Tag Archives: Editing

How Long Will it Take…

When we were designing our new website, I visited several publishers’ sites for ideas on what to include. One site stood out not because of the design but because of the number of books the company had published. In its first two years in business they had published fifty books – a book every two weeks.

I often get asked by authors how long it will take their books to come to market, and my answer is always the same; there is a reason it takes larger publishers as long as eighteen months to bring a book to market. The steps to turning out a quality product include:

Editing. This is probably the longest step in the publishing process. On average, one of our manuscripts goes through four rounds of edits before the author and editor agree on the final version used for interior design. We had one book go through ten rounds of edits. This process can take anywhere from six to nine months depending on how extensive the required edits are.

Interior design. I often refer to this as typesetting when talking with authors (showing my age). In reality this is done with a desktop publishing program. The process includes adjusting lines of text in the final manuscript to eliminate widows and orphans and to minimize the excessive whitespace in lines of text which can occur when text is justified. This means examining every line of text in the manuscript, and to do this correctly is very labor intensive.

Cover design. Author A.J. Capper wrote a blog discussing the process of designing the cover for A Bother of Bodies. It often takes several designs before finding a final cover that both we and the author agree on, and each design takes time to produce. I believe our record is that we designed nine covers for one book before we found one everyone agreed on.

To bring a quality book to market is a long process with many steps requiring feedback from authors. While it is certainly possible for a small press to produce fifty books in two years while also turning out a quality product, it would require a large number of books in the queue and working on several books at once. More likely, editing was minimal, desktop publishing was limited to converting a Word document to a PDF file, and cover design was finding a single image on a stock photo site with no additional design considerations. Authors should always ask publishers who turn out large numbers of books in a short time about their process, because the quality of your published book could depend on the answer.

Leave a comment

Filed under For Authors, Publishing

Why We Edit…

Last week I received an email from an authors asking to be let out of his contract for our upcoming noir short story collection. The reason was that the author didn’t like the edits we had made to his story. The fact that an author disagreed with our suggested edits normally would not be news-worthy, but it was his reason that elevated the request to being the topic of this blog:

We had corrected his grammar.

Now I know some of you are reading this saying, “I don’t get the punch line.” Specifically, the author told us that the moments of bad grammar were part of his style and were done to create a certain rhythm. In his reply, the author said, “Your suggestions are certainly valid, just for a style that isn’t my own, and incorporating them would change the style of the story in a way that would make it no longer mine (at least, in my eyes), and thus I must withdraw my story from your anthology. I don’t mean in any way to sound imperious.”

I really wish I could make this stuff up…

Our contract makes it very clear that we will correct grammar and that we do not need to have those types of corrections approved. So in fact we could have gone ahead and published the story as corrected. Nonetheless, I agreed to let the author out of the contract. Personally, I would rather let an author out of a contract than work with someone who is not happy; life is just too short. I suppose I could have agreed to just publish the story as it was submitted, but my reason for deciding to let him out of the contract instead of doing that was summarized in my response:

“The unfortunate truth is that, because we are a small press, when a reader sees grammatical errors in a work they do not assume those errors are an intentional part of the work; the assumption is that the errors were due to poor editing by a small press.”

Everyone makes mistakes, even the large publishers. A recent true crime book said that a famous beach was in the wrong state. But at the end of the day we will be judged more harshly than the large publisher for the mistakes we make, and our mistakes will be used as an example of why people should avoid small presses. Truth be told, we could turn out a lot more books if we were less selective when choosing manuscript and spent less time doing editing. This strategy, however, would make us no better than some of the vanity presses, and our goal is to turn out the highest quality books possible. So I guess writers will just have to put up with our editing their manuscripts.


Filed under For Authors