open all day.

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Re: Ask Editor Alison Weiss #2 (right in here!)

Post  Maggie on Tue Apr 05, 2011 2:35 pm

I don't think I asked this before, or anyone else... but here goes. How much of a say do I, as a writer, have in the editing process? Like if you want to cut stuff or change stuff, but I were to disagree with it, would it really be an option or is it not my choice because I don't know what I'm talking about?

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Re: Ask Editor Alison Weiss #2 (right in here!)

Post  Constance on Tue Apr 05, 2011 3:43 pm

Hi! Smile
So, my question is... can authors request cover artists? I mean, I know that we usually don't get much say and all, but sometimes you pick up a book because the cover art is JUST SO AMAZING. If an author wanted that particular artist doing their cover, would their only chance to get that artist be if they were big-wigs like Rowling or King?
Thanks so much for doing this!!
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Re: Ask Editor Alison Weiss #2 (right in here!)

Post  Renée on Tue Apr 05, 2011 3:47 pm

So glad you could make it! Smile

Alright, my question(s) is(are)...do you prefer/exclusively use a digital or hard copy MS for editing? Do you generally write down questions on the paper/the comments section of a word processor, and the writer chooses whether to heed them? Or do you write little notes and then meet with/call them and discuss it? Or is it a combination of both/none of the above?

What exactly separates the editor's job from the copyeditor's job? Is it just a matter of focusing on grammar/sentence structure, or do both work on that, and they're mostly a second pair of eyes?

That was more than I thought..and I'll probably think of more later. Embarassed Thanks so much for answering our questions, and get well soon!


Last edited by Renee on Tue Apr 05, 2011 3:58 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Re: Ask Editor Alison Weiss #2 (right in here!)

Post  Renée on Tue Apr 05, 2011 3:56 pm

Ah, another one. Sorry. Very Happy

As a fully established editor, would you require a second job? (Especially in the case of helping to support a family.) If so, would it just be a supplement--part-time minimum wage--like a barista? Or a career type job, like a K-12 teacher? (They don't get paid a whole lot either, but still.) Smile

Thanks again!
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Re: Ask Editor Alison Weiss #2 (right in here!)

Post  Editor Alison on Tue Apr 05, 2011 4:05 pm

I don't think I asked this before, or anyone else... but here goes. How much of a say do I, as a writer, have in the editing process? Like if you want to cut stuff or change stuff, but I were to disagree with it, would it really be an option or is it not my choice because I don't know what I'm talking about?

Lizzy, this is a great question. And here's the answer. You're the author. It's your work. And you are entirely within your rights to disagree with your editor.

But, that doesn't mean your editor is wrong. Your editor is drawing on knowledge of the market, past experiences, house standards (the grammar policy of a particular publishing house), among other factors.

I'll use an example we talk about often that people butt heads on-- the use of swear words in YA. You may feel that that using them lends authenticity to your characters' voices. After all, teens slip them into everyday speech without blinking an eyelash. It shouldn't be a problem, right? And then your editor asks you to take them out. Here's what your editor's drawing on. Some people won't buy your book if there's cursing in it. Some bookclubs and bookfairs won't consider the project, so you've missed out on a subrights sale. What I've learned is that cursing in YA literature should be used when it's really important to the project, but you need a reason for it to be there.

The editorial process, in my mind, is a collaboration. Your editor makes suggestions. Some you'll like. Some you won't. Some things you'll feel strongly about. Some are inconsequential. And it's different for every author. You don't have to agree to everything your editor suggests or requests, but it's important to remain open, because you both, ultimately, want the same thing. To make your book as wonderful and successful as it can be.
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Re: Ask Editor Alison Weiss #2 (right in here!)

Post  Editor Alison on Tue Apr 05, 2011 4:20 pm

So, my question is... can authors request cover artists? I mean, I know that we usually don't get much say and all, but sometimes you pick up a book because the cover art is JUST SO AMAZING. If an author wanted that particular artist doing their cover, would their only chance to get that artist be if they were big-wigs like Rowling or King?
Thanks so much for doing this!!

Oh covers! My favorite topic. (Not!)

Truthfully, unless you're a bigwig, your publisher's going to decide on the packaging for your book, and you'll have limited say. If you have an idea for your cover, you can share it with your editor, but that doesn't mean it's what you'll ultimately get.

Photoshoots can be very expensive, so it may not be within the allocated budget to achieve your vision. Or the compostion just doesn't work. Or the sales force hates it. Or a major account hates it. (Publishers will sometimes totally redesign for this reason, alone, even if they have a cover they really like.)

