And how can an editor help me get published?
17 Apr 2012
Writer and ebook publisher Jonathan Veale makes the point that editors have a role to play before submissions are made … anywhere.
Some of us have clairvoyant powers: we know what literary agents and publishers are looking for. That’s a fine start I would have thought. Add to that a painful knowledge of precisely what they are not seeking, and benefits abound.
Most editors happen upon new writers and their work after interest has been expressed by the trade. In these cases their role is straightforward; gold is already apparent – through a veneer of lead – and they are tasked with serving two masters: the publisher, who seeks to maximise commercial appeal, and the writer who still harbours the thought that works of genius are best left unvarnished. Tears are often shed at this stage, but egos tend to relent when the prospect of deals are imminent.
I specialise in editing for the great unloved: writers still straining to excite the attention of agents and publishers. And as a old marketing professional who came late to publishing, both as a writer and editor, I wear two hats (covering now greying hair) and can play poacher and gamekeeper. I spent years attempting to break into print and am now devoting my energy to helping others do the same, avoiding the traps I avoided … or clambered out of.
Strange, but true – I rarely see dire manuscripts; the majority have merit, and can be tweaked to enhance the natural style of the writer. Teaching is not what I do, however; I prefer not to offer services to those I feel would benefit from tuition. Using an editor to teach writing skills is appallingly expensive. Which brings us to the question of costs. How much should an aspiring writer set aside for editorial assistance? I may surprise you. Remarkably little.
Agents and publishers have what appears to others to be an amazing gift. They can assess the worth of a submission or a piece of writing in minutes, not hours. Rarely do they find it necessary to plough through thousands of words to make up their minds. An editor specialising in providing support to the novice writer needs a similar ability.
The first thousand words of a manuscript, a sample letter of introduction to the trade, and a one-page synopsis of a work can reveal more than you can imagine, about you, your writing ability and your approach to the whole business of securing a publishing deal. Three opportunities to scupper an acceptance are offered, and many take a tumble at all three hurdles, for the want of a little help. The business side of submitting material isn’t difficult or time-consuming for a professional, but is often a frightening prospect for a writer. An hour or two’s work at most needs to be bought in.
The manuscript itself is another matter, but once again, having a thousand or so words of a writer’s draft put to the editing sword should enable competent wordsmiths to learn many of the lessons necessary to polish the entire work themselves. Some writers are delighted to pay an editor to take over this chore, and editors in turn are delighted to quote accordingly. For the penny-conscious, however, a thorough sample edit can suffice.
Jonathan Veale’s website is www.WriteAway.co.uk