Last week agent Rachelle Gardner had a guest post from one of her authors. The post is a great one, about what happens when you receive edits–after your book has been contracted. You should read it, it has wonderful things to say. But in the course of the post I read this:
The story had been re-written and revised much already, but I’ll be honest: many of the suggested changes were things I’d secretly feared were needed. I had tried to work them out and finally concluded that it would take far too much work; they were impossible to fix. The story would just have to do. I’d pitched the book, hoping someone would take pity on the little waif and love it in spite of a few flaws.
Blinding Truth Alert: Since the book and I were contracted with an agent (YAY!!), it was now my job—my duty—to fix those impossible flaws. Uh . .
The reason this part caught my eye is because I hear this quite a bit from authors. They’ve gotten feedback, maybe that dreaded contest feedback we talked about last week, feedback from a critique partner, or beta reader. Maybe feedback from an editor they won a critique from, or an editor who rejected their manuscript or suggested revisions. Either way, they’ve gotten this feedback but they decided “it would take far too much work” to fix and they were going to let the book be as is, and hope someone loved it anyway.
It’s clear that this can work out just fine, as it did for the author of this post, but for the most part, don’t count on yours being the Cinderella story, with the HEA coming despite seemingly insurmountable problems or flaws, having your Prince (or Princess) Charming find you and choose you, even if your manuscript looks like a frog (I’m totally mixing my fairy tales, sue me) . In today’s world of publishing, budgets are getting tighter, staff is being streamlined, and editors are being called on to do much, much more than just edit. Often editing doesn’t even take place during the editor’s normal work hours, but at home, in the evenings, and on weekends. In other words, many editors are more and more looking for production-ready manuscripts that don’t need significant changes or revisions. They have to be vehemently passionate about a story to take on one that’s going to mean more hours and weekends at home spent editing.
I think the Blinding Truth Alert in the post should have actually read that it was the author’s job to fix those impossible flaws…before the book was ever contracted. This time, it worked out, but not every author can expect that same happy ending. Publishing is hard work. I think, in some ways, it gets harder for authors–especially aspiring authors or midlist authors–every day. It’s not enough to just write the book. You have to love it and you have to work at getting it published, which includes getting critiques, listening to feedback, and yep, doing what might seem impossible (or undesirable) and fixing even what you might not have previously wanted to fix. Don’t count on Prince(ss) Charming (in the form of an editor or agent) to rescue your manuscript from its warts . Use your magic keyboard to get rid of them yourself, and create your own happy ending.