Thursday, February 23, 2012

Thirteen Questions: An Editor's Answers

Ever wonder what an editor thinks? Wish you could get that
esteemed person to respond to you? We did.




We were fortunate enough to have Loose ID Senior Editor Ann
Curtis answer our questions. Thanks, Ann.


1. Mary asks--What is
the first thing you look for in a manuscript?

When I look at the introduction letter, the synopsis, and
the partial, the first thing I check is to make sure the author has sent our
publishing house a submission we can publish. By that I mean it needs to
conform to the guide lines set forth on our publisher’s submission page. Loose
Id publishes erotic romance with a twist. That means not only does the writing
need to be hot and on par with what readers of erotic romance expect from their
reading experience; it also must incorporate that extra something, like
bondage, BDSM, paranormal, LGBT, steampunk, Interracial, etc. Just a straight
m/f mildly hot story won’t cut it; it must be over-the-top steamy, with maybe a
little kink or light bondage or something else thrown in. Readers of erotic
romance expect a certain type of book; they’re looking for a certain reading
pleasure and expectation when they read an erotic romance.

2. Mary would also like
to know--what do editors like to see?

A good book! Seriously. I look for books that I myself
wouldn’t hesitate to grab off the shelf of my nearest bookstore (literally or
figuratively, in the case of e-books) because the story and the writing have
captured my imagination and made me want to read it. I know that if the book
has grabbed my attention to the degree that I myself would want to own it, then
there’s an excellent chance that other readers will also love the story.

3. Mia or Brenda
wonders--In terms of submissions, what would you like to see more of?

I love paranormal/psychic and also very hot bondage/BDSM
stories. I am also looking for an author who has made up a very unique and
special world that sucks me in and makes me want to know everything there is to
know about that world.

4. Jeannie
asks--Where do you see publishing going in the next five years - will digital
overrun print?

You know, as much as I love e-editing, I myself still love
to hold a real book in my hands. Maybe it’s because I sit in front of the
computer for eight hours/day, reading and editing. By the time I want to read
for pleasure, my eyes would seriously prefer to read off paper than a computer
screen. I’m still thinking of purchasing an e-book reader, but as much as I embrace
the new way of electronically editing and publishing books, I’m still very much
an old-fashion reader of paper books.

I recently read that efforts are under way to try to get
college textbooks on to e-publishing formats. With the high price of academic
books, I applaud that effort. I think for certain types of books, e-format is
the way to go; it will certainly bring down the high prices college students
pay for their textbooks (one hopes). But that will only occur if college
students can also afford the electronic device(s) needed to read those books.

Other studies I’ve read state that spending so much time on
the computer or reading off a screen isn’t good for our eyes. Something about
the lights and the flickering screens and the 3-D look of type that our eyes
don’t like. I know my eyesight has gone downhill with the amount of time I
spend in front of a screen. And I’m not playing computer games!

Will digital overrun print? I don’t know. I guess much of it
has to do with raw materials. Will trees and water run out, so that we no
longer can make paper and print books? Will we always have reliable electricity
to recharge our electronic gadgets? Will the raw materials used to make the
components always be available and affordable? So many unknowns. A digital
e-reader relies on so many new technologies and components to make it run,
whereas a paperback book needs nothing but a pair of eyes to read it.

I think there are too many unknowns in the future to make
that prediction.

5. Alice Audrey has
these questions--Do you edit self-pub books? If so, which have you done? What
does your editing encompass?

I have been a Sr. Editor for six years for an e-publisher of
erotic romance. As such, editing encompasses content editing, mechanical
editing, line editing, and to a certain extent, also some formatting,
copyediting, and proofreading. That is, I edit the book to within an inch of
its life and to the best of my abilities. After I’m done, that book goes
through another copy editor and also a proofreader before it is released.

Through my editing business, AC Proofing Services, I work as
a freelance editor. For the past three years I have proofread for a well-known
small publisher for their romance and re-release romance line (reselling old
backlist novels). I also have a variety
of different clients, some who are professors and have me work with them on
their dissertations, journal papers, and academic books, while others want me
to do a manuscript critique on their mainstream suspense or a thorough editing
job on their fantasy book.

