Friday, November 28, 2008

The Big, Bad Editor's List Of Pet Peeves - Act IV

Editors really don’t want to hate authors. Honest. We want to publish your book as much as you do, maybe more. When books get published, we get paid. It is as simple as that. We’re on the lookout for the best product on the market. We do research, we pluck gems from the slush pile, we’ll even take a diamond in the rough, if we meet an author who’ll work hard to help polish it into the treasure it can be.

However, authors can get on our bad side. It’s not easy, but it does happen. Here are a couple things you can do to be certain we never want your manuscript to darken our doors again (although, if you learn the error of your ways, we’ll gladly take a different manuscript!)

Don’t Read The Guidelines

Astoundingly, I see an average of 3-4 manuscripts a week that are not, have not been, and in fact, don’t even pretend to be romance. TWRP publishes romance. Romance is boy-meets-girl, boy-loses-girl, boy-gets-girl-back, and a Happy-Ever-After (HEA). In our guidelines, we even state that relationship development should be at least 50% of the novel. I’ve received a manuscript of 400 pages wherein the heroine got married, had multiple children, and her husband died, in the middle 3 pages of the book. It was the only mention of any relationship whatsoever. I’ve received a manuscript where the hero bounced from woman to woman (a few underage), exploiting his prowess, and finally settled on the heroine in the last 7 pages of the novel. These are not romances. Relationship development is vital to a romance.

Jamie’s caveat

Hero and heroine shouldn’t be more than 5 pages apart for the most part. As an author grows, I will accept a well-written plot with them a little further apart, but most newbies do not have this kind of control until their 3rd or 4th book. Some of my fellow editors are less hard-line about this issue, so feel free to submit if you’ve kept the hero/heroine apart for more pages. This is not a hard and fast rule, but it helps us maintain the quality of what we sell. There are always exceptions and writer with good control over the work can stretch the limit.

Resubmission Hounds/Eager Beavers

These writers get their nice rejection letter and a few pages of edits back, make the changes and resubmit the manuscript 2 hours later. They do not look at the rest of the manuscript to see if they’ve made the same mistakes throughout that the nice rejection letter mentioned. Nope, they just do the required edits highlighted and send it back. Ladies and gentlemen, I’m here to tell you that if the nice editor mentioned something in the rejection letter that could apply to the whole manuscript, you might want to check the entire novel.

This really happened. I rejected a manuscript. Five minutes later, it was resubmitted (we have a time stamp). Another editor was assigned who knew I had it. She thought maybe I’d asked the writer to resubmit, so she read and it rejected it also. Five minutes after the second rejection was sent (again, the time stamp), it was re-submitted again. Don’t do this. The editors at TWRP know their jobs. If your manuscript is rejected, there are valid reasons. We try to let you know your strengths, and your weaknesses. Look at those weaknesses, read up on them, and even sign up for our FREE critique partner service at If you don’t want to do that, the best editing tool you can use is reading the manuscript out loud. If the book sounds clunky, awkward and stilted, it probably is just that.

The Prima Donna

There’s a difference between an author who is rightfully angry and an author who is simply stamping her foot metaphorically and having a tantrum because we didn’t ask to publish his/her work.

I’ve dealt with manuscripts that slipped through the cracks and authors who have a right to be angry and upset. We’ve managed to settle amicably each time. It took work on both our parts. This includes an author who was so upset she wanted only a Senior Editor (before I was one). However, she listened to our side of the story, we did some sample editing so she could take me for a test run, she was satisfied with my work and we went straight to publishing from there. Her anger was justified and we made allowances to give her what she wanted. But she was polite, despite being upset, and we worked to make her experience a good one.

But the author who shoots me an angry email with doubts about my abilities, my legitimacy as a human and my mother’s marital status when I was born is not endearing. Do not get angry and sling personal insults. Even if you feel I trampled on your novel, take a good, hard look at it and ask another experienced person to look at the book, too. We at TWRP always try to give the best advice in the rejection. We’re not soulless robots rubber-stamping a form letter. I can’t tell you how many times I came across a really unique plot that I’d LOVE to edit…but it wasn’t a romance. I’ve had several manuscripts that crossed my desk where I regretfully informed the authors of the best place to sell the book. They were THAT good. I actually recommended in the rejection letter which publishing house (and sometimes even the exact editor) who would probably look at the work.

We editors know our business. We know what we sell, and what other companies sell. We may not chat with other publishing houses much, but rest assured, we know their guidelines, too. As with any business, knowing the competition is simply good economics. If an excellent book is not right for our house, we usually try to direct them to where they rightfully belong, if we know.

The Chatty Patty

Once I am your editor, please, please, do not send me emails with photos and stories of your dogs, your kids, your grandkids, your African safari or your husband’s gallbladder surgery. Editors and writers are business partners, first. We may establish a friendship later, but at the beginning, I’m simply buying your work.

In the editing process, nothing makes me grit my teeth more than a writer who sends me countless emails asking if she should change the word ‘scum’ on page 72 of her novel to ‘pond-scum’ and similar editing changes. This is your manuscript. You can make and suggest editing changes, too. We are a partnership here. Our goal is to publish the best book possible. Work with me, but do not send emails with simple changes that you can make without affecting the integrity of the manuscript. Make them and if I do not feel they are appropriate, I’ll catch them in the line edit, anyway.

Once we begin editing, you can nudge me by sending a polite email if you’re feeling neglected. You can even put in the subject header the word ‘NUDGE.’ If I don’t respond within a week, send an email to my boss, Rhonda Penders, If you are working with an editor for a specific line, send a note to the Senior Editor. They are all listed on our main webpage. This way, we both maintain contact. Other editors may prefer a different method, feel free to ask them.

I hope this list has helped you understand our side of the desk. I hope you learned, you laughed, you shared my editor life for a while. I hope we have a long and enduring relationship doing what we both love. Good luck with your writing career, and remember, a manuscript sitting in a drawer is just gathering dust. Send it along to us and you might gather an audience, instead! Come on, send that novel in!

Any questions? Ask in the comments section.

Next week – fellow editor Renee Lynn is at the helm. Tune in!


Sarita Leone said...

Am enjoying these posts. Very informative. Amusing, too. :)

A.Y. Stratton said...

I too am enjoying the Pet Peeves series. Each post is a brush-up class on the basics of good writing. Thanks, A. Y. Stratton, (a new-comer to the Garden)

Unknown said...

Thanks! I find all of your posts very informative and helpful. This answers a question another writer just asked me so I'll direct them to read your post.

Linda LaRoque said...

All good points. I can certainly understand your frustration and will do my best to avoid those peeves.