Friday, August 30, 2013

Editing Agony

It's been over seven months since I posted. (That's how much I suck at social media!) My last post was about why I had signed with a small press to publish my next book rather than publishing independently.  The book, Saint Sin, just came out yesterday, so it's far too soon to decide if it was a good economic decision. But I can report on some of the rest of it.

I thought working with a publisher would save me a lot of time... and it did, at least initially. They came up with the wonderful cover (above) and not having to search for stock art, decide on a design and work with a cover artist allowed me to keep writing steadily on another book, which I finished in April.

Before I sold Saint Sin, I did my usual revising and proofing process, but I didn’t go over it nearly as intently as I would have if I were sending it to a formatter. I figured having someone else proofread and copy edit would catch minor errors. My new editor (who didn't acquire the book, but was assigned to me) told me that my first edits would come in mid-June. Since the book was scheduled to come out August 21, I thought that would give us plenty of time. But I didn't get the first edits until almost the middle of July and she gave me only a week to work on them. The first edits were time-consuming. Some it was the formatting issues that in the past my formatter had dealt with. But the editor also pointed out some of my bad writing habits, my use of extra words and qualifiers. I know this helped tighten and improve the book but it took a lot of time.

Apparently, the first edits were the equivalent of copyediting. The second edits, which I didn’t get until August 11th and which she wanted back by the 16th (!!!), were the real edits. I was shocked when I saw she’d deleted a number of paragraphs in multiple places, either because she thought they were redundant or the quick viewpoint change amounted to head-hopping. The more I read, the more upset I got. She was taking out my characters’ thoughts, particularly the hero’s, during some crucial, emotionally-charged scenes, especially love scenes. 

I’ve had four editors previously, but admittedly, they didn’t do much more than copyedit. Worried that I was being unreasonable, I contacted a couple of my multi-published writer friends and asked for their opinion. They said they’d had editors ask them to add scenes and rewrite others, but they were usually given several weeks to do this and they’d never had an editor who just took things out. They also confirmed that changing viewpoints in a love scene was pretty standard these days and as long as you made it clear whose viewpoint you were in, it shouldn’t be an issue..

Distraught, I contacted the editor who’d acquired the book and asked if I had any say in the editing process. She defended the editor but assured me it was my book and everything could be worked out. I didn’t hear anything for several days (which meant it was impossible to meet the deadline of the 16th). Finally, with obvious reluctance, the editor agreed we should try and compromise.

I went through everything she’d cut and seriously weighed whether it was important to the story. In the end, I accepted four of her cuts, changed things in several other places to satisfy her concerns, but still ended up with four places I didn’t want to cut. I sent the manuscript to the editor and waited… and waited. Six days later, I received word that the book was in production. The end result was that the book didn’t come out until the 28th, which meant that the promo on the USA Today romance blog on the 20th I'd arranged was virtually useless. Anyone who read it and was interested in the book wouldn’t have been able to buy it.

Although it seems like these editing issues should have been no more than a minor inconvenience, in fact, it was pretty traumatic. Up until this winter, I hadn’t sold a book in over ten years. Maybe there was a reason. Maybe I was a terrible writer. Or my writing style was so out-dated that it annoyed readers. Was all this agonizing and struggle going to be worth it? After the new release surge, most of my self-published ebooks make a pittance. By publishing through this publisher, I will get half or less the amount in royalties. Was I ever going to make enough money to justify going through this editing hell?

My moods are intense but fleeting, so by now I’ve arisen from the abyss and have a little more perspective. I have a finished Regency historical very similar to Saint Sin that I could offer to the publisher. If having a publishing house’s support makes a significant difference in my sales on this one, then I would consider selling them another, although I would ask for a different editor. Probably this editor wouldn’t want one of my books anyway, as all through this process she never said one positive thing about my story and it’s obvious she doesn’t like my writing style.

So, the verdict is still undecided on whether going “dependent” and selling to a publisher was worth it. I’ll keep you posted.


  1. Mary, I'm so sorry you had to go through editing hell. What a nightmare. An editor is much like a partner you need to be on the same page with, so perhaps a new editor will fix this problem if you work with this publisher again. I know the owner of the company you're published with and design a lot of her ads, and she's very nice. She seems to have her head in the marketing game and pays close attention to advertising, so that's a big plus. Good luck with the book! :)

  2. Mary: I think every author can relate to a story like yours. We've all experienced something similiar at some point. I hope it ends up being a positive financial situation. Even if self-pubbing isn't the gold-at-the-end-of-the-rainbow for most of us that we all hoped in the beginning, I'm still very glad we have more options. Hoping for the best possible outcome for you. :)

  3. What a difficult time you had with the editing process. Except for my first published book, which I agreed with the editor had some serious issues going on, I've never had that much trouble. Darn it anyway! You are an awesome writer with beautiful prose. And I agree, the internal conflicts that the hero and heroine go through, especially in a romance, are crucial to the story plot, etc. I'm glad you're through the process finally. But I can tell it was not easy. I hope it will pay off for you.