I want my authors to be happy with their covers. I truly do. And we try really hard at Egmont to take feedback to make what adjustments we can. I know that many houses don't really let authors have any say at all, unless they're super stars. But because covers are so important in selling the book, the publisher has to ultimately do what they think is best.
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Re: Ask Editor Alison Weiss #2 (right in here!)

Post  Editor Alison on Tue Apr 05, 2011 4:46 pm

So glad you could make it!

Alright, my question(s) is(are)...do you prefer/exclusively use a digital or hard copy MS for editing? Do you generally write down questions on the paper/the comments section of a word processor, and the writer chooses whether to heed them? Or do you write little notes and then meet with/call them and discuss it? Or is it a combination of both/none of the above?

What exactly separates the editor's job from the copyeditor's job? Is it just a matter of focusing on grammar/sentence structure, or do both work on that, and they're mostly a second pair of eyes?

That was more than I thought..and I'll probably think of more later. Thanks so much for answering our questions, and get well soon!

Thanks, Renee. Feeling much better.

Lots of great questions. Whee! Here we go!

Re: Editing -- I tend to do pre-copyediting edits electronically because it's faster (no waiting for mail, and no one has to take time to input the changes). My author and I use track changes within the document, marking questions, making suggestions, etc. Of course, if the author doesn't feel comfortable working electronically, we'd work on hardcopy. I like asking lots of questions and making lots of comments, so there's a lot of margin writing, and I'll make in-line suggestions where I feel appropraite. That doesn't mean the author has to accept them. After I feel I've done a thorough edit, I look through my comments to see general areas that I want to address. I often keep a running bullet list of areas as I'm editing, too. These points become the basis of an editorial letter which highlights the most important areas the author needs to focus on. I'll send the marked up ms and the letter to the author, let them process for a few days, and then we set up a time to talk though issues, questions, etc.

Once the manuscript is laid out, then I'm working on hardcopy with a good old pencil and post-its. But by then, hopefully, the changes are far less extensive. So I guess it's a combo - both.

Re: Editor vs. Copyeditor -- This, I've recently learned, can be different in the US from in other countries, so I'm answering from the US perspective. An editor reads submissions, acquires projects, and is working with the author on refining their manuscript. He or she will work on plotting, characterization, pacing, stylistic choices, and elements of that sort. It's also the editor's job to see that the project is shepherded properly through the entire process from buying the book to liasing with marketing, publicity, managing editorial, etc. They're the author's point person.

The copyeditor's job is to make sure that spelling and grammar are correct. They're also another set of eyes to make sure that things remain consistent - that Sue's blonde hair on page 5 does't suddenly become auburn on page 67, that Danny doesn't leave the house in a snowstorm and then be lamenting the heat when he gets to work. They'll often do some fact checking (don't want to have your character flipping the light switch in 1756, right?) Copyeditors are part of another whole department - Managing Editorial - charged with making sure that the book is staying on track and on schedule. They're still utterly fantastic, though! (Waves to Managing Editor Nico!)
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Re: Ask Editor Alison Weiss #2 (right in here!)

Post  Editor Alison on Tue Apr 05, 2011 4:55 pm

As a fully established editor, would you require a second job? (Especially in the case of helping to support a family.) If so, would it just be a supplement--part-time minimum wage--like a barista? Or a career type job, like a K-12 teacher? (They don't get paid a whole lot either, but still
.) !

A fully established editor is a career-type job. (At least for me!) It's not a field you get into to get rich. You do it because you love it.

I know some people will do other things, too. For example, some editors are writers themselves. I find that so impressive.
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Re: Ask Editor Alison Weiss #2 (right in here!)

Post  Renée on Tue Apr 05, 2011 5:11 pm

Thanks for answering my questions! Being an editor is looking more and more like my dream job. I love you

When editing, do you normally work from home or in an office? I'd assume it's best to carry a laptop. Very Happy Which leads to my next question--do you know if an editor usually has to live in the city of the publishing house, or can they work from home all the time, staying in touch via email and phone? This is probably one of those 'different for everyone' sort of things. Smile
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Re: Ask Editor Alison Weiss #2 (right in here!)

Post  Editor Alison on Tue Apr 05, 2011 5:45 pm

When editing, do you normally work from home or in an office? I'd assume it's best to carry a laptop. Which leads to my next question--do you know if an editor usually has to live in the city of the publishing house, or can they work from home all the time, staying in touch via email and phone? This is probably one of those 'different for everyone' sort of things.

I'm an Assistant Editor, so I'm generally in the office, although I will take a work at home day when I'm trying to get through a manuscript to get edits back to an author. That seems pretty typical at my publishing house. Our publisher and executive editor have a standing work at home day, which they use when they need it, and come into the office when they don't.

