Thursday, October 13, 2005

Whatever It Takes

Writers and editors are different. I make no bones about it.  In one sense you have to be a bit thicked-skinned and determined. Otherwise you would send out your carefully written story, get rejected and never try again. Instead, published writers (see the distinction) are determined and understand the subjective nature of this business. One editor loves a story while another editor believes it needs “a lot of work.”

There is an online situation where I’m not participating very often—or even going to read what other people have written. In the Internet world it’s called flaming and from the correspondence I’ve been receiving, it is happening frequently in this location. I don’t have the patience or the time or need or the thick skin to dive into such a situation. So I’m not even reading the information for now. I plan to return when the waters are calmer.

Last week my publisher received an anonymous letter. From the postmark, we could tell it came someone who attended a recent conference.  The writer purchased my Book Proposals That Sell. I love the way this handwritten note began, “At the risk of being thought of as a Miss Know-It-All, I found several typos in Whalin’s book, Book Proposals That Sell, and if I were you, if there’s a second printing, I thought you’d want to know!…The book was great, very helpful, gave good insight into what goes on behind publishing’s doors.”  Then the letter listed some specific corrections. I loved the closing, “I’m not signing my name in case this annoys you. Sorry if it does—just trying to help.”

In some way, I can understand this writer’s reluctance to sign her name. Editors have long memories and we tend to recall the people who complain (so if you do it, do it gently). Yet the writer also understands our desire as editors and writers to get it right. While you have numerous readers and editors for a book before it goes to press, often something will creep into the text like a typographical error. When the book is reprinted, these errors can be fixed. For almost every book, we begin a “correction copy” where this feedback is recorded and used at reprinting.  Now please don’t everyone write me at once, but I’m keeping track for the next printing. I solicited this type of feedback from a reader this week. She caught some of the same typos as the anonymous writer and added a couple of additional ones. My publisher will make the ultimate judgment call about which ones to fix on reprinting (since it will come from his budget to fix it).

Once a book is printed, the publisher pays for each change. The cost isn’t great and the commitment to “get it right” is worth the cost. I don’t get any enjoyment out of such feedback but I’m committed to being open to receive this type of feedback. It helps me grow as a writer and we get it right—whatever it takes.

4 Comment:

At 10:14 AM, Blogger Gina Holmes Left a note...

Flaming? No idea what that is but I'm going to go google it. I hate to be ignorant. :)

At 10:23 AM, Blogger Terry Whalin Left a note...

Gina, With a brief look at this site, it gives the scoop on flaming and strategies if it happens to you: http://www.advicemeant.com/flame/

At 7:47 PM, Blogger Katie Z. Jackson Left a note...

This is a timely column, as I've been wondering if I should notify an author regarding an obvious error in his book.

Do publishers receiver a lot of letters notifying them of the typos or errors in a published manuscript?

Janice LaQuiere

P.S. I'm not trying to be anonymous. I registered on Blogger so long ago I forgot I registered as a fictional character.

At 10:26 PM, Blogger Terry Whalin Left a note...

Janice, it varies from book to book and author to author how much such things happen. If you do write, I'd suggest treading lightly--maybe say, "you probably noticed this sentence but just in case..." or something like it to soften it.



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