Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Wordy Wednesday - Reflrections from the Editor's Desk: Myth Busting or Who Told You That?

Over the years but never more than lately, there are some common ‘myths’ about publishing. As a writer, I heard about many of these. As an editor, I’ve experienced many of them. One caveat, this post applies to traditional and digital/small press publishing. While there’s some overlap into self-publishing, most of these myths surround the mainstream industry versus self-publishing.

Let’s do some myth busting.

1) Readers will love your book—after all, your mother, sister, cousin, best friend and coworkers do. Isn’t that grand? It is, truly. But here’s the thing. As much as we love our family and friends, they aren’t your readers. They aren’t editors or publishers. They aren’t reviewers. While it’s terrific that your family and friends love your book, they are family and friends and unless you have a terrific relationship with them that allows them to be blunt, you aren’t hearing that your heroine is too bitchy or you hero is just plain abusive. Family and friends are there to do what they do best – support you. However, when it comes to submitting your work, agents and editors don’t care if your mom likes it. They care whether they do and whether they can sell it.

2) Your family and friends will buy multiple copies and tell their friends and that will be at least 300 sales. As an author, I had this expectation too. For all the support and encouragement, when it came to plunking down the money, it didn’t happen. Yes, they bought copies – at least, they told me they did. However, it wasn’t 300. I’m not even sure it was 20. Might have been closer to five. Family and friends love us but that doesn’t mean they are going to buy your book no matter what they tell you. Sure, some may just because they are family and friends but most of them are just not going to. Sorry, it’s reality. Want to know for sure? Ask for a receipt.  Of course you aren’t going to but don’t rely or count on family and friends sales as proof of your numbers. You are doomed to disappointment.

3) By the same token, everyone you friend or who follows you on social media will not buy your book. Friending or following doesn’t mean you are on their auto-buy list. It means they want to be friends. That’s it. Now, I’m sure there are times those connections lead to fans and readers but most often, it doesn’t.

4) Once my book is published, I just have to sit back and the money will roll in. I wish. Once your book is published, you will have to promote your book. Think about it this way--if no one knows about your book, no one will buy it. I’ve had people tell me the key to success is backlist. I don’t disagree that ONE of the keys to success is backlist. I just don’t think it’s as simple as that. You can have tons of backlist but if you don’t tell anyone about it, how do they know where to find them? They don’t, unless they stumble across your website.

5) Yay! You got the call. Once the contract is signed, you are done. I love this one. You see, signing the contract is just the beginning of getting your book published. What’s next? Well, there’s content editing, production/blurb forms, cover art forms, marketing forms, more content editing, scheduling promotion, line editing, website updating, galleys… and on and on. Whew! I’m not kidding; there’s a lot to be done. By the time your book releases, you will be more than ready to be done with it. Plan to work just as hard after the Call as before it.

6) Editors will be your mentor. Ah, if only that were true. We want to help. We try as much as we can. But don’t expect it. Editors are overworked—those that work for houses and those that freelance. As much as we’d like to, unless you are hiring us for that particular service, editors can’t mentor you into the next contract and so on. As cold as it may sound, and we are all nice people, we have to get work done on your book then move immediately on to the next. It doesn’t mean we don’t like you. Far from it. Our livelihood and continued employment rest on getting the next one and the next one and the next one done. If you want to improve your craft, don’t rely on your editor to do it all for you—we do the best we can but ultimately, your career, your responsibility.

7) Your self-published buddy gets to make all the decisions about their book. Your publisher should let you do the same. Uh, wrong. While many publishers and editors are all about making their authors happy, ultimately, only they know what works for their readers and what doesn’t. This means that they may, and can, make changes during the process to end with a book that is the most appealing for their readers. If your vision is different, don’t expect them to budge just to appease you. They are in this to make money, not for artistic expression. Sorry. It’s the hard truth. By going to a publisher, you trust them to know what’s best. If you don’t, then you should self-publish.

8) Your book is perfect so you’ll only need an editor to edit for typos. Okay, this time I’m laughing. No one’s book is THAT perfect. In fact, since I’ve been doing this for nearly a couple of years, most books are not. Including my own. Good houses will put your book through the editing wringer. First, you’ll be edited for content. This is where everything is made consistent and plot holes are closed. Most houses want two rounds of content editing. You may need more. After content editing (also called developmental editing), it’s time for line editing. This is where spelling, grammar and punctuation are checked. The goal is to put out the best product and even in this day and age, when more and more books seem to be riddled with errors, the best houses work hard to put out perfect products (my houses do). So, suck it up. You are going to have to edit.

9) The days of being rejected are over. Not true. Ask around. Most published authors will tell you they have been rejected time and again after making the first, second or even tenth, sale. In fact, just recently, one of my publishers’s rejected an author who had two manuscripts already published. Why? First, the story didn’t work but more importantly, the first couple didn’t make any money. I’ve also seen them rejected because an author failed to understand #8 and decided her book didn’t need editing. Bottom line is rejection is just part of the business and should be viewed as a badge of honor: You are submitting and you are in some excellent company.

There are always more myths flying about but this is enough myth busting for today. Do you see any of them in yourself? Ah, my bad. Champagne Book Group blog readers are extraordinary so I’m sure I’m preaching to the choir. Feel free to pass this along to others who might not be as enlightened as you all.

Since I’m sure you know about these, got any you want to share with me? Maybe a myth and how you busted it?

Cassiel Knight is Senior Editor at Champagne Book Group. When she’s not wrestling manuscripts into shape for publication, she’s writing action/adventure books based on archeology and mythology – just a few of her favorite things – for Samhain Publishing, Lyrical Press and Champagne Book Group.

Connect with Cassie at:
Twitter: @CassielKnight


  1. Cassie,

    Loved your comments. Agreed with them all. Thanks for putting all so nicely together.


  2. This cracked me up. I think we've all thought (or wanted to think) those thoughts at one time or another. Reality is quite different, though. Thanks for putting it all in perspective.