I have edited self-published books, yes. I am currently
working with someone who has a fantasy trilogy based upon the creation of the
world using the various world myths. With his book, I am basically covering all
the components of editing (content, mechanical, copy edit) and have advised him
that an overall proofread should also be considered after the intense edits and
revisions he’ll undertake. Most of the fiction work I do is in the various
genres of romance, but I am open to and have worked in other areas of fiction


My editing encompasses: Content
editing, to check on story plot so there are no plot holes, and if the
story is a romance, that there is a complete romantic arc; goals, motivations,
and conflicts; Point of View (POV) and making sure the right people are talking
and that deep POV has been used to draw the reader into the story; making sure
scenes and sequels are balanced, tell what they need to tell, and that
transitions flow evenly from one part to another; and that the story stays
focused on the people (hero, heroine, maybe villain and/or another main third
person) the story is about. Mechanical
editing, to make sure that grammar, punctuation, and sentence
structure/syntax is correct; that words are spelled correctly, whether they are
words from the dictionary or made-up words used in the world building; and that
spacing and formatting issues are looked at. Line editing, to make sure that words or phrases aren’t repeated,
that different words are used (ex: that the word betrayed isn’t used 150 times
in the manuscript; that other ways to say the same word/same thing are utilized
instead); that unnecessary or unneeded words are deleted; that simultaneous
actions are caught; that independently acting body parts are flagged and
changed. Proofreading means reading
a manuscript and keeping in mind all of these various issues, making sure that
nothing was missed in any of these steps, to include also checking for House
Style formatting issues, Style formatting, and making sure those also make it
to the final copy. I also do Manuscript
critiques.

When I started as a freelance editor six years ago, I worked
both electronically and by hand using copy edit and proofing marks. Now, for
the most part, all editing has gone digital, and I work in both Microsoft Word
and Adobe Acrobat when I edit.

6.Anonymous
asks--When you receive a manuscript, what's a cardinal sin? In other words, a
deal-breaker? What should we authors do better to impress an editor?

Hmm. I would say the biggest thing that makes me upset with
a book is when an author has a wonderful idea or concept but hasn’t worked
enough on her writing to be able to bring that idea or concept to fruition.
Having a sloppy manuscript with very obvious grammar, punctuation, spelling,
and sentence syntax problems is another no-no. If your English skills leave
something to be desired, then have someone who is knowledgeable in English look
over your story before you send it in. As an editor, I don’t have the time to
help you work on your book until it’s ready to be published. It needs to be in
that state when it hits my desk.

7.Country Dew
wonders--Do you require a completely finished manuscript from a new writer, or
do you prefer to accept a query and then work with the writer to create a
finished work of fiction?

We only accept completely finished manuscripts from new
writers. If you prove yourself with the first few manuscripts, and sales back
you up, then if the author is interested, she may query/do a book on proposal.
If we accept her proposal, then she has a certain time frame in which to write
the book and turn it in.

I do not work with any authors on the writing process
itself. A form of that would be ghostwriting, which I have never done.

8.The Gal Herself
poses these questions--How important is an agent? Is it true that editors
prefer to receive manuscripts through an agent, rather than directly from the
author?


In the world of traditional publishers, yes, it is true that
the NYC houses prefer an agented author. That way, the slush pile has already
been “gone through,” and you are considered knowledgeable not only about the
writing process itself, but you have shown that you are capable of writing a
novel-size book that is in sellable condition. A plus for NYC publishers, who
are there to sell your product, not help you “get it there.”

I have not seen that having an agent is really needed in
e-publishing. In the six years I’ve been doing this, I’ve only had one author
who had an agent, and that was because she was already published with a NYC
publisher.

9.Regina Castillo asks--I would like to know
what agents see that makes them want to see your full manuscript. What can we
do to make them want more?

I can’t answer this from an agent’s perspective, as I’m not
an agent. I can answer it from an editor’s perspective, however.

