Monday, March 29, 2010

My arrogant naivety had its ass kicked by reality in this publishing/book biz

You who know me, know I try to speak truths and honesty. So, over a few posts here and there I’ll admit a couple things I thought THEN versus NOW. Miss Kathryn ain’t so naïve and certainly isn’t arrogant any longer! And believe me, I’m still learning about this publishing and book business.

Errors Happen, no matter how careful you are.
I’ve done a series of posts on Cleaning Up Our Manuscripts but the truth of the matter is, Stuff Happens. THEN, when I’d read an author’s book and find an error, I’d think, “An error! Couldn’t someone catch that? I mean Reeaaaly.” I lifted my naïve arrogant eyebrow over it. The truth also is that editors at publishing houses are busy. The job isn’t what it used to be, at least I understand it to be this way. Authors need to take more and more responsibility for many things, and sending clean work to the editor/publisher/agent is one of them. I’m proud of how clean my manuscript is by time I send it—and they are happy to get my cleaned manuscript. Still. Stuff Happens.

Before I go on, folks, this absolutely does not excuse sloppy lazy work. I’m talking about the stuff that seems to hide in an author’s manuscript despite hard diligent work.

Author writes the manuscript draft. Then author begins re-writes. That means things most certainly will change and if they don’t, well . . . they probably should, really. During these first few “read throughs” of the manuscript, errors are found, but not only that, scenes/details change, and those scene/detail changes may affect/effect something that happens later on. In subsequent “go throughs” these should be found, one hopes.

Author reads manuscript repeatedly, fiddles, tweaks, and then is ready to send it to the editor at the publishers for them to do their thing. The ms is sent and the Author then waits, sweating, hoping the editor likes the work. What? You ask. Back up, you say. But, don’t they already know what the book is about? Don’t you already have a contract at that point? Well, thing is, they haven’t read the entire manuscript. So, all that work you did could be for naught if the editor thinks it doesn’t work. So far, I’ve been lucky in that respect.
*whew; wiping brow*

So, let’s say the book works. The editor makes his/her marks and/or suggestions/questions and sends those comments back to the Author. The Author begins reading/tweaking again based on those found errors/suggestions/comments—maybe there is a big change in scene(s) or maybe there are only little nitty things. Author may not agree with something and defends it, or Author may agree, or author agrees to give in. While going through the manuscript with the editor notes, Author also feels compelled to make a few more little tweaks. Author sends it back to editor at pub house.

Then comes the galley proof, the “This is it. You best find any lingering errors because all chances are gone after this.”

So Author pants and sweats, and once again, scours the manuscript. Reading it line by line to catch an error that may have sneaked by. Perhaps she has a friend or a spouse read it as well, just in case. What shocks Author is she/he reads the pages after spouse/friend does, and even though they have scoured it, and the editor has scoured it, the Author still finds sneakity sneakers in there! How how how? Author wails. How could there possibly be any errors at all? The work has been read and read and read and read—and by multiple people. Line by line. Carefully. Author really feels exceptionally nervous about this. However, deadline is deadline and fingers are crossed, so are eyes. Exhaustion sets in.

Then comes the Final Galley. Author can look at it quickly but there is no time for a slow line-by-line reading. There is time to make sure everything looks okay at a glance: Margins, headings, paragraphs, etc, and maybe a quick flip through, but that’s it, because to make changes at this point is a pain in the arse for the editor, so you better have found them all before this. And editors have more than one author they are working with so asking for changes at this point is frowned on and big arse acher. Really, by now, it’s a matter of just glancing over it to make sure nothing looks wonky.

