The Wager

The saga of Jospar The Starflyer and Kasceto The Ruler begins.

 
 

Cobalt

Join Jospar on his journey -- As His Story Continues.

 
 

Roscoe

Roscoe pits Jospar against the dangerous Kasceto.

 
 
 
HeadacheOkay, so you got that contract, you’ve worked long days and nights maybe taking in a bit more caffeine than you ordinarily would, and you’ve got that thing done. Your book  is a beast, a beast at times you hated but ultimately it’s a lovable beast, and you’re satisfied. Congratulations, you’ve completed your book. That’s quite an accomplishment. Now you eagerly send off the digital files to your contact at the publishing company, hopefully your editor. Then you wait, breathlessly. You completed the manuscript in six months instead of a year because the publisher said he wanted to rush it out. You know your book is good, full of new and important and helpful stuff, not just a rehash of everything everybody already knows, written in an engaging and entertaining way. So now you wait.
 
    You Wait…And You Wait…
 
     Something happens. The publisher doesn’t get back to you. Other than a cryptic note or email saying “Manuscript received,” that’s about it. They gave you a publication date that’s only a couple months away, so you figure they’re busy. But sending your manuscript off like that is still kind of unnerving, like sending your five-year old off to school alone. You know they wanted the book. They may have paid you part of your advance or sent you a check, or better yet, direct deposit, right after you emailed them the file. So, you’re okay moneywise. Still, you wonder…
 
      A Week Goes By…Then Several Weeks…
 
     You’re nervous. Should you call? You email. You get a reassuring though formal response, something like, “Our editors are working on it.” What? You know the editor’s name. The company is a small publisher, it’s not like they have a staff of hundreds. Shouldn’t you hear from your editor directly? (Yes.) Shouldn’t he/she be querying you with various questions about the manuscript, trying to be clear and involve you in the process of honing down the book to its final form? (Yes.) Are you nervous. (You should be.) Is this normal? (Unfortunately, all too much.)
 
    When Things Go Bad…
 
    Then, you finally get a hold of someone on the phone, but it’s not the editor you thought. But it’s an editor. “I’m assigned to your book now,” an unfamiliar voice will tell you. Huh? You’re thinking. This is kinda unusual. Well, I’ll just roll with it. Then the new editor says he’s got a few questions for you about the manuscript. “On page 45, you say…” and then you are dumbfounded at the question. Did this person even read the manuscript? How can they not understand what you wrote? “We’re going to change that,” you hear the editor saying. Your head is swimming. Maybe you can’t just roll with this.
 
   It Gets Worse…
 
   The editor sends you an email with some questions and what he insists are corrections for the manuscript. The corrections make absolutely no sense. The proposed changes would change the meaning of the material, make it less clear or confusing. You are an expert on what you wrote; you wonder if this editor read your manuscript or even can read. You don’t know where to begin. But you begin. “I don’t think you should make those changes,” you say. You can feel the silence from the other end of the phone line. You repeat, “I don’t think you should make those changes.” Finally, the editor says, “I’ll get back to you.”
 
    Out Of Control…
 
     What follows is a series of emails, phone calls, periods of silence, misunderstanding, frustration, and general chaos. You had a sinking feeling in all those months you were toiling on your book, polishing and rewriting the manuscript to get it just right, to say what you wanted to say the way you wanted to say it. Still, in the back of your mind you were always worried that the editor assigned to your project, with whom you seemed to have good rapport, never emailed or called or asked about your progress on the book, or had suggestions or questions. 
 
    You figured that would start when they had the manuscript in hand. Then you found out they chopped your favorite sections of text in half, were going to add irrelevant pictures; they emailed these and the captions made no sense. They were also changing grammatically correct writing to incorrect writing, making you sound stupid if not illiterate. Syntax and facts were being altered, for the worse and the manuscript was beginning to become unrecognizable.
 
