Tuesday, January 23, 2007


How is riding like writing?
More importantly how does managing the care of a horse relate to the process of publication?
You will learn all this and more in this blog entry.
Note baby horse. Baaaad baby horse! This photo was taken after he rocketed off veering and skittering and scaring himself silly. I think it was a night crested heron in the small pond that started the whole silly mess.
Suffice it to say that my hand rose to stay even with his mouth and my leg went well forward.
I jammed my heel down and, "Boy Howdy Hung ON!"
I was just along for the ride.
And that my friends is the topic of this blog.

6:30 am and 70 degrees. My refrigerator on ORION is still broken. I have to use my freezer as a frig and turn it off when it gets too cold so my eggs don't freeze. Bummer.
I digress.
Many writers think all they have to do is write a book. In fact, there are lots of writers out there who think all they have to do is jot off a first draft. They think the copy editors preform some magic and VOILA! The manuscript is on the bookshelves at Borders.
There are many many writers who think authors just have to write.
I am here to let you in on a dirty little secret.
Since my book was bought in December I have not written ONE PAGE on my new work in progress.
I have written, yes, but not for that.
My friend Jackie Mitchard could tell you all about it.
She edits, revises, tweaks. She turns a book in.
Edits again.
She's done right?
No. She's. Not.
But she's a New York TImes best selling author! I hear you cry.
She shouldn't have to revise and edit! I hear you protest!
Horse poop! (See I told you horses would come into this!)
Check out her web site. Go to the link on the side of my blog. She talks about it. Traveling. Promoting. Figuring out how to let her readers know about a new young adult book NOW YOU SEE HER that is just coming out. Giving away tee shirts and hats.
Like horses.
People see my horses. "Gee I love to ride!" they say. "Horses are so graceful and beautiful." They enthuse.
They do not see what goes into this endeavor.
The grooming. The stall cleaning. Picking the poop out of the pasture. The vet. The hoof trimming. The training that goes into that nice little trail ride. The colic at 2 am. The lameness. The exercising that must be done even in torrential downpours.
Behind the scenes it is much different isn't it?
So the rest of the week we will visit BEHIND THE SCENES.
We will talk about what we think writing and being published is... and the reality.
Commenters you need to participate with either a question or an answer.
What is it really like?
After you get that great offer.
Getting that first editorial letter.
What's it like?


ORION said...

I'll start. See I'm making it easy. My agent said that she LOVED my book, offered representation and then said there were just these few things... three "tweaks" later...
Book sold.
Editor calls and says, "I LOVE your book..."
"There are just these few things..."

Kimber An said...

Yup. It ain't over even when the fat lady does sing. I'm fatter than I'd like and I can't carry a tune in a bucket if I tried.

Cassandra Tiensivu said...

Assuming I get that far, thank you for giving me a heads up. I could see getting very frustrated thinking your done. I guess until your book is physically on the shelves, you may be called upon to tweak, it sounds like!

Sam said...

Oh, I'm a nerd and I love editing. However, I'm always apprehensive when the first edits arrive - I think that it will be akin to taking the house apart and rebuilding it again, but it's more along the lines of dusting and sweeping, & maybe rearranging a few pieces of furniture. It's never as bad as I fear, lol.

Holly Kennedy said...

Lord, Pat, how do I keep this post short?! My rambling reply (cut back twice now) could be a book all its own! Anyhow, I just had to weigh in on this one with a few comments...

Yes, you'll find some obvious commonality in each person's publishing success story and what happens behind the scenes after their debut novel sells, but there are also often huge differences in how it gets handled as well.

It depends on the editor you get (which can easily be likened to blind dating), the house who buys your work, the author's ability (or inability) to roll up their sleeves and learn the business side of publishing, the vision each of you has for THE BOOK, and the $ everyone's willing and/or able to put behind it.

Commonality -- You write it, edit it, rewrite it again and, finally, land your dream agent. Clearly, he/she loves the book, but he/she also has a few suggestions to help "shape it" into a more saleable product. So you do. You happily shape, adjusting chapters, adding new scenes, making one character more passive while another gets nuked altogether.

