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April 20, 2012

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Good for fandom! I have no freaking interest in it, but excellent for fandom!

Yeah, I'm going to go home tonight and tell my wife that she no longer reads submissions, edits books or does any marketing or promotion. I'm sure all those times she stressed out trying to get books copy edited or proofread at the last minute when the schedule went all pear-shaped were just a show for me so I wouldn't suspect that she just sits around all day reading the internet and eating bon bons at her desk.


I someone wrote something so ignorant and biased about what you do for a living, I'm sure you'd be pretty pissed about it. Maybe you want to think about that a little.

Chuchundra:

Please go to Part I, read the links, then tell us what's wrong with 'em.

Chuchundra, I'm sorry that you think your wife was directly insulted by Dr S's remarks. Please remember, your wife is but one of thousands of editors. And even if she and you know of many others who still do the real work of editing, they are a minority.

It has been years since I did anything related to this kind of work, and now I contribute only as a reader of the work of authors and editors. But I can tell you that my recent experience indicates that there is very little editing, of the kind you describe, being done these days. Even if one includes the work of the writers of marginal notes in pencil, who seem always to believe that they are smarter, more well informed, and gifted with better taste than the authors and/or editors of the books they have read before I borrowed them from the library.

Older, I think you don't know whereof you speak. There is less attention paid to each book published, because there are fewer editors now with huge workloads, not because editors are incompetent.

I totally agree with Chuchundra.

Let me address a couple of the points raised in the post:

You can't claim to be selecting the good stuff out of the mountain of bad, unless you actually look through the bad stuff -- and publishers stopped doing that.

How much money do you think publishers have on hand to pay a pool of editors (whose judgment they trust) to read through the "mountain of bad"? Does anyone here really know how big that mountain is? In fact, publishers have not stopped doing that entirely. Yes, they do rely on agents, but they cultivate relationships with agents so that they can trust that they will introduce work that is worth being considered.

The profession of editing had been become distinctly unprofessional.

No. As noted, corporate publishers have reduced the number of editors working at publishing houses, so not as much attention is now paid to each manuscript. It's a shame that publishers have cut editorial staff, of course, and it's something that I consider a problem. But why did they do it? Most readers don't care. Sad, but true.

For most books, no attempt is made to market to actual consumers; it's all about getting books into the distribution channel in quantity.

Books are marketed, but the marketing budgets are designed to favor books that are valuable, either as best sellers or as important literary achievements. Could anyone have missed the Haruki Murakami marketing blitz for 1Q84 (for example)? Not to mention the book design and everything else that went along with its publication? How many book authors does one hear on the Diane Rehm show or other programs? Many. How does Diane Rehm discover these authors?

Trade publishing is a business, not a charitable support foundation to help authors (although university presses, and small presses, sometimes fit the latter mold). As businesses, they support a lot of people who work there and they're designed to make a profit. I don't like the business model of the "public corporation" these days for a lot of reasons, and that includes public corporations which are publishers. But in the scheme of things, the work they do is incredibly useful, and helps to bestow a lot of beauty and pleasure on a sometimes dreary world.

I have no problem at all with Internet publishing, or what's happening with 50 Shades of Grey. But the "mass appeal" model of a successful Internet publishing enterprise does not replace what happens at a good publishing house.


As noted, corporate publishers have reduced the number of editors working at publishing houses, so not as much attention is now paid to each manuscript.

This is getting a little heated, which is unfortunate, cause we seem to have lots of people with tons of experiences about various facets of publishing and it would be a shame not to learn from each other. I'm hoping another way of looking at this might be helpful.

Rather than assuming that what the above entails is that editors have become unprofessional, why not assume that the pressures on the field prevent people from doing the best job possible? If I note that the pressures on teaching has reduced the level of professionality of the field, I hope I wouldn't be accused of insulting teachers, but as recognizing the way events have conspired to make it so people in that profession cannot do what they set out to do. At least that is how I take this series of posts.

The probability of somebody on this thread bringing up the buggy whip industry is one.

Wait. Oh, noz!!!

