Mark Terry

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Talking to Editors

September 20, 2006
Over on Lynn Viehl's blog, she has a hilarious post about cover art. The first one got me thinking with:

What Writers Say to Their Editors About Their Cover Art, and What They Really Mean.

"All I can say is, Wow!"
Only because I'm not going to say oh shit, Jesus Christ, or I'm fucked to an editor.

With my three books, I've been very well treated with cover art. iUniverse, who published CATFISH GURU and is a POD publisher I wouldn't really recommend to anybody because their business model is, well, bullshit (for writers; it works just fine for them), did a terrific job with my cover art, far exceeding my expectations. With DIRTY DEEDS, although people seem to like the cover, I don't, and my editor didn't either. It was the 2nd or 3rd version (2nd one I saw; the first one REALLY sucked), and my editor much later told me she didn't think the artist had a clue what the book was about and they kept asking for different versions before finally just saying, "Okay, that's good enough." Part of the problem there is the pastels, which go with High Country Publisher's thematic model, but don't match the book well.

I'm pretty dazzled by Kevin Brown's cover for THE DEVIL'S PITCHFORK. He'll be doing the cover for the next novel, THE SERPENT'S KISS and I'm excited to see what he comes up with. Midnight Ink likes to assign cover artists to writers so all the books have some sort of visual link in a series, so if Kevin hangs in there, all the books covers will be his.

I really didn't plan to talk about cover art. I wanted to talk just a bit about communicating with editors. I say this because yesterday I seemed to be having a hard time pleasing some of them, and I wanted to scream, "You contacted ME, remember? I didn't pitch this stupid assignment to YOU! YOU contacted me with your undies in a bunch and gave me a 2-day deadline for this piece of CRAP!"

Of course, I didn't say that. Instead, I e-mailed back that everything was just fine and I accommodated the hell out every re-write request, even when she would first contact me and tell me how rough it was, then contact me again and tell me, well, now that I've read it all the way through, it's really not that rough, I like how you did this, and...

Editors are people, too. But it's important to keep in your mind several things when dealing with editors of all stripes.

1. This is a business relationship. Communicate as if it were one.
2. In theory, you and editors want the same things. You want the work to go well, smoothly, and accomplish what it was intended to accomplish.
3. Please an editor, they will send you work.
4. Editors have bad days, too.
5. Editors are very busy. Editing is a job that doesn't really involve all that much sitting down and marking up manuscripts. It's a business/production job (and I'm talking about both book and magazine editors), where they shepherd manuscripts through the production process, deliver invoices to the proper people, push your book in front of the sales people and justify YOUR existence to management (which justifies THEIR existence to management). The easier you can make their job, the happier they'll be.
6. Sometimes they're wrong. Don't be accusatory, but if they're wrong about something, you may try to clarify why you think they're wrong. Just be tactful and don't put them on the defensive. Put them on the defensive, they may not remember why, but they'll remember you were a pain in the ass.
7. Sometimes you're wrong. Yeah, it happens. Writers have bad days, too. It's tough to judge your own work. You can proof a piece a dozen times and still miss something.

So, although it might not be okay to say shit, Jesus Christ or I'm fucked to an editor, feel free to say it out loud in your office to yourself. You'll feel better.

Mark Terry


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