When I first start reading the three-chapter submission
partial you send me, I want to be wowed. I want to see that you have mastered
the English language, that you know your grammar, verb tenses, how to use
punctuation correctly, in what order adverbs and adjectives go, and that you
can vary the sentence variety/structure with long and short sentences. That if
you’re writing romantic suspense, you know how to convey emotion and tension
with the words you choose and the sentence structures you use. If you’re
writing an involved, erotic, hot love scene that the words you choose, the
emotions you convey, the feelings and expressions you evoke from the
character(s), are the same ones I will feel as the reader reading that passage.
I want to see that you’ve done your work and know about Goals, Motivations, and
Conflicts, that you’ve studied various writing how-to books and have applied
what you’ve learned about writing a novel to your book. It’s nice to see that you’ve
utilized the dictionary and you know how to spell, and if you have taken the
time to incorporate the rules from The Chicago Manual of Style to your story,
you get extra special kudos from me. ;)

And then, I want those first few pages to tell me a really
terrific story that I’ve just got to know more of so that I ask you for the
full.

10.Shelley Munro’s
first question is - what genres would you like to see more of?

I really love paranormal/psychic, suspense, and really well-written
bondage/BDSM/role-playing stories where the psyches of the characters involved
in the play are explored. I also like world building and time travel/futuristic
novels with maybe some science fiction thrown in.

11. Oh, and her
second - which are the most popular genres at Loose-Id?

Right now, LGBT m/m stories are very hot and popular. While
that is not my preferred genre, I do have some established authors who write
m/m stories and write beautiful, beautiful stories. BDSM and Interracial are
also hot.

The thing I want to mention, though, (and many of you have
heard this if you’ve been pursuing writing for a while) is that if you’re a new
author, you’re going to want to carve out your own space for your own writing.
If you do what other writers/authors have done, you’ll most likely get some
share of the pie (all those readers buying the same types of books), but you’ll
have more success if you carve out your own niche.

Investigate what sells well, and then figure out how to add
your own twist to it. Carve out your own unique area of the reading kingdom,
where you’ll have readers clamoring for your specific style of world building,
your unique voice.

12.Barbara Britton
wonders--If the writing is A plus, but there's one grammar error, does it make
you pass on the manuscript?

No! In fact, there can be little grammar/punctuation errors
throughout; that still won’t make me pass on it. An assessment only comes about
if it’s definitely something we don’t publish or the work is obviously that of
a beginner, where it would take too much editorial time/commitment to getting
it ready for publication. That’s what critique groups and honing your writing
craft are for; so the editor doesn’t have to work with you on writing the book.
It should already be written—and in a publishable state—when it gets to the
editor’s desk.

13. She also
asks--What does it mean when editors/agents say it's not right for their list?
What formulates a list?

Most publishing houses have a list on their submissions page
of what they are looking for/not looking for. The “list” will be different for
every house—and sometimes, even editors have particulars they like/don’t like
to read (although in that case, if it’s something the house would publish but
that editor isn’t comfortable with the reading material, it goes into Second
Look, so another editor can have a chance to with the author if she likes her
writing).

When an editor/agent says something isn’t right for their
list, they either mean it doesn’t fit into what their house publishes, it
doesn’t fit into an editor’s particular cache of stories she works with (maybe
she only does erotic, steampunk, and fantasy), or its not on an agent’s list of
publishing houses and what they’re currently looking to procure.

14.Carolyn Rosewood’s
question is--What percentage of manuscripts that you acquire would you say come
from new authors?

That is hard to say. I only have a few authors who have
stayed with me over the years and have continuously produced novels year after
year. Sometimes an author will work on three books with me, then she’ll
disappear. It is happening more and more lately that I will acquire an author,
work with her on a number of books, and then I never receive another submission
from her. I suspect, like most authors, she has probably taken her writing in a
different direction and is currently no longer writing erotic romance. Some
authors quit writing after two or three books. Sometimes I only work with them
on one book. The author might find that that one book she wrote worked particularly
well as an erotic romance, but her true writing style lies in a different
direction. Not every writer puts out a book with me every year.

Last year I acquired two new authors; so far this year, I’ve
added one.