Follwoing this, the book goes out in waves. Of course, there's the first wave, where it gets sent to all your dream houses/editors (discussed in advance with your agent). Then, if they pass, it goes out in a 2nd wave to another set of houses/imprints/editors. And along the way, you'll get feedback, which you may or may not react to, depending on the commonality of that feedback.

Some editors like it. Others don't. Some feel the front end is strong, but hate the ending. Others feel the ending is PERFECT, but wish it'd been written in first person instead of third. Finally, two editors from two different houses ADORE it, want to buy it, love the story, etc., but needs three other editors from their house to back him/her at an editorial meeting or they can't buy the book.

Sadly, both of these editors, who clearly see your brilliance, only find 1 other editor in their house willing to back the book and they HAVE TO PASS ON IT.

Hearts lift up, hearts drop into the gutter, and your agent assures you SHE still loves the book. You want to ask if she'll buy it, but you keep your mouth shut and strap in for the rest of the roller coaster ride.

Fast forward to the editor who finally loves it enough to buy it and has the backing of his/her house to give you an offer. Maybe it's not your dream house/editor, but you're "blind date" suddenly looks wonderful anyhow.

Then comes the editorial letter, which arrived within a week in Pat's case. Mine, however, took 9 months. In addition, Pat's debut is being "crashed" which means it'll be out fast, in August, whereas my debut took almost two years from purchase to date of publication to hit book stores -- an example of the opposite ends of the very same spectrum.

After this, covers are discussed and ideas tossed around. Flap copy will be written, sometimes argued over and rewritten. The book will come out, get marketed within the preset budget $ set aside to do so, receive reviews, and finally.... get read by human beings who love a good story.

No, the glamour isn't what you might believe it to be, but the end result? The swell in your chest when you first hold your debut novel and see someone else reading it?


Therese Fowler said...
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Anonymous said...
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ORION said...

I leave the room for a moment and look what happens. Yikes.
Sam I love your comparison - sweeping - kimber an calls it slash and burn!
Holly this was GREAT! I have not experienced the next step yet. This is a perfect perspective for everyone here.
I have a question with respect to your second book. Was the editing similar? Did the editors work the same? For example my editor Fed Exed a hard copy and then I did the changes and emailed the new version as an attachment in word. How does copy editing work?

Bernita said...
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Heidi the Hick said...

wow, I totally relate to this! People find out about my horses and go on and on about how much they want a horse. They don't all stay that way once they get a dose. We have to really LOVE horses to live with them.

Writing is such a combination of skills and training. Every day I discover another skill I have or need.

As for wishes, I blogged about that yesterday- yeah I did, no apologies!!! --and I do wish for the ability to write a good story with a good solid hook that gets an agent's interest. I'll do the edits. I'm editing my face off these days, and I'll only get better at it.

(Patricia, your horse looks excellent! Very fit and nicely put together! Soon I hope to get working with the 6 year old mare again!! Work work work. I love it. Dirt, sweat, bad weather, frustration and all!)

Therese Fowler said...
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Therese Fowler said...
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Holly Kennedy said...

Wow... I decide to revist Pat's hotbed blog and find a virtual fistfight underway. Ladies! Ladies! My afternoons haven't been this exciting in months!!

Are there truly rules for blogging? No shit...

Okay then, spit it out. Say it LOUD, Pat. Your comment is way too lonnnnnnnnng, Holly; keep it to a concise minimum word count, etc.
Tell me the rules and I'll play by them.

Hugs from Canada!

Kim Stagliano said...

Oh boy am I learning this - even when you think you're close - the finish lines dashes away ahead of you! Thanks, Pat, for telling us that the process continues even after a delicious sale like yours. It helps to know what to expect.

(As I'm typing this an e=query rejection just flashed onto my screen from my in box!)

No rest for the wicked! Onward writers, onward! This is an endurance test.

Thanks, Pat!

ORION said...
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ORION said...

