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Ask Editor Alison Weiss #5 (right in here!)

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

Ask away!

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Re: Ask Editor Alison Weiss #5 (right in here!)

Post  Editor Alison on Tue Jul 05, 2011 9:55 am

Hi folks. I don't bite and I'm very happy to answer those pressing writing and publishing questions that have been keeping you staring at your ceiling all night. Or, really, just about anything about being young and diving into the scary waters of the publishing world. So, ask away!
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Re: Ask Editor Alison Weiss #5 (right in here!)

Post  Editor Alison on Tue Jul 05, 2011 12:18 pm

My name is Aaronni Miller and I have a few questions about publishing!

I completed a YA Contemporary novel a few weeks ago and it has since gone through revisions, edits, rewrites and all the like. My question is; if I've been getting amazing feedback on my manuscript but I can't break through the "agented" wall is this the time to slow down and rethink things? Or should I continue to push on considering that most publishing houses do not accept unsolicited manuscripts?

You've probably heard this a hundred times and answered this a hundred times but I can't find that thread! =))

Hi Aaronni,

This is a great question. I'm so glad that you asked it.

Writing a novel is hard, but the next step - querying - can be even harder. And this is what I have to say: Don't give up. It seems to me from your post that you've only been querying agents for a few weeks. That's nothing! Some of your favorite writers queried their novel for years, and were rejected hundreds of times before they heard a "yes." I'd advise you to keep researching agents, keep sending letters, and keep at it. There are so many agents. You just might not have found THE ONE quite yet.

But that doesn't mean that you need to put your writing on hold. Have an idea for a new project (or six)? Keep writing. This project may not be right for an agent, but they may want to know what else you have on the back burner because they see a glimmer of something fantastic in your writing. And if you've been toying with other ideas, that can be to your advantage.

If you keep getting feedback from agents that starts to sound the same - for example, Auntie Em's character just doesn't seem believable - that might be the time for your to go back to your project and rethink some things.

Remember - writing is a process of revision. Revise, take a break, and revise again. And when your novel is sold, you can look forward to lots more revising!

Hope that helps!
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Re: Ask Editor Alison Weiss #5 (right in here!)

Post  Maggie on Tue Jul 05, 2011 12:30 pm

Okay, I have one. Smile If a novel ends up on your desk and it's in pretty good shape, will that actually quicken its journey toward publication? Basically, the fewer edits you have to make, the sooner it can be published kinda deal?

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Re: Ask Editor Alison Weiss #5 (right in here!)

Post  Editor Alison on Tue Jul 05, 2011 12:38 pm

Okay, I have one. If a novel ends up on your desk and it's in pretty good shape, will that actually quicken its journey toward publication? Basically, the fewer edits you have to make, the sooner it can be published kinda deal?

Well, Lizzy, maybe but not necessarilly.

If the manuscript is in excellent shape and doesn't need as many editorial rounds AND there's a hole on an upcoming list AND we still have enough time to get together a cover and produce selling materials, then the book might be able to be published sooner.

But, even, so a book usually takes about 18 months from acquisition to publication. We have to look at what we have in the pipeline, what's already scheduled on a list (you don't want to publish two teapot novels around the same time, for instance), what an editor's editorial load is at a given moment (because the book will still need some work, is this the best time for a book on this subject matter to come out? Lots of things that have to be taken in to account.
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Re: Ask Editor Alison Weiss #5 (right in here!)

Post  Maggie on Tue Jul 05, 2011 12:55 pm

Okay, makes sense. Thank you. Smile

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Re: Ask Editor Alison Weiss #5 (right in here!)

Post  Maggie on Tue Jul 05, 2011 12:57 pm

I have another question. What if your editor does an unsatisfactory job? What if you're reading through your ARC or something and you catch multiple errors (perhaps that you didn't notice before) and that you can't believe your editor missed. Or what if you read a published book that was edited by your editor, and IT has mistakes. Do you confront the editor? How do you know they've done a good job?

(That's kind of more than one question... and a tad confusing. Let me know if I need to re-word something).

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Re: Ask Editor Alison Weiss #5 (right in here!)

Post  Editor Alison on Tue Jul 05, 2011 1:43 pm

I have another question. What if your editor does an unsatisfactory job? What if you're reading through your ARC or something and you catch multiple errors (perhaps that you didn't notice before) and that you can't believe your editor missed. Or what if you read a published book that was edited by your editor, and IT has mistakes. Do you confront the editor? How do you know they've done a good job?


Lizzy, you're making me a tad paranoid!

There are lots of dimensions to this question so I'm going to try to answer it by teasing this into seperate issues: Problems with the presentation of your work, and problems with the editor.

First, presentation of the work:
You've recieved the bound galleys or ARCs of your books, and there are typos! Panic sets in. How could this happen?!

