Monday, February 17, 2014

Warning! Going Small Press? Be Sure Your Story Will Be Properly Edited!

It's been a while since I've posted here, not because I've forgotten about you all, but because I don't want to beat a dead horse about editing dos and don'ts. Most of my previous articles speak for themselves and are still prevalent. But today, I have a new issue that came to my attention quite by accident. It's a warning to any author looking to (or about to) sell to a small press publisher. Please take the following to heart and DO YOUR HOMEWORK!

A small press publisher contacted me with an offer to do some temporary freelance work for them. It seems they found themselves overwhelmed with manuscripts and their editorial staff couldn't keep up so they were looking for a freelancer to do some work on the side for them. This was supposed to be for copy editing only (grammar, punctuation, spelling, etc.). I did some back and forth emails with a representative for the company, asking what I thought were pertinent questions, checked them out online, looked them up on the usual watchdog sites (Preditors & Editors, etc.), and no red flags went up. 

One of the questions I asked was, "Are your manuscripts properly vetted by your editorial staff before I receive them?" She assured me they were, indeed. But in later correspondence, I was assured the manuscripts were all recommended by their "acquisitions editor-beta reader."

Wait a sec. Back up. An acquisitions editor is not the same thing as a beta reader! The two are vastly different roles. So...which one is reviewing the manuscripts and doing the structural edits before I get the manuscripts for the copy edits? I received the following reply: 

"As the case with many small press publishers, we do not take any manuscript that we feel needs character or storyline (both structural and concept-based) development."

Now, I'm confused. I do have experience with a small press publisher (five books' worth) and I had a tremendous amount of structural and concept development with all my editors there. And I'm grateful to them for making my work better.

In fact, I recommend that even self-published authors hire structural as well as copy editors for their work. No author, no matter how talented, is so brilliant that he/she doesn't need someone to review the work for loose ends, excessive backstory, areas that need more tension, stronger conflicts, deeper POV, and so on.

So, if you're planning on signing with a small press publisher, you might want to ask a question you hadn't considered before: what kind of edit process will my manuscript undergo? And be prepared to ask for specific details regarding structural vs. copy edits, and who exactly will be doing the work!

If the answers aren't what you expected, there's no shame in walking away. (That's what I did in this case.) Sometimes, no publisher is better than the wrong publisher.