Is The Publisher Killing The Author Or Is It Authorcide?
Posted by Author D.L.Sparks
Let me start this post off by saying this isn’t a cop out or a way to foster an excuse. It’s also not an attack on anyone, reviewer/reader, etc. It’s simply my way of addressing an issue that I’ve noticed during my short time in the literary world.
Most who know me or of me know that my second mainstream novel recently came out and that I put a LOT of heart and soul into and by that I don’t just mean I sat there and tried hard to come up with a good storyline and some snappy characters. I mean I worked really hard going through it with a fine-tooth comb looking for errors, etc. the same as all authors do when they receive their manuscripts back during the editing process. In most cases the manuscript should go through no less than four editing cycles with the author touching it at least twice and once by hand. Now any author will tell you these hand edits can be and are extremely tedious but very necessary when reviewers and some readers are looking for any little thing wrong to point out about your book just to say “See! See!! There’s a typo!” or “See! That’s not right…” For a lot of authors that’s extremely disheartening, especially when they know they’ve done everything they can to prevent this from happening and have NO control over what gets done once the manuscript is shipped off to the publisher or gets in the hands of editors that they are trusting with their hearts.
So for instance, if I get to the point of red pen edits (hand edits) and I pull them out and Fedex them off to be changed before going to print and the publisher doesn’t change them or doesn’t change all of them, who’s to blame? The author? The Publisher? Fedex? We already know who suffers, the author and their reviews and sometimes their reputations. I can take it one step further and say that the information uploaded to Amazon is even out of the author’s control. *gasp* Yes….we have NO control over the who, what, when or how that happens. If it’s incorrect, riddled with errors all we can do is let someone know and pray they fix it….quickly. But again….the author is charged with the mess and their ability to write is then put in question and they are often belittled because of it. Is that fair? And what if the publisher doesn’t change it? Is it still the author’s fault?
In a nutshell, most traditionally published authors are not the last one’s to touch their manuscripts. When it comes to edits and if they go through them meticulously and send in the red pen edits as instructed 90-95% of errors should be caught and changed by the publisher before going to print. However, if that Fedex package is opened and ignored or only partially applied there really isn’t much we can do. For instance (and this is by NO MEANS AN EXCUSE OR A CRY FOR SYMPATHY) with my last novel I had no LESS than 20+ pages of red pen edits that were Fedex’ed back. I know for a FACT that not all of them were corrected but once a book is printed….what can we do? Run around the U.S. screaming and crying snatching all the books off the shelves? Apologizing relentlessly for something that we had no control over?
My point in writing this post isn’t to have readers and authors march on Washington or burn anyone at the stakes but to give a little bit of understanding of what exactly is going on. Authors don’t have as much control as you may think, especially if they are traditionally published (I can’t speak for self-published authors and won’t attempt to try). We pretty much have to roll with the punches and sometimes those punches land in places we’d rather them not. For me… I take it as a lesson learned and know to guard my next novel with my life and about three outside editors and proofers other than the ones the publisher provides. Problem solved. Right? Hopefully.
I mean, that’s my way of taking responsibility but at some point shouldn’t they also have to do the same or at least it would only be fair if they did.