Aloha all!
I decided to delete some posts and start over - check out therese's blog for her perspective.
Heidi thanks for the props re: my horse. Check out my archives for the time he almost nailed me bit time!
Kim S. -- ARRGGHHH!!! Those pesky rejections.
Keep hanging in there!

Toni Anderson said...

I love edits--am I really weird?

Did I miss the fun?

I love horses, but I know I can't afford them in terms of time or money. But I used to look after a pony when I was a kid and they are really the best creatures...until they bolt on you :)

Maprilynne said...

It's never over, but nce yu are doing it for a publisher, at least there is an end in sight!!!:)


P.S. (sigh) I totally missed the drama.

ORION said...

yeah maprilyn but really we are never done...there is always something to work on.
Toni I love FINISHING edits LOL

Therese Fowler said...

A few things I've learned:

1. Authors pay (sometimes a lot!)to use lyrics quotations (I'm rapidly learning to paraphrase)

2. Authors have to pay if they want to change things after a certain point in production (Holly might know more on specifics). I always thought authors simply finished the book and never looked back. Ha! This is one problem I intend to avoid altogether.

3. A lot of agents are frustrated authors (not mine, but I've heard stories) who sometimes over-influence the shape of a book. Look out for those.

4. The book store looks intimidating, as opposed to inviting, when your book is about to have to compete with the other xxx,000 titles there.

Good topic--makes me stop and remember the journey!

ORION said...

Oh yeah! This is great Therese!

Holly Kennedy said...

Pat, here are my answers to your earlier questionns (shown below):

< I have a question with respect to your second book. Was the editing similar? Did the editors work the same? For example my editor Fed Exed a hard copy and then I did the changes and emailed the new version as an attachment in word. How does copy editing work? >

As you know, I'm with a different publisher for my 2nd book. My debut was published by Forge in NY and my 2nd & 3rd will be published by Penguin Putnam's NAL division. However, both publishers handle copy editing the same way.

I received a detailed letter with the original EDIT (as did you), made my changes, and emailed it back as a Word document.

The copy editing dept, however, works 100% with a hard copy of your manuscript so you'll receive it (all marked up) and will send that very manuscript back to them when you're done.

I use a one-page cheat sheet with all of the copy editing symbols on it (see link below where you can find it and print it out), which helped me with the process.


With both books, copy editing marked up the manuscript with symbols everywhere and notes written in the margins. In addition, I also received a detailed 4-5 page letter outlining any concerns they had with dates, ages, inaccuracies with scene, setting, weather, stuff like that. And, yes, they do catch EVERYTHING.

I was asked to make changes in a different colored pen (green or red). And as you may know, if you disagree with a change copy editing is suggesting, simply write STET next to the change which means "let it stand" or, in author language... LEAVE THIS ALONE PLEASE. Ha! Ha!

Make sure when you're marking up your manuscript you don't make any unnecessary check marks or comments on each page -- they hate this. Can you tell I did it with my first novel!!?? I was so green...

When you're done, you're manuscript will look like a mess. Photocopy it and send back the original, keeping a copy for yourself on file to double check against the final galleys of the book.

It's a pretty standard process with all publishing houses, Pat. However, that said, between the publication of a hardcover and the paperback version, most publishing houses allow you ONE FINAL PASS to fix up any mistakes readers may have found (or yourself) after it was first published.

If it goes straight to trade or paperback, you won't get that chance. And as most publishing contracts are 7 years, you'll then be locked into whatever mistakes remain until the 8th year, when you'll either sign rights back to your current publisher or else shop the rights to another house.

Hope this helps. If there's anything else, just ask away!

ORION said...

Wow, that's exactly what I wanted to know.
Thanks, Holly.

Katie said...

Great comment string! I'm so afraid of what the copy editor will pick out in my book. "Did you know you went from Thursday to Sunday?" STET!! {hide under table}

Anonymous said...

