Surprise! Here’s Your Editorial Letter
Publishing is accomplished through steps. Unless you’re famous, here are the usual steps (and these steps are written as facts, bereft of emotion. Feel free to insert a squeeeeee before and after each step):
1.) You decide to write a book.
2.) You think this book is good, so you get it critiqued by other writers/friends/strangers.
3.) Other writers/friends/strangers flay your book. They spank it like a stepchild then hand it back to you.
4.) You revise your book according to the beatings/critiques of said other writers/friends/strangers.
5.) You send out query letters to agents. A bunch of agents.
6.) You get a bunch of rejections from a bunch of agents.
7.) One of them likes it. He or she makes you an offer of representation.
8.) Your fancy new agent asks for some revisions before she puts the manuscript on submission. She wants it to be in the best possible shape for potential editors.
9.) She puts it on submission. You wait and chew your nails and wait. Also, you wait.
10.) Your agent calls: You have an offer! You discuss whether or not to accept. For all intents and purposes of this post, you do accept.
11.) And here is the part of the publishing process I’m going to focus on today, because for me, it was like WHOA:
Soon after you accept, you get a phone call from your editor(s). They tell you how excited they are to work on your book (and with you) and they tell you everything they love about it. You feel all floaty and grin cheesily. (Insert big squeeee here).
THEN comes the editorial letter. OH THE HORROR. Honestly, this is where the real work begins. (Trust me on this).
The editorial letter is a honey-do list of things that do not work for them. Mine was four pages long. Single-spaced. (Note: I've heard of them being as short as one page, or longer than ten, so this is...wait for it...subjective). At this point, you're wondering why they bothered to offer on the manuscript in the first place. You feel the only thing they didn't change was the names of the characters (note: sometimes they DO change the names of the characters, so get ready). When you email Fantabulous Agent the editorial letter—and certainly you will—she'll probably tell you in a motherly, soothing voice to read it through a couple times, then sleep on it a couple times. Then rinse and repeat. This advice is priceless. This advice takes the sting away and keeps the insanity at bay.
After a week of stewing and percolating, rinsing and repeating, you’ll realize that the suggested changes were GENIUS. Your editor didn't tell you how to fix things. They just told you what wasn't working. Which means you still have the freedom to be creative, to come up with your own brilliant solutions.
This step challenged me the most as a writer and lemme tell you, it made OF POSEIDON ten times better. The editorial letter is NOT line edits, which come next and are exactly what they sound like—a line by line critique. The editorial letter tackles the overall plot and theme and holes in said plot and theme. After it was all said and done, I completely cut the last 17,000 words from OF POSEIDON and added back 18,000 new ones. Can you imagine? Because I still look back on it and think, “Did that really just happen?” But it didn’t just happen. I made it happen. And so will you.
You should also know there will be items on the editorial letter that your editor wants to change, but you want to keep (if there are many of them, I think you should rinse and repeat a few more times). With OF POSEIDON, after I explained my stance on the few issues I had, they agreed to let those items stay. This is where you will appreciate the gift of compromise. It means you trust your editors' professional opinion and respect their stake in your work. And it means they trust your ability as a writer. Whew! 'Cause for a minute there...I mean, right???
The next step in the publishing process is line edits, which feels like getting spanked all over again. But it’s not nearly as hard as the editorial letter (cue creepy Twilight Zone music here).
Still, it’s worth the hard work. So hang in there, lovelies. Hang in there.
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About OF POSEIDON
Hardcover, 324 pages
Released May 22, 2012 by Feiwel & Friends
Galen, a Syrena prince, searches land for a girl he's heard can communicate with fish. It’s while Emma is on vacation at the beach that she meets Galen. Although their connection is immediate and powerful, Galen's not fully convinced that Emma's the one he's been looking for. That is, until a deadly encounter with a shark proves that Emma and her Gift may be the only thing that can save his kingdom. He needs her help--no matter what the risk.