Rewind. Take a breath. This is perfectly normal, and no one will judge you for it. At this stage, these are uncorrected bound proofs (and they should be labeled as such). That means that they're still being worked on, and there may be mistakes. And it's okay for them to be there. There are still several steps to go before your book is ready for book shelves. You'll be seeing your book again - you might even have what we call 1st pass, which should look just like the inside of your bound galleys, but not bound. And guess what! You can make changes! You realize that Sally should have gone looking for Fido before she went to Grandmother's - well you can make that change.

A proofreader will see your book. This person is trained to catch typos, grammar issues, errant commas, even inconsistancies. And he'll have also seen what the copyeditor did with your book, so he can keep a super wary eye, while making sure that that funny spelling of a name is, indeed, the way you want it.

And your editor will see your book again. Many times. She'll (I feel like making your editor a woman for this example) see the changes you've made. She'll see the changes the proofreader suggests be made. She'll have her own changes that she thinks ought to be made. And she'll walk you through all of it, checking things with you. Because that's her job.

We go through a bunch of rounds before we hit the button that okays your book to be printed. We catch a lot of stuff. It's part of the process.

But what if my book is printed and I discover there's a typo that no one caught on page 142?! Well, we do our best, but sometimes, it happens. Sorry. It's a truth, and it's really not the end of the world. And when your book is reprinted (as we truly hope it will be) we can fix the mistake.

A problem with your editor:
But what if there's truly a problem with my editor?

Well, I hope this never happens to you. Truly I do. But sometimes it's just not the right match. Talk to your agent about concerns. It's your agent's job to help you with exactly this sort of sticky situation. Be as respectful and professional as possible in getting through this book. It's still your book, with your name. Then, have a serious think about what you need, what's best for your career, and what you want to do moving forward.

This, by the way, doesn't mean your editor is a bad editor. It's just not what you particuarly need in an editor. Every editor operates differently. Compare it to casting a role in a movie or a play - just becasue you pick Actor F over Actors A through E doesn't mean that the others were bad actors. They just weren't want you wanted for the part. And there's nothing wrong with that.

A wowza long answer for a complicated question. Hope this helps!
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Re: Ask Editor Alison Weiss #5 (right in here!)

Post  Maggie on Tue Jul 05, 2011 3:37 pm

Wow, thank you! It totally does. I read a book recently that was really (I felt) poorly edited. Just mistakes that, if they were in MY writing, I would NEVER want to have published.

And just to clear this up... you mentioned on Twitter being asked writing and publishing questions? Could you give some examples of what kind of questions? That way I can make sure everyone knows what they can ask, instead of limiting it so specifically to editing.

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Re: Ask Editor Alison Weiss #5 (right in here!)

Post  Editor Alison on Tue Jul 05, 2011 3:44 pm

Sure thing, Lizzy.

I'm happy to talk about craft, and about the publishing process. But I'm just as happy to talk about the experience of getting into publishing. I know that I've had some of those types of questions in the past, and I would have loved to have someone tell me a bit more about what I was setting myself up for in high school and, later, in college.

Really, happy to answer just about anything, and if I can't talk about it for whatever reason, I'll let you know. Laughing
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Re: Ask Editor Alison Weiss #5 (right in here!)

Post  Maggie on Tue Jul 05, 2011 4:33 pm

Awesome. Thank you.

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Re: Ask Editor Alison Weiss #5 (right in here!)

Post  Sarah on Tue Jul 05, 2011 6:55 pm

Okay I saw your answer that said it usually takes 18 months to publish a novel from start to finish. This is the norm for debut writers, right? Does the process normally speed up on the writers second/third/fourth book? Also how much say does a editor normally have on the entire process? Do they just help shine the novel into it's best shape or are they more involved in the publishing process than that?

Thanks for answering our questions!!!
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Re: Ask Editor Alison Weiss #5 (right in here!)

Post  Editor Alison on Tue Jul 05, 2011 7:15 pm

Okay I saw your answer that said it usually takes 18 months to publish a novel from start to finish. This is the norm for debut writers, right? Does the process normally speed up on the writers second/third/fourth book? Also how much say does a editor normally have on the entire process? Do they just help shine the novel into it's best shape or are they more involved in the publishing process than that?

Well, Sarah. I'm a girl of my word, You just won yourself a bound galley. We'll talk more about that later.

On to your question. I think the process time can change once an editor and an author have developed a style of working together, but I'd say that I still wouldn't reduce that time by too many months. It may seem shorter - for instance when you have a book coming out every year - but that's probably because books are overlapping somewhat. Like you, as a writer, are writing Book 2 while Book 1 is in later stages of the process. People who write picture books or chapter books may, of course, be writing and publishing many more books in a year. Or if you're super prolific as a writer, you might be doing several novels at once. But the whole publishing process takes a good deal of time, not because it necessarily takes all that time to write, edit, etc., but because a sales team needs time to go out and sell your book. To give you context, Egmont's Spring 12 sales materials had to be ready to go out about a month ago. Long time, huh?

