Friday, December 14, 2007

I hate some parts of my job, too.

I've just had an hour and a half conversation with one of my authors. I spent more than 2 weeks--nights and weekends, too--painstakingly editing a book everyone assumes is doomed to fail because of some of the author's ideosyncracies. I gotta say, I'm damn proud of my work (and, by the way, 40% blinder than before I started--stay in school, kids, 'cuz staring at a computer screen for 16 consecutive hours does NOT pay).

The author, who received his manuscript with my edits the day before yesterday, has, quote, "forbidden" me to make any of these changes because I clearly don't understand his narrative (having, you know, only read the book 4 times at this point). After my long conversation, I did manage to a) get him to lower his voice, and b) get him to agree to look at the whole manuscript carefully and get back to me with written comments next week, but in the course of the phone conversation there were some incredibly not nice and belittling things said (and not by me, for I, like Neville Chamberlain, am the soul of appeasement, although perhaps now might be a good time to look back at how it all worked out for old Neville and perhaps revisit my business strategy).

Seriously. There are SO many novels that deserve to be published that won't ever find editors. Can you please, please tell me why I should be wasting my time working with someone who so clearly wants their book to fail? I do strongly believe that literature should be a vehicle for our principles. But if the vehicle isn't polished, no one's going to buy.

I'm only working in your best interest, buddy. Give me a break.

23 comments:

Brian said...

I always find it's that all important fifth read that belays my doubts about an author's abilities and enlightens me as to their deeper purposes. You might give it a try.

Kidding. Please don't kill me.

Shameless said...

A fresh eye is always essential. Authors don't have the fresh eye. You do. Someone is paid to edit. You. I don't think authors can afford to be precious about editing. It's all part of the process. Authors need to live with it, unless of course the editor wants a straight-laced housewife called Shirley turned into a brickhouse of a plumber called John with curlers in his hair and a fetish for chickens! lol

Charles Gramlich said...

Sorry for the hassle. Some authors get very close to their work and yet with a little distance they begin to see the worth of some criticism. Maybe this author will come around next week. 90 percent of the time I've agreed with comments made by editors on my work. Sometimes I find something worth holding on to but I would never be impolite to the editor about it. Peaceful discussion is the way to go.

Kaytie M. Lee said...

Regarding your eyes...my optometrist recommended I wear reading glasses when working on the computer. It has made a huge difference for me for eye strain (used to end days with tears streaming down my face).

Seriously, you might consider buying a pair of +1.0 from the drug store for these really long days. The magnification facilitates the tiny muscle contractions your eyes do when they focus on computer screens...




Also, that author sucks. I can't come up with anything more than that.

Anonymous said...

Do what my editor did, send your letter on a Friday night. That way your author has the weekend to go through the Seven Stages of Revision Anxiety before he can pick up the phone and call you. I did not go through those stages myself because I adore my editor, she is brilliant and I am sane. Hey, at least you've got that going for you.

Anonymous said...

I'm curious. Isn't this discussed before the editor buys the book?

(LOVE your blog and comments and insight and time and humor!)

Ello said...

Gosh here I am wondering if I should Hire an editor to help me on my manuscript and here is this writer being an ass. You know, sometimes you can never make some people happy and they must fail all on their own. At which point they will still find a way to blame you. It is a no win.

Jaye Wells said...

Even if you were way off base on your edits, which we all know is not the case, there is never NEVER an excuse to belittle someone.

Maria said...

Writers have a hard time letting go of their words at times.

And they need you. Ever read your blog and think it is really, really good and then go back to it a month later and think that maybe it wasn't as funny or insightful as you hoped? It's because it is so damn hard to see when you are knee deep in your own words.

Taking a step back and a deep breath might help your author, but it sounds as if he was in no mood to work with you. Yeah, give him a few days to munch on things.

Merry Jelinek said...

I'd just like to say I'm sorry some idiot talked to you that way after all of that work to make his/her book the best it could be... the more editors I read, the more I wonder if these same prima donna's are the ones blaming their publishers for lack of support when their books bomb.

Hope tomorrow is better :-)

Lisa said...

Out of curiosity, what are the majority of the recommended edits? Is it primarily cutting/tightening or do the recommendations change the story in any significant way? Just wondering...

Wayne said...

In your shoes, I'd pass the work to a trusted colleague, for an outside objective view.

I fly the Boeing 747 for a living. I* do it extremely well, but couldn't without the help of a first class first officer.

Bernita said...

The arrogant prick!

jalexissmith said...

does he KNOW who he is doing with? Ratatat is a force to be reckoned with. And for those of you who are wondering, yes, Ratatat IS that good.

Church Lady said...

He is very arrogant.
There are so many talented unpubbed writers who would jump at the opportunity he has.

Conduit said...

When a short story of mine was appearing in an online zine, the editor (SS@S!) suggested I cut the entire first scene as it was excess baggage (she put it more kindly than that). Of course, I was appalled. How could I cut a chunk out of my own story? I might as well cut off a couple of fingers while I'm at it.

I reluctantly agreed, however, and you know what? She was absolutely 100%, bang on, dead centre, correctomundo right. Not only did the story not need the scene, it was better without it.

It's like when you get honest critique from someone who knows what they're doing. It's only human to get defensive, sputtering "Wh-wh-what? You're saying my baby isn't perfect?!" But when you remove your head from your rectum, take a step back, and give it some thought, well, there's a good chance they're right. Not always, but a fair chunk of the time.

The author in question needs to get over himself. When you're given the opportunity most of us long for, don't shit in the nest (pardon my french).

Jill Myles said...

If he wants to be a horse's rectum, perhaps suggest politely that if he doesn't like your edits, he can always return the advance and you can skip publishing his book.

That'll probably shut him up, fast.

I mean, he sold it. It's now your product.

writtenwyrdd said...

Oh, I hope you get to make those changes! I know you put your heart into doing a great job, and to be crapped on by attitude is not amusing in the least.

writtenwyrdd said...

And for the eyestrain? I wear darkly tinted glasses. I get migraines (like 24/7 without medication) and one of the triggers is a computer screen. So, I dim it a bit, wear tinted glasses and, when I can, reverse the screen for a blue background and white letters. Something about the darker background is less straining on the eyes.

Josephine Damian said...

I think the question that needs t be asked is, how did this person get an agent to start with?

Moon, your previous post says all this guy's books were over-long doorstops. Who were the idiot reviewers who gave this guy such a big head by praising his sucky books?

Precie said...

I would never treat you so terribly, moonrat! Given the opportunity. :)

Chin up, moonie! You're doing good work!

Vesper said...

Very interesting post. As I'm not at all acquainted with how things work in the publishing industry, I can't help but wonder how was this author's book chosen for publication? Especially "a book everyone assumes is doomed to fail because of some of the author's ideosyncracies".
Anyway, he should be thankful and not scornful.

Anonymous said...

Some people are blind when it comes to their work. Or for some obscure reason have a kind of 'death wish' to deep-six their literary career. I have known two writers exactly with this achilles heel. One was a promising thriller writer who landed, at that time, one of the most celebrated editors working (think The French Lieutenant's Woman, among others) who fully thought he could develop this writer into a top tier thriller writer. But said writer absolutely refused to have his work edited. Said editor canned him. Said writer has managed to publish only one book in a small press since. Another, a friend, again balked at editing. A promising career with one well-received, but poor-selling book was again spoiled/ruined by her intransigence against editing of her deathless prose. She now writes plays that are not produced, and teaches at a local university. I don't get that kind of thinking. But I haven't an agent or a book that has been published, either. So who knows? Perhaps there's this bug some people catch once they get published. Apparently, it's a killer.