One more thinkg about editing -
My last book's contract had a clause that did NOT let me have final look at the edits.
That led to the only editing disaster in my life with Horse Passages. (The editor has since been fired, but OH how I wish I'd fought to get last edits!!!)
Pat, you will catch some awful typos and a whole sentence that was doubled, & several words my editor put in conversations that make little or no sense.
That is the downside of editing - when you get a Frankenstein monster and there is nothing you can do.
According to readers, it didn't ruin my book. But according to me, it makes it look less than professional (Which I guess is why Medallion Press had a fit and booted the editor...)
It was too late to do anything about it, Therese is right - once it goes to the printer that's it.
Now we have to wait and see if it goes into second printing to fix it.
Otherwise, in the 20 or so books I've edited, I've never had a problem. I don't argue, my mother, an editor, told me this one day "when in doubt, take it out" and she also made me understand that my words were NOT carved in stone. I think I was five and had just handed her my book 'Tafy the Farrm Horrs', lol.
(oh, and the first time I saw STET I called my mom from France to ask what the heck it meant! Holly - that link is terrific - thanks!)


Therese Fowler said...

Great info, Holly! I was wondering the same as Pat. Are you guys saying you did or did not get a hard copy of your ms from your editor for first edits?

Anissa said...

Wow! Thanks for all the great information. I'm not nearly there yet, but just getting an inside peek helps (no idea why). It's such an interesting process.

I don't mind editing (hey, freak over here), and even enjoy it sometimes. I recently made some revisions to my manuscript on the suggestion of an agent and damn if it didn't make the novel better. I loved that. But it was my first experience of that nature, so I guess I'm not seasoned enough to say one way or another. I'm ready for it though!

Holly Kennedy said...

Therese -- Not with my 1st book. My editor just sent me a 5 page editorial letter, which I was so thrilled to get after waiting for 9 mos, I didn't dare ask for anything else ... lest it s-l-o-w her down even more

With my 2nd novel, I got a marked up copy of my manuscript from my editor + a 5-6 page editorial letter. Working with both in conjunction made it easy.

ORION said...

Same here Therese. My first round was a detailed editorial letter and a hard copy of the manuscript all marked up.
My second round was very very short and just in the body of an email. In both instances -- after I finished the edits -- I emailed the manuscript back in Word.
Then my agent forwarded my new version to all the foreign countries and my publisher send it to production.

Maprilynne said...

Thank you Pat and Holly and Sam and everyone! This has been so informative. Even having worked in a publishing company (I knew what STET meant!:)) I've never seen it formt he author's point of view. (Though hopefully I will soon!:)) Thanks for sharing your experiences!!


Melissa Marsh said...

I don't know what it's like yet, but I really, really want to find out. I'm sure the reality will be rather harsh, though.

Rene said...

Well, after reading all this, I'm going to hit the tequila. My agent offered representation in early December. She LOVES the book, she's EXCITED to submit it. I cringe. I hate revising, I'll do it, but I'd rather go get a root canal. I'm also convinced the editors are going think my agent has lost her marbles and that my book is really only good enough to line the bird cage with.

Therese Fowler said...

Oh, Rene, welcome to the club! (And congrats on landing an agent.)

On the manuscript thing...I was expecting a marked-up copy--thought it was SOP. Clearly not, as Holly didn't get one the first time out and I didn't with SOUVENIR.

Don't know if there's any rhyme or reason at work here; editor preference? For my second round, my ed and I discussed the last tweaks by phone, then I got an email just as a follow up.

I tend to write very cleanly; wonder if that makes any difference?

Cassandra Tiensivu said...

Blogger needs to add the ability to subscribe to a specific post. This particular one is invaluable. Seriously. Thank you Pat, Holly, Therese, and everyone else who posted!

ORION said...

Rene at first I felt the way you did but the more I work on various projects the more I enjoy editing. It makes me fall more and more in love with my novel and that creates a magic with it.
Depending on the revising - what (to me) is scariest is when I do not have a clear vision of my work. I worry (sometimes needlessly) about making it worse. What helped me was Paul T. saying just save all your versions with a different date (or whatever) , make the changes, and decide what is better after you are finished.
I have learned much doing what he suggests.
Good Luck

ORION said...

Thanks Cass :)