I think I might have to drop down to posting once every two weeks because I’ve been obscenely busy. Sorry to say that but life’s getting ahead of me, and I need to get a drop on it before it attacks!
That said, lately I’ve noticed I’m reading queries or manuscripts that are great for one reason or another but I couldn’t publish them if I wanted to. With some of them the plot is fantastic but the writing needs more work than we can offer, while with others it’s the reverse. And when I’m editing there’s also the unfortunate conflict between something I like and something I can publish.
The frustrating reality, for both me and writers that work with an editor, is that any work we receive is going to require some level of editing. It’s not a fun project, and it’s sometimes painful for both the writer and the editor. But the fact is that even Stephen King has needed editors – and he’s had disagreements with them (The Stand’s being cut down for brevity and later returned to its original form is an example).
Authors need to remember that publishing, in its bones, is a business. The beauty of the artwork is important, but a published work needs to reach the widest possible market so that it can make the most money and give everyone involved a paycheck. The sad reality is that if we publish something that doesn’t sell we don’t make a dime on it. In fact, we lose money. Publishing isn’t exactly a quick and easy process; it takes months of work on the behalf of everyone involved (including the author), and if we don’t sell enough copies that effort is, unfortunately, for nothing.
So what does this mean? It means that unless we, the company, the editors, are certain that what we have is the best possible manuscript it can be, how can we get behind it? Working at a small publishing company, I don’t get a paycheck. I don’t get paid hourly, by manuscript, or by month. I get paid royalties, just like the author (and the cover artist, actually). So the unfortunate reality is that unless something looks like it will sell I have to reject it.
The reason I’m mentioning this is that a lot of authors think that editors are heartless or ruthless when we’re editing, and that’s somewhat true. I can’t allow how much I like a manuscript to change the fact that sometimes I’m going to need to go in with forceps and a scalpel to do corrective surgery. And to be honest, the more I like a novel the harder I’m going to be on it. This is because I want the manuscripts potential to be realized as much as possible. In some ways, as backwards as it may seem, the harder an editor is on your manuscript the more work they’re putting into it and the more they believe in it. At least that’s true for me.