Author Topic: copy editor fail  (Read 4226 times)

Listener

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on: March 04, 2014, 05:14:32 PM
As you may or may not know, under a different persona and name I write erotica. I recently received the manuscript of my second novel back from the publisher and it had been supposedly copy-edited.

I just spent six-plus hours going through her (the copy-editor's) changes in Word. I probably kept 30% of them. The rest were:

* removal of all Oxford commas and all commas before "and"
* addition of commas before every conjunction except "and", even where not necessary
* adding spaces before and after each ellipsis and em-dash, even when they ended dialogue (so they didn't run directly into a quotation mark, such as --" or ...")
* setting off every possible parenthetical phrase with commas, even when not appropriate
* adding actual parentheses in the text
* adding spaces between compound words that don't need spaces between them, and removing every single one of my dash-concatenated compound adjectives
* moving commas, ellipses, and em-dashes all over the place in dialogue -- when they were clearly there so that, when read aloud, the dialogue would sound more like a person actually speaking it
* obliterating intentional use of repetition and intentional misuse of comma list rules for dramatic purposes (she did x and y and z and a, but still his b was doing c)
* having absolutely no knowledge of how to recognize and edit for properly-used parallel structure

In her defense, she did pick out a couple of places where I needed to be more precise or improve the flow, and she did make some changes that improved the writing. But on the whole I rejected the majority of her changes. The same thing happened with my previous novel, and that time around I actually noted why I rejected them. This time I just rejected, accepted, or edited.

So my question is this: how do you tell your publisher that her chosen copy editor sucks?

I'm not perfect. I know this. I would never presume to say that I am the best copy editor on the planet, or that I can publish something with no revisions, or that everything I do is grammatically-perfect. However, I would say that of all the things she marked as possible errors, when you remove all the unnecessarily-added spacing issues, only 10% needed to be changed, and I accepted another 25% as "okay, fine, I'll just accept these because they're not a big deal and they don't change the book one way or the other."

But I have another publication (a novelette) with them, and if this editor destroyed a book that takes place in Florida in 2008, what's she going to do to a novelette that takes place in a fantasy world?

(Apparently this editor has worked on multiple NYT bestsellers, though since I only have her first name, I don't know how to verify that.)

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matweller

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Reply #1 on: March 04, 2014, 05:41:03 PM
Is this a self pub place, I assume? Do they not have a way for you to give feedback about an editor? One way or another, you need to tell them so this editor can learn or be requested to seek a new vocation.



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Reply #2 on: March 05, 2014, 01:03:30 PM
Is this a self pub place, I assume? Do they not have a way for you to give feedback about an editor? One way or another, you need to tell them so this editor can learn or be requested to seek a new vocation.


This is not self-published, no. I submitted it to a well-established e-publishing house on the recommendation of a friend of mine who has had success publishing multiple novels with them. They've been great to work with, with this one exception and also how slow they are in responding to my e-mails.

I'm actually going to meet one of their editors (not copy-editor, editor-editor) at Frolicon in April. Maybe I can ask him, face-to-face, and sound him out about the copy-editor and what he thinks I should say (if anything) to the publisher.

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matweller

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Reply #3 on: March 05, 2014, 02:30:47 PM
Why wait? Some of those issues come down to personal preference, and actually if you looked them up in a style manual, the editor would be right. But some of them are flat wrong in a way that shouldn't be allowed to happen to anybody else if it's avoidable. I don't think you have to bring the issue to trial or anything, just shoot them an email saying, "here are some issues I'm having with your copy editor, what can we do to resolve them?"

A lot (if not most) of those joints contract that work out and they would really like to know if there are issues so they can make sure everybody's on the same page.
« Last Edit: March 05, 2014, 03:57:07 PM by matweller »



DKT

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Reply #4 on: March 05, 2014, 03:02:49 PM
Hmmmm. I don't know. Something you need to keep in mind is that different publishing houses/magazines have preferred style guides, and their copy editors go off those.

