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Radical Transparency: How We Edit Your Book

Atlin Merrick Book Editing Help for Writers Radical Transparency Reference

By Atlin Merrick

Radical Transparency: How We Edit Your Book by Atlin MerrickLike you I walk, I wait, and sometimes I want to learn cool stuff while I do that, which is why I love podcasts.

99% Invisible is a brilliant podcast which recently discussed radical transparency.

For example, if the city government takes a year to process building permits tell people. Giving people a hook to hang their wait on helps the wait pass more peacefully. Which leads us to this:

How Long It Takes to Edit a Book (and What the Heck That Means)

With radical transparency in mind, and inspired by a writer who recently asked me "what does editing entail?" Here are the basics of how we edit your book; if you want something really fine-grained follow this read up with What "We're Editing Your Book" Really Means:

  1. First, know every book everywhere is edited—me, you, anyone who is published is edited, and it can take awhile. We have a queue of books waiting for edits and sometimes we get emails from writers asking "Have you read it yet haveyouhave you puleeez?" We never mind those polite emails and we're happy to give updates but all presses are busy, big or small, and your lovely book is one in a long queue. Unless someone's a superstar writer, their book must join the back of the queue. You will wait months; any good press edits its books. I once worked for one that didn't, and printed books with errors on every page. Editing a book takes time.

  2. How you're edited depends on your book. We once had a writer send a 'romance' story for an anthology in which the romance consisted of the characters holding hands in the final paragraph. For that same anthology we had a writer send a story on which we tweaked only two commas. The first story we requested a rewrite (they declined), the second story led that writer to write a book for us.

  3. In other words, edits depend. We might ask for more characterization here or clarification of plot points there. Edits can be really extensive and encouraging, or they can chiefly be tweaks for clarity. After we edit your book we'll send it back to you for approval. You then accept the suggested edits or you don't, but we talk about the ones you don't want to make and why. With house style (spellings; punctuation; formatting, sometimes grammar) we're not very flexible unless the story demands it.

  4. After you've edited the book and sent it back to us, it may need another edit. And another. Again it depends. We've gone through many edits with some books, only one with others. Please don't be the writer who fights for every comma—this is not a hill to die on, your story, the characters you love, fight for them.

  5. Copyedits are next, where we go through the manuscript line-by-line, working on punctuation and grammar if they still need attention after the main edits.

  6. The book is then proofread by someone other than your editor. Proofreaders catch things your eyes missed and your editor's eyes missed. After the proofread, we'll send your manuscript back so you can sort through and fix anything flagged by the proofreader.

  7. Once we're all happy, your book is handed to our layout person while an artist designs the cover. You get to see and give suggestions for the cover but ultimately the publisher decides.

  8. Once the book is laid out you get another chance to have a look at the manuscript, to make sure nothing's gone weird—all chapters present and accounted for? Excellent. Now the good part—

  9. We publish your book! Eventually. As at the beginning, it's about waiting now. Chances are good there are several books ahead of you to be published. We can give you a round-about time for when your book will appear but sometimes queues shift and yours may jump it or it may fall a bit back. Life happens.

At this point we've invested a lot of time in your book and we love it or we wouldn't want to publish it. So please be patient and know it's going to see the light of glorious day—again, this is a slow, steady process. I am happy to get courteous emails asking "Are we there yet? Are we there yet?" I'll answer as best I can! Remember that you've joined a queue; your editor is working as fast as they are able.

If you have any questions about editing let me know below or email me. Better still…send us your book and you too can know the wonders of the wait and the glorious day!

More like this…
* On Actually Doing
* Write about anything
(The 99% Invisible podcast which included
discussion of radical transparency.)

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