As for where you're located, I think, especially starting out, you need to live at least within commuting distance of where your house is located. It's not a telecommuting kind of job, at least, not now. There are too many meetings. Too many questions that can't be easily answered over e-mail. The editorial field is extremely competitive to break into and you have to go where the jobs are.
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Re: Ask Editor Alison Weiss #2 (right in here!)

Post  Constance on Tue Apr 05, 2011 6:26 pm

Editor Alison wrote:
But because covers are so important in selling the book, the publisher has to ultimately do what they think is best.

I thought so. I usually don't really imagine up my covers––except for one story. So the question was for that one.

Thank you so much for answering these questions, even when you aren't feeling well!! I hope you feel better soon. Smile
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Re: Ask Editor Alison Weiss #2 (right in here!)

Post  Renée on Tue Apr 05, 2011 7:52 pm

Editor Alison wrote:As for where you're located, I think, especially starting out, you need to live at least within commuting distance of where your house is located. It's not a telecommuting kind of job, at least, not now. There are too many meetings. Too many questions that can't be easily answered over e-mail. The editorial field is extremely competitive to break into and you have to go where the jobs are.
Yeah, that's what I thought. Alas, I would have to leave Alaska. It was bound to happen sometime. Smile And...now I have some more questions. Embarassed

I might be totally off in my understanding of the publishing industry here, but being an Assistant Editor, are you involved with the bidding on manuscripts at all? And do you know how MS's come to auction in the first place, and how much say an editor has in the acquisition process? Like, an editor is queried, they love the MS and tell a publishing manager about it, and then they place an offer? Or is it pitched to the entire house, and so it's mostly out of the individual editors' hands? A combination of both?

Is there always an auction, or does it happen sometimes where only one house wants it? Would they still go for it if there wasn't competition, or would they be put off since the other houses didn't think they could get anywhere with it?

I know taste varies widely in publishing, so I wondered if ever anything just got handed to you to edit, or do you only take the projects you want? Thanks again! I think those are the last if my questions. Very Happy
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Re: Ask Editor Alison Weiss #2 (right in here!)

Post  Editor Alison on Tue Apr 05, 2011 8:31 pm

being an Assistant Editor, are you involved with the bidding on manuscripts at all? And do you know how MS's come to auction in the first place, and how much say an editor has in the acquisition process? Like, an editor is queried, they love the MS and tell a publishing manager about it, and then they place an offer? Or is it pitched to the entire house, and so it's mostly out of the individual editors' hands? A combination of both?

Is there always an auction, or does it happen sometimes where only one house wants it? Would they still go for it if there wasn't competition, or would they be put off since the other houses didn't think they could get anywhere with it?

I know taste varies widely in publishing, so I wondered if ever anything just got handed to you to edit, or do you only take the projects you want? Thanks again! I think those are the last if my questions.

Renee, you ask excellent questions.

Here's the acquisition process in a nutshell (or, at least how it works at my house w/ some commentary on other houses' processes): A manuscript (usually represented by an agent) is submitted to an editor (and we get tons of submissions). Editor reads, falls in love with the project. Editor brings project to acquisitions. (Because Egmont is still really small, that means getting our Publisher and Managing Director on board with support from Marketing, but at other houses you go to an acquitision board to make your case.). Offer is made. And if editor is lucky, agent and author agree and we have a deal and a new book signed! That sounds happy and sunny, and it usually doesn't happen that way.

Agent often says, yay we have an offer, and then calls around to other editors who have the project letting them know they have an offer on the table, are they interested? We'll be closing on x date (that's very, very soon). Now we're moving toward an auction. And then it's what the editor and house are willing to offer and a hearty dose of luck that another house isn't willing to offer what agent and author see as a better deal. (And it's not always about the most money, though usually is.)

No - not all books go to auction. In fact, there are tons of sales that aren't done in auction. (Phew, cause they can be really exciting, but also really exhausting!) And if an editor loves a book, and has a vision for it, and can get clearance, it doesn't matter if no one else is interested, because your house believes the project can work. Look at Harry Potter. Turned down over and over again before Bloomsbury bought it in the UK.

At my house, I am open to submissions, and can acquire books if I find projects I love that I get others to get excited over, too. But I also take on projects that other editors have acquired and passed along to me. At most houses, an assistant editor is working with more senior editors to learn. And I do a lot of that, too.
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Re: Ask Editor Alison Weiss #2 (right in here!)

Post  Renée on Wed Apr 06, 2011 2:40 am

Thank you so much for answering my questions! You cleared up a lot. Very Happy From what you've described, the editing field sounds perfect for me. Smile
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