Life on the Fringe
So you’ve gotten a contract, you’re working with an editor at a publishing house for the first time, and you’re both terrified and excited. WOOHOO. They bought your book and it means that you’re actually going to hold it in your hands one of these days. But first…first you have to go through the production process. Which means, revisions. And copyedits.
So you get an email (or more rarely today, a snail mail package), and inside is your manuscript. Your editor has actually read it through and now you get to see what they really think, after the initial giddiness of “they bought my book!”
You open the document and…your heart sinks. Comments here and there (or maybe all over the place). Suggestions. This character sounds too harsh here. This paragraph is redundant. That scene doesn’t fit. Here’s another scene that needs to be longer. Are you really sure you want to make that metaphor? This plot element doesn’t quite work. What if you changed it to… And on…and on…
You take a deep breath and start working through the manuscript. But your ego rebels. You love the scene just the way it is—who says it needs to be longer!? The character does NOT sound harsh—she says “You fucking bitch” in the kindest way. And change your plot? But it’s genius!
Your first inclination is to call the editor and say, “WHAT DO YOU MEAN???”
Word of Advice: DON’T DO IT.
So you get an email (or more rarely today, a snail mail package), and inside is your copyedited manuscript. The copyeditor has removed some of your ellipses. And added commas! And damn it, you really don’t think that “Jane couldn’t believe that Sheila could be so vicious. She was sure she was yanking her chain but she didn’t really know what to say. Her heart sunk. Why had she said that?” is unclear in the slightest. And what the hell…who cares if Tripp walked out of the room or not? The fact that he’s not there now implies he left.
Your first inclination is to call the editor and say, “THE COPYEDITOR SUCKS! HOW DARE THEY IMPLY I DON’T KNOW WHAT I’M DOING???”
Word of Advice: DON’T DO IT.
In both of these cases, you are facing the classic dilemma of: Picking and Choosing Your Battles. And in 95% of the cases, my advice is always the same: Swallow your ego. If it’s not going to drastically, and I mean drastically, change the book, shut your mouth, make the changes, and let it be. Because, my friends, that way when a big issue really DOES pop up, the editor will know you are serious about your complaints. Add to that, in most cases, the editor and copyeditor really DO see your manuscript with an unbiased eye and they are there to help you make it the best book it can become.
Don’t be the jerk-ass writer nobody wants to work with. Don’t be the writer who makes your editor mutter, “Working with the writer from hell…” Don’t be the writer who plays the diva and gets a bad reputation all around. Don’t be the writer who finds yourself shunted out of contracts because you’re more of a liability in time and energy than you are a benefit. IOW: don’t be a dickhead. Don’t be a bitch.
Have a serious issue with a suggested change? By all means, discuss it rationally and present your case, and if it’s bad enough and you cannot talk to your editor because communications break down, go talk to your agent and s/he will intercede for you.
However, if you whine about every single stupid comma the copyeditor wants to remove, if you argue about every coffee shop scene that gets cut, then you’re basically kissing your career goodbye.