Thursday, September 20, 2007

Chicken or the Egg?

Recently I read a blog by Maria Zannini in which she interviewed Maya Reynolds, author of Bad Girl.

You can read part of the interview below. Many times I've heard other writers say that they don't worry about grammar and punctuation when they're preparing a manuscript for submission because "that's what an editor is for." Poor editor, I say. If we submit sloppy work their time investment is that much greater, and in this highly competitive market, the sloppy writer with a great story will always lose out to the fastidious writer with an equally great story.

Maya gives us an excellent explanation of why the business of writing includes perfecting the craft:

Maria: You blog a great deal on the business of publishing at . How important is it for writers to understand the nuts and bolts of the industry? Isn't that what agents and publishers are for?

Maya: This is one of those chicken-and-egg questions. It’s vitally important that writers understand publishing is a business. Agents and publishers invest a great deal of time and money in authors. If the agent doesn’t get a contract, s/he makes NO money. It’s a form of sales except that the agent may spend months trying to make that sale. By the same token, a publisher invests a huge amount of capital in editing, printing, distributing and marketing a manuscript. Given that, if you were the agent or editor, which kind of client would you want to have? One as ignorant as an egg, or one who understood how the cow ate the cabbage?

I always cringe when I hear a newbie writer say, “I don’t worry about punctuation or spelling. That’s for my agent or editor to deal with.” Well, if an agent has to spend two months cleaning up a manuscript, that’s two months of overhead without any revenue coming in. Which manuscript do you think s/he will be most interested in: the clean ready-to-market one or the sloppy need-to-edit one? It’s simple economics.

Well said, Maya. We need to pay attention to the little things. Spell check is not enough. Pass your manuscripts to readers before submitting. Read the submission guidelines. Which font should you use? Double-spacing? Sample chapters or query only? When I submit my manuscripts to my publisher, I continually edit and correct until the publisher's editing process is about to begin (you might have several months between acceptance and the start of the editing process). Then I tell my editor that I've made some additional corrections and forward the most updated manuscript to her.


Candace Salima (LDS Nora Roberts) said...

All editing of the manuscript should be complete before it is submitted to the publisher. Any plot changes, at that point, should take place at the behest of the publisher.

When I have my manuscript polished and ready, it goes to a readers group (assorted ages, sexes and religions) across the nation for feedback. Once I receive that feedback, I make the final plot changes. Do a final run through for mistakes and give it to my personal editor to find anything I didn't. Only then will it go to the publisher.

Maya Reynolds said...

Thanks for the shout-out, Heather. I appreciate it.

Heather B. Moore said...

You're welcom, Maya. I enjoy your very informative blog.