    Into The Maelstrom…
 
    You are in a near panic. Your book will be published, you’ll be paid, but it obviously won’t be the book you’ve written. “I want to see the galleys,” you hear yourself saying—shouting—at the editor on the phone. “You have no contractual right to see those,”  the editor says. You are stunned. Your mind races. What the hell did I sign in that contract? In a rush, you frantically search the language of the contract. You want to save your book. You later email the publisher with this insistence, adding, “Anything less than having access to the galleys and final approval is unprofessional.” He relents, reassures you you’ll see the galleys. You breathe a sigh of relief.
 
   The Galleys…
 
   You receive the galleys, start going through them, and you don’t know whether to laugh, cry or commit murder. The galleys bear no resemblance to what you wrote, to what you sent in. Where you spelled everything right, where you were meticulous with facts, there are misspellings, factual changes into, well, facts that are wrong, and a general evisceration of all of the good and necessary stuff that makes a book good, unique, worth reading, and oh yeah, worth buying.
 
Suicide or murder? You can’t decide what to do.
 
    You Fight For Your Book…
 
     You decide you will instead fight for your book as best you can. There are options. You can continue to try to work with an unworkable editor or editors, or you can try to get the publisher to change editors or give your book more personal attention. You can lobby, cajole, insist, plead, beg—whatever tactic you can use—to get them to pay attention to you. You don’t care at this point how they see you, whether as a temperamental author or a simple burr on their collective backside, you’ve got to save your book. You can consider changing and altering things in the galley process, but your contract determines how much you can do this or who pays for this, you or the publisher. You can appeal to the publisher’s sense of greed, as in, “This thing won’t sell as it stands. We have to make it like I wrote it.”
 
    Not Always Happy Endings
 
   Unfortunately, editors and publishers are not always kind and conscientious. Some of them don’t even care. You’d think they would, as it’s their money that’s underwriting the project, but some are very shortsighted and simply feel the books will sell as they edit them or not. It’s not a big deal to some publishers. This is a shocking attitude to many dedicated writers, many of whom are editors themselves.
 
Editors Who Aren’t Or Shouldn’t Be Editors…
    
     The other open secret is that many people are now working in publishing who simply don’t belong there. Their qualifications to edit are thin or nil at best, and some of them who seem qualified just don’t have the ability or desire to do it. A good editor can have many characteristics, one of which should be caring about making the best book, the best book you’ve written, not re-writing it the way he or she wants. Unfortunately, the attitude of completely re-doing your book is a growing attitude, an arrogance among publishers: “We bought it, we paid for it, we can do whatever we want with it.” This is somewhat like the movie studio attitude of buying a screenwriter’s script then altering it into an unrecognizable form, worked over by five or ten or more other writers. But books, even in the digital age, aren’t movies, nor are they supposed to be. You wrote it. It shouldn’t go out without your approval of the words you supposedly wrote. Still, the reality all too often is this: bad editing of otherwise good work. It’s part of the reason there are so many bad books published, which often don’t sell.
 
    What You Can Do…
 
    Work with the publisher as best you can, try to reason with him and his staff. Fight for your book. Be as professional as you can be in this process, even if the publisher is not. Go through as many steps and attempts to reach agreement on the manuscript; you may have to compromise some things. At the end of this process, if nothing works—as an absolute last resort--if all else fails, consider seeking legal advice from a lawyer who specializes in publishing, entertainment or intellectual property rights. A competent lawyer will sketch out the realistic alternatives and remedies for you. It’s unfortunate that a situation should come to that, what should have been a happy marriage between the project and the publisher, with an author and editor pulling in the same direction to make the best book they can, but the opposite, the disaster of editors and publishers ruining books does happens. And if none of this happens to you along the publishing journey, be thankful, and celebrate. Conversely, good editors can improve a mediocre book and help an average author achieve success. That’s a different, happier topic for another time. If you run into that, if everything goes well with you and your publisher, great. If not, check back here and re-read this. Good luck!
 
Copyright © 2010 Greg Sushinsky. All Rights Reserved.