Friday, 23 September 2011


Publishing contracts should come with a health warning. Just like cigarettes there should be a sticker on them somewhere which says something like:


The Rees Coefficient of Editing states that for every hour you spend writing, you'll spend at least six editing.

Now I ain't moaning (I'm just so pleased that I've won the Great Prize in Life, that is getting a contract) but it's something every novice writer should be prepared for. You write your book (and by the time it's finished I bet it's gone thru at least four iterations: edits #1, 2, 3 & 4) and you've had your beta-readers plough thru it (it's a great book but ...) and given their two-pennyworth (which you've dutifully incorporated as edit # 5). Then your agent gives his opinion (which you listen to 'cos he/she will be selling the bloody thing) and so you do another edit (that's # 6). Then a publisher buys the thing and you think ... phew ... great ... that's it ... what am I gonna write next. That's when the publisher comes back and says something like 'great book, but wouldn't it be better if this character was a woman and you brought this chapter to the beginning and what do you think about flashbacks and could we crop it by 20,000 words and, by the way, how to you feel about a new title ...'

That's edits # 7, 8 & 9. And they're BIG edits, BIG time-consuming edits, edits you take MONTHS over. But you do them and then the book goes off and you think ... phew ... great ... what am I gonna write next. And that's when you get the copy edit where the publisher lets the Copy Proof editor (whose sole purpose in life is to protect the English language from philistines like you) have a go at your book and he corrects the grammar/spelling/impression you had that you were literate, covering your opus in Rain Forest destroying quantities of red ink in the process. That's edit # 10.

But it ain't over. Once this is done it goes off to be typeset, which is the process that takes your gibberish and making it look like a book. And you've got to edit that - CAREFULLY - 'cos this is absolutely the last chance you'll have to make sure that you haven't done something stupid (and you have, betcha money on it!), so that's edit # 11.

But you do that and then you think, phew ...great ... what am I gonna write next. And then your agent phones and says 'Great news, the book's sold to the Americans'. And you think 'WOW' and then you get an e-mail from New York which starts 'great book but ...'


  1. Eeeek...Most writers just strive to reach the part where you get an agent. Not many consider the work they have to put in afterwards...

  2. This is why there are so many self-published titles available on Kindle and the like. Sure a lot of them are typo-filled crud, but from the chaos some beauty has arisen and quite a few of these self-published ebooks (I'm talking SF in particular) are quite well received. It's just easier.