I’m always looking for new authors, but even more, I’m
looking for prolific authors who have a lot of books to write so we are both
continually turning out great books for readers to enjoy.

We hope Ann’s answers have encouraged you. If you’d like to
ask her something else, you may contact her at ac_proofing (at) sbcglobal.net and if you'd like to comment, you can do so here. We'd love to hear from you.
.

27 comments:

  1. Thanks so much for answering all these questions, Ann! :)

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  2. Thanks for taking the time to do this Ann, we all know how precious an editor's time is.

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  3. What a fascinating look into the mind of an editor. I enjoy reading about the latest trends. Thanks for all these great questions and answers.

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  4. Thanks for this!

    Among the editing "issues," the simultaneous actions is one thing that pulls me right out of a published story. IMO, if I -- the average reader -- notices this, than one would think someone involved in the editing process would have caught it before a book went to press. Yet I have seen it many times over the past decade (though, I admit, one publisher is more guilty of this "sin" than others).

    I also find poor editing -- or apparent lack thereof -- in a published book to be irritating. Published books riddled with typos make me want to throw the offending material against a wall.

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  5. Thanks Carol, Adelle and Kendall,
    I'm with you. I'm amazed and grateful for Ann's insights too.

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  6. Heather,
    Yeah. There are things that can make a reader stop reading. Someone said it takes a village to launch a novel. I believe that. :)

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  7. Sounds like this genre is strong and growing. It's a always good to get an inside scoop from editors.

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  8. Great, in-depth post! I appreciate all the information. :)

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  9. Great, in-depth post! I appreciate all the information. :)

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  10. Great information. Thank you for answering my question and giving us your time.

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  11. Colleen,
    Yeah, I'm with you. It's super Ann shared her insights and time.

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  12. Misty Dietz,
    I appreciate Ann's information and your visit. Thanks.

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  13. CountryDew,
    I'm tickled you asked such a good question and Ann answered it. :)Thanks.

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  14. Good post. I wouldn't have even known what questions to ask, so this was quite informative!!

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  15. Great questions- and answers!! I'm glad I'm not the only one who prefers reading a real book over an electronic one!

    :)

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  16. penguinsandladybugs,
    Thanks. I'm glad you got something out of it. :)

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  17. Rachel,
    Iknow what you mean. I thought I'd like paperbacks the best too, but I got a Nook for Christmas have really enjoyed reading on it. Thanks for stopping by.

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  18. Thanks for answering the questions! This was a great and informative read. Cheers!

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  19. Wow! What a generous thing to do! Great questions and enlightening answers. Thank you so much. This is great.

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  20. I too appreciate you answers. Thank you.

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  21. Jaycee,
    Thanks. I'm glad you found the post useful. Thanks for leaving a comment.

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  22. Karen Cote and Mary,
    You're most welcome. Ann and I appreciate your visit. :)

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  23. Thank you for having me on your blog, Brenda, and for all the wonderful questions everyone supplied. I'm glad your readers found my answers informative. I had fun answering them. :)

    @Heather: I agree that editing doesn't have as high of a standard at some publishing houses as it should. Loose Id is very, very tough on edits, and I'm glad they are. Nothing detracts from the reading experience like finding lots of problems in a book. Like you, as a reader I am quite upset to spend money only to find that the book has tons of editing problems. I have quit reading books (ones I read for my own pleasure) because of poor writing/editing quality.

    @Colleen: I do believe erotic romance is a strong market. Based on how strong LI sales are, there is a good, strong base of readers out there who enjoy these stories.

    @Rachel: I'm sure I'll break down one of these days and buy an e-reader, but I really do enjoy and prefer reading a real paperback book. ;)

    ~Ann Curtis

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  24. Thanks for answering our questions and giving us your insights into the editing/publishing world.

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  25. Ann,
    Thank you so much for your visit. I appreciate you sharing your knowledge, time and insights.

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  26. Shelley Munro,
    Thank you for stopping by and kudos on your recent Carina release.

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  27. Thanks for sharing all this wisdom (and for answering my questions, too).

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