Thursday, May 14, 2009

Revisions 2

Okay, here's another situation that came from revision requests, and I want to stress the author (and I :) were polite at every juncture.

I got a submission that wasn't really erotica, more like sexy science fiction, and I returned it with some suggestions about how this could be more appropriate for us. Author came back with a revised manuscript. It still was more sexy science fiction-- which is fine, but we publish erotica, and I did assume that, since she had submitted to us, she was okay with making this erotica. I made some more suggestions, got another version, but there was still too much Other Stuff, just right for a s/f story, but detracting from the romantic/erotic story. One of the major issues (I'm shifting some details here) was the title, which was based around "Stars," which might be great in a s/f title, but not so much for us.

Anyway, made some suggestions, including changing the title. Now I was figuring that we'd take this story if the final issues could be dealt with, though I didn't say that out-- I don't offer a contract until I really mean it. :) Author said she couldn't make these final changes as they made the story something other than she wanted it to be-- the title was a big part of that-- and withdrew it. No hard feelings, etc. The emphasis I wanted wasn't what she wanted.

And she was right. But so was I. Why? Because she had submitted to us, and we have a publishing focus, and I assumed that she was okay with our publishing focus, that she wanted to publish with us, because she submitted to us.

If you don't want to do a round of revisions, if you have aspects of your story that you want to keep but are somewhat in conflict with what an editor publishes, you'll save yourself and the editor a lot of time if you decide that before you submit. It is not crazy for me to assume that, if you submit to my house, you want to be published by this house. And there really are genre differences that if you submit to me, and I think your story can work with our focus, I will suggest changing.

For instance, we publish a lot of speculative fiction-- sf and paranormal. But it's erotica too, or primarily. Lots of sf romance can be modified or intensified to work for us, and when we get a story like that, we suggest the revisions which will make it more right for us. (No, we are not going to publish something wonderful but not right for us. That's reality.) It is not an intrusion on author authority to suggest the changes that will make the story more erotica and less standard sf.

I was at a conference once, on a panel about Beginnings, and I made a big point that I didn't want three chapters of worldbuilding before the romance gets going, that the setting information should be developed in with the story. A science fiction editor was also on the panel, and she laughed and said she DID want three chapters of worldbuilding, because that's what her readers were looking for.

If you want to have three chapters of worldbuilding, you should submit to her, and not to me. :)

Not that there's anything wrong with that type of story. But you're the one who is choosing the publishers you're submitting to-- and if you submit to us, we assume that you're accepting that we publish XYZ, and that you want XYZ in your story if that's what we publish. If you don't want XYZ in your story, you really shouldn't be submitting to us.

We publish a lot of novellas, and sometimes I think that everyone who has a novella of any kind just does a global search for "novella publishers" and sends it to all of them. If it's clearly inappropriate, I never even see it. The problem comes when we get a novella submission that is romantic in focus, that is, often rather easily intensified to erotica. Then, yeah, I'm going to make the suggestions to bring the story closer to what we publish. That is not taking over your story. That's not making it wrong for other publishers (you did keep a copy of the original, didn't you? If not, it's really not my fault :). It's seeing if it can be right for us.

This is why it's absolutely essential for the sake of your own stress level (and mine :) that you research the market before you submit. If this publisher doesn't publish stories like yours-- and especially if it publishes stories sort of but not exactly like yours (sf romance, but not straight sf, say)-- think before you submit about whether you are going to be willing to change this story that much. If not-- don't submit there. They are NOT going to change what they publish just for you.

Of course, we seldom know what we value until we contemplate not having it. So it's understandable that you might submit something somewhere and only later realize that you don't want to change the story so much. Just remember-- you're in control here, of yourself, your story, and your decisions. No one can take that away from you. But that also means that you're the one with all the responsibility to make the right choices for your own work.



Anonymous said...

The body of one's work can be so subjective. Either an editor likes it or they don't. Knowing which one who will in all liklihood be drawn to it is good planning.

em said...

I agree totally!:) I had been submitting my work to the same agent. When she turned down my first MS I polished off my second and sent it to her. She turned that one down as well with basically the same explaination for the turn down. When I was complaining about this on a blog - someone asked me (thanks Murphy:)!) why did I choose that agent? what was so special about 'her' that I wanted her to represent my work?That's when I realized that I had gotten the woman's name off a list of an agent directory and she handled my genre exclusively so I thought it was a done deal. Wrong! I was blaming her for turning me down, when it was really my fault because I didn't my homework on her. She liked romance but with a lot of detailed history in it and this was something I didn't write. So what you say about the resonsibility of making the right choice for your work is really, REALLY, true.:)

Unknown said...

I've been following an agent's blog and his opinion is that there are only 3 publishing houses that are right for any writer's voice. He feels the same is true for hiring an agent and due to this we all need to pay attention and stop submitting indiscriminately all over the place. All this does, he says, is get a writer more rejections, it wastes his time and the writer's time and money.
When I first read his post on this I thought it was mean but after thinking about what he was really saying he was right.

I think you are saying the same thing, only in a kinder and gentler way.

Edittorrent said...

I see what you mean, Babs. But I guess you never know when lightning will strike, right? I mean, we all know someone who sold to what seems like an inappropriate house because lightning struck, or the editor that day was looking for something unusual, or there was a sudden hole in the schedule... and I think no one wants to miss out on such an opportunity, so submits everywhere marginally connected.

Agents have to be more selective, of course, because if they get a reputation for submitting promiscuously, editors will no longer be open to their inquiries.


Julie Harrington said...

I feel like I'm finally crawling out from under a rock these last two weeks after doing *my* revions. LOL. How funny to be able to steal a few minutes here the other day and see they were the hot topic? :)

I think an author has to do their homework and really look into what a publisher (or agent) represents to see if they even do the genre you write. That's always important. Just like looking into a company before you go to the interview so you know exactly what they do and what they're about.

But I don't think you can judge what style or voice someone is looking for. I mean, sure, they might only do xyz right now but how do you know they're not looking (or at least talking about looking) for what you're doing, your style, your voice, or heck, even your genre. I had that happen to me with my last book. I wrote it. Fate threw a twist so the people I had in mind for it vanished, and I thought you know what... this might not be this publishers usual cup o' tea but I think they might actually like it.

Another twist of fate landed me a face to face with one of their editors and wouldn't you know it? She thought the book might be a perfect fit for a sub-line/category they're pondering.

"Send it to me," she said as she handed me her card. "I think that sounds like it would be perfect for it."

I sent a sample. They asked for a full. I sent it. Now they've asked for revisions. If I hadn't strayed off the path and taken a risk... that book would probably be collecting dusk in a drawer right now.

You never know what door will open unless you knock on it.


Edittorrent said...

Well, if I didn't like the voice, I wouldn't ask for a resubmission-- voice can't be fixed. Most everything else can. So I wouldn't bother asking for a revision of voice (no, expecting an author to fix mechanical errors isn't messing with her voice, before anyone says that (G)).

JT, best of luck with the manuscript, and you are so right-- persistence is all, really. Well, that and talent!