Now the editor's role -- Editors shepherd books through the entire process from acquisition to publication. They buy the books through negotiating with agents. They work with authors to shine manuscripts into books that are pretty and wonderful. They weigh in on covers (even if they don't get ultimate say.) They write a lot of the copy for selling materials, catalogs, definitely for the jackets. They liase with agents, authors, marketing, publicity, and anyone else, to make sure the book is being taken care of. They often take care of authors at events like signings or conferences to make sure the author is comfortable in the circumstances. Often, people think of editors as dealing with punctuation and spelling, but that's not at all what we do (or only a very, very small part, anyway). I'll tell you one thing. Being an editor is never boring.
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Re: Ask Editor Alison Weiss #5 (right in here!)

Post  Constance on Tue Jul 05, 2011 9:15 pm

WHAT? There was a bound galley bribe?! *Would have turned my wifi back on sooner if I'd known* *frowns at Lizzy* TWIN. I LOVES books. Why didn't you tell me about this??

Hmph.

ANYWAY. Hello Miss Alison! Twin said you were sad you weren't getting more questi–– *cough* I mean. I telepathically knew that you wanted more questions. So. Uh... Yeah.

My question, since I'm about to have to deal with this, is... Editing. There are different things you hear about when people say "editing". Rewriting, line edits, etc. It stands to reason line edits should be done LAST, since you'd just have to do them over whenever you change something. But other than that, what order should editing be done in? (And I mean other types of editing besides rewriting & LE, I just can't pin down the words.)

If you need that reworded, just tell me... It seems kind of confusing. >.<

I hope having another question makes your heart happy. (Like so-> I love you ) Very Happy Have a WONDERFUL night!!
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Re: Ask Editor Alison Weiss #5 (right in here!)

Post  Editor Alison on Tue Jul 05, 2011 9:37 pm

My question, since I'm about to have to deal with this, is... Editing. There are different things you hear about when people say "editing". Rewriting, line edits, etc. It stands to reason line edits should be done LAST, since you'd just have to do them over whenever you change something. But other than that, what order should editing be done in? (And I mean other types of editing besides rewriting & LE, I just can't pin down the words.)

Hi Constance,

Thanks for the question. I can't imagine how you knew I needed one! Wink

As an editor, I like to start by going through a manuscript, asking a lot of questions, and making a lot of comments as I go. When I look throiugh my notes, I look for issues that keep popping (global issues), and big problems that need to be addressed - a character that needs to be more fully developed, a scene that doesn't quite work, a plot hole. Maybe you need to rewrite a scene, or write a whole new one, fleshing something out that wasn't clear. These are the big edits that it's best to start with. Because once you iron out the big problems, the smaller ones are easier to tackle. (Hopefully.)

After going through enough rounds addressing plot, structure, and character issues (and maybe some pacing, too), then you get down to the nitty gritty of line edits. This is the stuff of, is this the right word? Do we need to rephrase this? Do I need to break up this sentence, or add a comma. And you may be doing some tweaking on bigger issues while you're in the midst of line edits - that's okay. It's natural.

But fix the big stuff and the small stuff seems so much easier to tackle. And you'll feel so much more confident, too. Smile
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Re: Ask Editor Alison Weiss #5 (right in here!)

Post  Constance on Tue Jul 05, 2011 9:51 pm

Oh, thank you! That was wonderful and will be uber-helpful in a few days(I hope)! It probably seemed like a very novice question, but I've never had to do edits before––first FULLY finished book and all. *beams*

Thank you for answering my question!! And the other questions, too. Your answers are all wonderful and MUCH too interesting. They're making it hard to turn my wifi back off... Razz
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Re: Ask Editor Alison Weiss #5 (right in here!)

Post  Editor Alison on Tue Jul 05, 2011 10:06 pm

I'm here every month. Please come back and ask me more great questions. (And no question is too "novice" or silly. I'm here to help in any way I can! Very Happy
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Re: Ask Editor Alison Weiss #5 (right in here!)

Post  Sarah on Tue Jul 05, 2011 10:08 pm

There was a bound galley prize? Woohoo! I won!!! *decides not to question how* Wink

Two last questions though these are more about you than publishing. When did you decided you wanted to be an editor? And what steps did you take to become one?

Thank you sooo much for answering our questions!!! I really appreciate you taking the time! Very Happy
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Re: Ask Editor Alison Weiss #5 (right in here!)

Post  Editor Alison on Tue Jul 05, 2011 10:28 pm

This is how you won. You were not Lizzy. And you asked me a question. I said the first one who was not Lizzy and asked me a question could win an ARC.

