author going through the [editing] process for the first time may
be somewhat startled at first to see anywhere from a few to many
dozens of query flyers attached to the manuscript. One author wrote
saying that when he saw how many flyers the copy editor had attached
to his manuscript, he wanted to hire a hit man. But as any author
who has had good past experiences with copy editors will be quick
to point out, there is reason to feel reassured by those pink or
yellow or blue slips of paper. They are a sign that the manuscript
has been read closely and with care. (The author who initially wanted
to hire a hit man confessed that after he had read through his copy
editor's queries, he changed his mind. 'I think I'm in love,' he
da Silva, "The Copy Editor and the Author," in Gerald
Gross, ed., Editors on Editing: What Writers Need to Know about
What Editors Do, 3rd ed., 143-152 (New York: Grove Press, 1993)
(quote on 148)
with Your Editor: Three Tips on Getting the Most out of the Editorial
© 2008 Casco Bay Literary Services
could be a fly on the wall of publishing companies, they might be surprised
at what they overhear. A common refrain is that authors often seem to
engage in self-sabotage in precisely that phase of a book project that
has perhaps the greatest potential to make or break the project: the publishing
phase. Three simple steps will help you avoid this self-sabotage and get
the most out of the editorial process.
polite and professional.
have to be said, but publishing is a business like any other, and professional
conduct is likely to serve you better than rudeness or uncooperativeness.
University professors and others
in fields where "in-your-face" behavior is common should be
aware that this behavior is less common and less tolerated in the publishing
sometimes shocked by the rudeness and uncooperativeness of authors, and
equally shocked that they would alienate editors equipped to make or break
their book projects. A lot can go wrongor rightin those final
months of a project's history.
the publisher's guidelines and instructions.
In some cases,
failure to follow directions can have negative repercussions for the quality
of your project. For
example, if you format your manuscript incorrectly, or your notes and
references are incomplete and in the wrong style, or your tables and figures
don't meet the publisher's standards, there may not be enough time in
the fast-paced production process to correct the problems.
a great idea to get off on a bad footing with the editorial staff, because
they're the last major line of defense before your book is printed. If
your copyeditor is less than enthusiastic about working with youwhether
because you've refused to follow the publisher's guidelines, are uncooperative
about answering queries, or balk at removing sexism and racism from the
manuscriptthey may not be willing to go beyond the call of duty
to rescue you from the factual errors you've overlooked in your manuscript.
if they're enthusiastic about working with you and about your book, they
may not hesitate to do extensive Internet research or make that extra
trip to the library to to ferret out errors, without pay if necessary.
This can make the difference between a successful book and one that brings
you professional or personal embarrassment.
all queries carefully and thoroughly.
If you ignore
queries, someone will have to query you again, possibly leading to a delay
in the production schedule. This delay can be problematic from your standpoint,
if for example the publisher is trying to bring your book out in time
for a major conference or other significant event. Alternatively,
the editor or typesetter may have to guess at the answers to the queries,
which could produce results you're unhappy with.
If you don't
understand the reasons for queries or find them superfluous, resist the
impulse to fire off a diatribe. People in the publishing field are often
very well read and broadly educated, and someone may be trying to ferret
out some problem in your manuscript that you haven't detected. Don't
assume that because editors have degrees in English and not in your technical
field, they won't be able to uncover major factual errors. Even if they
don't understand the ins and outs of the technical materialsay,
complex math equationsthose who've edited dozens of books in a field
often have a "sixth sense" for when something is wrong.
I once read
an article about an editor whose superb editing resulted in a Pulitzer
Prize for an author. While this may be an extreme case, editing has the
potential to significantly improve most manuscripts. To get the most out
of the process and avoid any self-sabotage, it's to your advantage as
an author to be professional and cooperative in interacting with the editor
and other publishing staff.