|The author, Dane F. Baylis|
THEY KNOW MORE, CHANGE THINGS, EXPECT US TO BE PUNCTUAL, AND COST MONEY
AND, LIKE IT OR NOT,
WHY THEY JUST MIGHT SAVE OUR BOOK.
Last night I attended the regular, monthly meeting of the Ventura County Writer's Club, of which I am a member. The evening was special because there was a panel of four professional editors there to talk about their work and why a writer needs their help. The four were:
Greg Elliot of Agoura Hills, author, editor, screenwriter, and writing professor at UCLA; Tammy Ditmore of Newbury Park, professional editor who has held positions as an editor, proofreader, and indexer for newspapers, book publishers, authors, and scholars; Monica Faulkner of Los Angeles, an editor and publishing consultant for more than 20 years, and one of the founders of the Los Angeles Editors and Writers Group; and Southern California publishing legend, Shelly Lowenkopf of Santa Barbara, former executive editor for several California publishers, recipient of the “Life Time Achievement in Writing” award from USC for 30 years teaching masters writing classes, and author of over 35 books. Mr. Lowenkopf has personally seen over 700 books to publication as an editor.
To say there was a lot of horsepower at that table is an understatement, that it was accompanied by a healthy dose of reality should go without saying. As free as the Internet and self-publishing has made us, it has also created a burgeoning "vanity press". Like it's brick and mortar counterpart, this is an area of publication where authors are able to invest as little money, time, and effort as possible and still see their name on the cover of a book. The result is a stunning surge in the number of electronic books available and a not too surprising equivalent decline in the quality represented.
As authors we are not always our own best friends and, when it comes to self-editing and publication, we can be our own worst enemies! A good editor is the person who will take your baby and help you to turn it into a comely, well proportioned adult with a voice and manner intended to attract readers. We pay them to be brutally honest and, as this isn't a cheap deal, it would benefit us to listen.
These are people who have varying track records, but as a budding "author" you probably can't match their credits. They have shepherded untold tragedies through the process of becoming interesting, engaging, MARKETABLE stories. In a business where it takes exceeding a break point of five to eight thousand copies sold before you can begin to attract the attention of any major publishing house with all of its intrinsic scale and benefits, why would you not avail yourself of these services?
As a very minor author and blogger (Except for these daily posts, my credits are all in the traditional vein...you know, submit, wait, rewrite, resubmit, wait some more, contemplate going back to driving a cab.) I am asked now and then to edit or review something by another writer. Once in a while I am approached by someone from the old school who has put in a lot of effort before I see their work. More and more I am seeing rough drafts and an attitude like it's totally up to someone else to turn this thing into a work of literature.
Let me share with you what Tammy Ditmore says about working with an editor. It's something like a David Letterman top ten list:
The Top 10 Ways to Make Your Editor Love You
(Parenthesis added by me.)
10. Submit the cleanest copy possible. (A no-brainer? Want to put money on that?)
9. Learn to use Microsoft Word's Track Changes. (Yours truly is endeavoring)
8. Stick to your original agreement or plan. (Delivery date? Stick to it. Length of piece? You change this and the editor changes the price.
7. No surprises! (See previous)
6. Be reasonable and polite. (You need them more than they need you.)
5. Communicate clearly and fully. (None of us has a crystal ball)
4. Trust your editor. (That's why your there. They know what you don't)
3. Say thank you. (One professional to another. It should go without saying)
2. Respect your editor as a professional. (Do your research. Make your choice. Then let them do the job you're paying for.)
And the Number 1 way to make your editor love you.
1. Treat your editor as a team member. (Not an adversary, that's for your story.)
Meanwhile...live, love, write.
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Dane F. Baylis