About me - huh? Here's the story of how I got interested in the biz, and how I wrestled my way in. (And there may be a video on the internet of me telling this story on a very bad hair day. But I digress.)

When I was in college, I was trying to figure out what I was going to do for the summer, and I came across a testimonial from someone who was describing his editorial internship at a children's imprint at one of the major publishers. It sounded amazing. I thought "I can read children's books for a living? Sign me up!" But I was a year too young for the program. So, the next year, I applied for an internship at the publisher (and a handful of others) and I got accepted to the program! I learned that, no, you do not sit reading books all day, but there are many other interesting tasks that are part of the job.

When college was drawing to an end, I started applying for editorial assistant positions. And applying. And applying. And then, truthfully, I got lucky.

Getting into the publishing world is hard, even if you do know people and have great credentials. So you have to do whatever it takes - just keep sending our resumes, keep reading, intern at publishers, at literary agents, any where you can get an internship if it's connected with the business (even if they won't pay you.) Work in a bookstore. Work at a library. Pay attention to trends. Know what's going on in other areas - film, magazine, TV, the news (these might yield book ideas.) It's a lot of perseverence, but if you're good and determined, it will pay off.
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Re: Ask Editor Alison Weiss #5 (right in here!)

Post  Sarah on Tue Jul 05, 2011 10:40 pm

Yay! *is now super excited*

Wow, that is so cool! I would love to be an editor someday (unless I become a writer first because I think doing both would be a tad much) but I wasn't sure how hard it was to become one. Thanks! Smile
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Age as a number

Post  mckinney.kelsey on Wed Jul 06, 2011 9:03 am

As an author in my late teens, I am nervous about querying because of my age. Several current authors that I have been in contact with over Twitter have said that it is best not to include an age in a query letter as it is unimportant to one's quality of writing. My question is: without including my age in my query letter, is there a way for me to account for the lack of publishing credits I have? I am currently a college student, and feel that my author bio is extremely lacking.

Thank you so much!
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Re: Ask Editor Alison Weiss #5 (right in here!)

Post  Editor Alison on Wed Jul 06, 2011 10:34 am

As an author in my late teens, I am nervous about querying because of my age. Several current authors that I have been in contact with over Twitter have said that it is best not to include an age in a query letter as it is unimportant to one's quality of writing. My question is: without including my age in my query letter, is there a way for me to account for the lack of publishing credits I have? I am currently a college student, and feel that my author bio is extremely lacking.

Hi Kelsey,

What a wonderful question. Age is a tricky thing. I feel your pain. I alternatively feel massively old as I see manuscripts and accomplishments from people who are just a few years younger, or massively young as I vie for manuscripts with editors who have so much more experience under their belts than I can claim.

But here's the thing. Age is just a number. What really matters is the quality of your manuscript. Let me say this again. First and foremost, we care about the manuscript. Still, I think a lot of agents are quite excited by the prospect of a young phenom. It means there's a whole career of writing stretching before you, and that you've developed your craft early - sky's the limit for you. Think of all the people who are older and still in the same position as you, with no writing credits to their names. Are you better than them? No. Are they better than you? No, of course not.

What I would advise you to do as a debut writer, whether you're 17 or 70, is to take advantage of the opportunity to develop a platform for yourself. Get on Twitter or Facebook and start cultivating relationships with other people in the writing world. Are you the sort of person who feels comfortable starting a blog - do it! What helps me when I find a manuscript I love from a debut author is if they already come with some sort of following that we can tap into. You should feel comfortable with the media you choose to involve yourself in. Don't, for instance, commit to blogging if you're only going to do it once every four months. But it is worthwhile, and can be a lot of fun, and it will only give you a leg up later on.
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Re: Ask Editor Alison Weiss #5 (right in here!)

Post  Maggie on Wed Jul 06, 2011 5:27 pm

@Kelsey We've talked about age a lot in agent chats too. You should join us for one of those next time if you're a teen-ready-to-embark-on-the-querying-journey. It's awesome to talk to an agent and get a feel for the business. Smile

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Re: Ask Editor Alison Weiss #5 (right in here!)

Post  Maggie on Wed Jul 06, 2011 5:29 pm

OK Alison, I have another question. Smile

I kinda got a feel for this just by reading answers to other questions, but I'd like it clarified. How much does an editor actually edit? Is it just the 'nitpicky' stuff (grammar, punctuation, sentence structure, etc.) or does it involve plot, story, character, dialogue, world, and so on?


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Thanks

Post  mckinney.kelsey on Wed Jul 06, 2011 5:30 pm

Thank you so much! Your reply was very encouraging to me! I will definitely be joining in on some agent chats.

Kelsey
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