LJ, the pressures you speak of are primarily financial pressures. Reduced funding leads both to editors trying to cope with lots more works, and to teachers given fewer materials and more students. And, for that matter ((to take an example close to home), to IT folks working 10 and 12 hour days trying to make up for reduced staff levels.

But at some point, the reduced quality of output may cause a rethink. It's one thing to cut costs, if you can keep getting the same output while doing so. But if output quality drops, you have created an opening for someone to come in with an alternative. Perhaps one which is slightly more expensive in absolute terms, but giving better quality.

To take Chuchundra's example, there are undoubtedly large publishers which have effectively eliminated editing (and marketing to consumers) from their operations. But there are also publishers (currently niche publishing companies, but for how long?) which are still doing that part of the traditional publishing job.

I expect that, over time, the latter will find themselves overtaking the former. Writers need editors, at least good editors. Not because writers are not competent (although some are marginal), but just because having a second pair of eyes look at what you are doing is important. Anybody who is making something needs feedback from someone who is not too close to it. Preferably before the source of feedback becomes the end-user.

A note on editing from the reader perspective. Steve King's early novels (70's) were in my opinion much tighter and better, later they became undeniably longer. I had assumed that as he became famous he could ignore his editor; Dr.S says his editor may have been downsized.

The probability of somebody on this thread bringing up the buggy whip industry is one.

The first rule of Tautology Club is the first rule of Tautology Club.

I know almost nothing about the publishing industry, but it seems like the defenders of individuals who work in publishing and the critics of the industry as a whole are saying the same things, but in different ways.

Is it just me?

BTW, this is really interesting stuff, even for someone as ignorant of it as I am.

Publishers destroyed themselves by ignoring quality writing and emphasizing blockbusters and authors' platform. The question now is whether Internet search engines will learn to recognize high-quality writing.

If they do, good writers who have been ignored by traditional publishers will benefit greatly. If they don't, what happens next will depend on the demand for good writing.

If consumers don't insist on quality writing, publishers will continue doing it the lazy/cheap way, and non-writers will continue to flood the Internet with garbage. In other words, we all lose. Thanks for the insights.

Publishers destroyed themselves by ignoring quality writing and emphasizing blockbusters and authors' platform.

Really? What quality writing has been ignored? Many of the people who think that quality writing has been ignored are the people whose writing has been ignored. But they aren't always the best judge of quality writing that deserves publication. Trust me, loads of books are published each year. Some good, some less good.

Whose manuscript was rejected that you'd like to champion, doug eike? Because if you can't name one (or a few, preferably, since one might well have been lost in the slushpile), you really aren't offering anything that people can evaluate.

Hmmm. I wonder how much money Penguin made on Edith Grossman's translation of The Solitudes, by Luis de Gongora. Blockbuster? Author's platform?

Chuchundra, while I am sure your wife is dedicated and diligent in her work as an editor, there are plenty of books published, and I'm talking about books from the big 6, which don't appear to have had anyone other than the author go over them.

Take for example, Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows. I cannot express surprised I was, while watching a JKR doco, to learn that a team of editors allegedly worked on it, because that book was a mess, both in pacing and content. While I will never argue a character is written OOC by the author, I will point out flaws in those characters such as not remembering their ability to perform a spell which they did so only a few chapters prior. If that is the highest standard of editing available for an extremely popular writer, it is quite believable that most authors' works receive even less editing.

Thank you for this post. I had no idea that fandom existed. It;s amazig to me, and exciting, that so many people ejoy writing and aren't afraid to get out there and share.

When I was eight or so i read a book that I loved so much that I wrote sequels in my head. I'd lay in bed at night and tell myslef the next episode.
After that i got in the habit of telling myself stories for entertainment whenever I had nothing in particlualr to think about. i used to love long distance driving becaue i could complete a novel in my head in seven or eight hours behind the wheel.

I still tell myself stories but lately I have been writing them down. Believe it or not, I can type correctly when sufficiently motivated.

Anyway it is fun to discover a glimpse into a world of people busily writing even though, truth to tell, I don';t think I am much interested in reading their stuff.