How well do you know the editors?

It's pretty common for authors to get all kinds of corrections they do or do not agree with (and my understanding is you don't have to agree to all of them). Scalzi has a write-up of one of his books being copy edited. Somewhere (can't find the link now), Elizabeth Bear talks about nearly every single page of her manuscript being marked up in the copy edit pass. I also understand it's pretty standard for authors to feel a bit frustrated by all the mark-ups, especially the ones they aren't keeping. I think this is all business as usual.

When you say "this editor" has worked on NYT bestsellers, or has destroyed your book, we're talking about the copy editor, right? Also, how did she destroy your book? It was just grammatical correction suggestions, right?

If you're really good friends with the editor who accepted your book, then sure, bring it up. Otherwise, if you get to decide what copy edits you accept and what you don't, I'd just go the standard route. Maybe instead of trying to figure out how to tell them "Your copy editor sucks," you need to try and figure out "How does your copy editor make the decisions she makes?"


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Reply #5 on: March 05, 2014, 07:18:30 PM
A lot (if not most) of those joints contract that work out and they would really like to know if there are issues so they can make sure everybody's on the same page.

This person is definitely a contractor.

It's pretty common for authors to get all kinds of corrections they do or do not agree with (and my understanding is you don't have to agree to all of them). Scalzi has a write-up of one of his books being copy edited. Somewhere (can't find the link now), Elizabeth Bear talks about nearly every single page of her manuscript being marked up in the copy edit pass. I also understand it's pretty standard for authors to feel a bit frustrated by all the mark-ups, especially the ones they aren't keeping. I think this is all business as usual.

I'm totally on board with editor markup. Believe me I am. I welcome critique and criticism. But a lot of this was just wrong, from a grammatical POV.

When you say "this editor" has worked on NYT bestsellers, or has destroyed your book, we're talking about the copy editor, right? Also, how did she destroy your book? It was just grammatical correction suggestions, right?

The copy editor, yes. The publisher is perfectly fine. And when I say "destroy", what I mean is: I use grammar, style, and writing techniques in unconventional ways -- a lot of repetition, parallel structure, parentheticals within parentheticals, intentional sentence fragments... all of it is deliberate, to create a mood and "force" the reader to read the way I want her to. All of that hard work was basically wallpapered over with "correct" grammar.

If you're really good friends with the editor who accepted your book, then sure, bring it up. Otherwise, if you get to decide what copy edits you accept and what you don't, I'd just go the standard route. Maybe instead of trying to figure out how to tell them "Your copy editor sucks," you need to try and figure out "How does your copy editor make the decisions she makes?"

My standard route is to accept/reject changes and send a new copy back. I'm waiting to hear what the publisher says now, but she wants to put the book out on 3/15 so there isn't much time. I'm guessing the next time she'll reply is when the cover art comes back, because she always sends that to make sure there isn't anything that stands out as 'wrong' on it.

I will be speaking to one of the other editors in this publishing group in April -- he's the editor for my friend's novels, whereas my book editor is the publisher herself -- to see what he has to say before I approach the publisher. FWIW, my friend said that she's never had problems quite to this extent with her editor (who does his own copy-editing on the books he's in charge of). Hopefully he can help me to understand a little better.

All this aside, I will continue to submit work to this publisher, because they do put out a good product and their pay rates are fair (and they actually do pay on time). This is an annoyance, but one that I can deal with. I just don't want to have to deal with it, and I'm not changing my writing style just so I don't grump about the copy-editing. To me, style is very important -- the way something is written can have a tremendous impact on the material.

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Listener

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Reply #6 on: March 11, 2014, 12:31:33 PM
Update: the book came out on Saturday, and all of my changes in the copy-edited ms were accepted without discussion/revision. I'm skimming through one chapter a night and so far the punctuation and other issues are all the way I want them to look. Still going to talk to the associate editor at Frolicon, but at least now I know that if I take a stand the publisher won't throw a fit.

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