The publishing house sends it to print. How the book actually goes to print and comes out a book with a cover and words inside that Author and Readers will hold in their hands is a mystery to this author. Author quivers over the chance of some weird glitch in code that could happen that wasn't caught in the galley. What if a margin or two is off? What if a page is missing? Or what if when making a hurried change in the galley proof, Author made an error, or changed something that affects/effects something later on, or deleted a word that shouldn’t have been deleted or inserted one that shouldn’t have been, or what if editor fixed something and it was a wrong fix or or or, things went so fast, the deadline rushed up so quickly . . . oh! Dear! But, there’s nothing to be done about it once it goes to print. It will be discovered only upon reading the final published version where some one may point them out with glee or with pity or with “oh dear how embarrassing for this author” or with their own naive arrogance, or et cetera.

Author gets his/her published book and reads it, hoping there are no blaring errors. Hoping she/he and the editor have been very very lucky—because luck has a lot to do with it too, along with hard work and a keen eye.

So you see, my friends, with all the back and forth going on, with the changes and deletions and insertions and thises and thatses that are flying around fast and furious once that manuscript is sent to the editor at the pub house, it really is a miracle if a manuscript goes out without an error. I see this Now. See how much work goes into creating a clean and lovely manuscript, but I also see that no matter how many times I read a “cleaned” version of it, I always found something else that either needed to be changed, or simply could be changed to make it better. The first one scares me much more than the second one.

Knowing what I know NOW versus THEN, I am much more understanding to authors.

Yup, my arrogant naivety had its ass kicked by reality.
What about you? What reality has kicked your ass that you were naive or arrogant about?

image from
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Analisa said...

Love this post.

Reality kicked my butt when it comes to writing. I was inspired by some awful books. I was thinking, if this got published surely I could get one published too. That's the arrogance. It's gone now. I think months ago I decided writing wasn't really for me. I didn't enjoy it and I didn't feel the urge to work on the WIP. I could go weeks and not touch it and only feel a little tinge of guilt.

I like doing something short and sweet where my run on sentences and puncuation will be forgiven. I don't consider myself a good writer and I am ok with that now. I just want folks to understand what I am trying to say.

I love reading much more than writing. When I find a good book it is a little slice of heaven. So please keep writing so I can keep reading.

It's funny because I am full of ideas...maybe I need a ghost writer to spill them out to. LOL

Barry said...

Okay, forget becoming an author. It sounds like too much work. lol

Perhaps I'll set my sights on an easier profession, like maybe, nuclear physicist.

Susan R. Mills said...

I do see why there are still so many mistakes in published works. Thanks for the reality check!

Eryl Shields said...

I have just started a big book, as opposed to poems and short stories, and this fills me with trepidation. I mean it's hard enough to thoroughly clean a thousand word story what it's like to try it with eighty thousand...

Oh the horrors!

Kathryn Magendie said...

Hi Y'all!

Karen said...

My whippin' came when I went to my first writers conference, thinking my book of military devotions would knock the socks off the editors. Hehehe, they knocked my socks off. :P

Marguerite said...

Thanks for all of the great advice! Guess now I know what to expect, when I'm ready to publish my Cajun cookbook! Hilarious pics, sha!

Stephanie Faris said...

I absolutely agree. I was nodding vigorously as I read this! Just in this first stage, working with my agent, there have been several times she's noted things I revised that SHOULD have changed other things but a random word or sentence or even paragraph was left that didn't make sense. So I can see how that would mean eventually something would be left out.

Waterfall said...

The word "saltky" haunts me. It's supposed to be "salty," and it's part of a caption in my book on Louisiana hiking trails. When I first got *my* copy of the published book (this was after looking at all the intermediate versions), I opened the book to a random page, and saw it right there, first thing: "saltky."

I groaned.

Although I still have little patience for typos in books (at least, in those that aren't self-published), I have a bit more than previously. :)

Glynis said...

Having just reached edit2 on my wip, I now know it is a long bumpy road ahead. I will be far more tolerant of a typo from now on!

Sheila Deeth said...

Oh wow. I've just been proofreading my own stuff and constantly amazed how new errors appear every time I turn away. I'm sure they're multiplying on their own.