Fanfic writing undoubtedly has a lot of useful methods for creating and publicising good fic, but I think it's rarely going to become a method for directly creating commercial fiction. I've now been writing in a fandom for a year and a bit that has a very high standard of writing overall, but a lot of that quality is a careful attention to the characters and backgrounds of the original; getting them to say or do things OOC (out of character) tends to be a major turn-off for readers. Yet for copyright reasons, this kind of detail would have to be removed for any commercial publication, unless the original author's work is out of copyright.

I think any sort of fanfic based on a corpus where the original author has done detailed world-building would be very difficult to rewrite non-specifically in the way James has done. Perhaps it's only possible where you already have very generic characters in the original work (which I imagine may be the case with the Twilight novels, though I haven't read them).

I've learnt an awful lot technically about fiction writing from doing fanfic, but I think you're normally talking much more about transferable skills than directly being able to move from fanfic works to original fiction.

Quite frankly I think the percentage of "good writing" to "bad writing" is about equal in fanfic and in professionally published work. There is a LOT of vetted, pro-published crap out there. And I think it is really crucial to keep in mind that we are talking about *genre* writing here -- romance, erotica, mystery, fantasy, sf, what have you. And that's an entirely different ball of wax than mainstream literary works.

Although what I'd like to point out here is that none of this is NEW. Fanfic has been "providing" genre fiction for nearly two decades; many a romance author has filed off the serial numbers and sold their work. The rise of the M/M romance category over the past ten years is almost entirely *based* on that phenomenon. What is new is the open acknowledgement of that sordid past; what is new is the author and the publisher admitting it openly.

TBH I think the "fanfic model" is transforming publishing whether anyone likes it or not, and not simply because of the issues of editing or pre-marketing (which is essentially what 50 Shades got as a fanfic-to-pro novel). One aspect that I find critical and overlooked is the return of serialization as a reading preference; in many genre categories, shorter novellas in a series are becoming popular as opposed to long novels, something I'm convinced can be attributed to the way fanfic often appears as "chapters" online.

So much food for thought here. But it is dawn and I really need to start the day properly!

re: peggy's comment above, it certainly seems like King made a regular progression from slim, readable novels to doorstops, but a look at the page counts in his bibliography doesn't seem to support it. Looking just at novels, and ignoring the books published as "Richard Bachmann," he's all over the map right from the beginning!

His second and third published novels are more than twice as long as his first, his next one is twice as long as those, and from there on out there's no real pattern.

Carrie 199
'Salem's Lot 439
The Shining 447
The Stand 823
The Dead Zone 428
Firestarter 426
Cujo 319
The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger 224
Pet Sematary 416
Christine 526
The Talisman 646
It 1142
The Dark Tower II: The Drawing of the Three 400
The Eyes of the Dragon 326
Misery 320
The Tommyknockers 558
The Dark Half 431
The Stand: The Complete & Uncut Edition 1152
Needful Things 690
The Dark Tower III: The Waste Lands 512
Dolores Claiborne 305
Gerald's Game 352
Insomnia 832
Rose Madder 432
The Green Mile 400
Desperation 704
The Dark Tower IV: Wizard and Glass 787
Bag of Bones 529
The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon 224
Black House 625
Dreamcatcher 620
From a Buick 8 368
The Dark Tower V: Wolves of the Calla 714
The Dark Tower VI: Song of Susannah 432
The Dark Tower VII: The Dark Tower 845
Colorado Kid 184
Lisey's Story 528
Cell 355
Duma Key 611
Under the Dome 1074
11/22/63 2011 849

Laura Koerbeer:

When I was eight or so i read a book that I loved so much that I wrote sequels in my head.

What book was that?

This seems like a very appropriate thread to point out that Naomi Novik, author of the Temeraire series, started as a big name in slash fic and wrote in that genre for many years before getting her own series published. She's probably one of the better examples of making the transition from fanfic author to published writer.

Of course, for anyone who's read both Temeraire and any amount of slash fic, this is on the "rain is wet" level of blisteringly obvious. :) The relationship between Laurence and his dragon is about as slashy as you can imagine...

(Random Fun Fact: Naomi also used to roleplay on MUSHes. She was the headwiz at Transformers:2005 for years back in the '90s.)

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