How Far Would You Go to Get Published?

- by Karen Sandler

I frequently write a post in answer to YA Highway’s Road Trip Wednesday blog prompt. Recently, the question was asked, How far would you go to get published? They used a graphic that listed four possibilities: (1) Jump on the trend train, (2) Switch to a well-selling genre, (3) Minor revisions suggested to sign with an agent, (4) Major revisions suggested by editor.

In my case, since I’m already published and have been for 13 years, I decided to answer the question How far did you go to get published? After posting my response, I checked out several posts of other respondents (all unpublished, I believe). I was a bit surprised at what I found.

I guess I expected most people to say something along the lines of, “I would be glad to make any changes that improve the book. The editor/agent is a professional in the publishing industry, so she’s in a good position to know what will make my book more marketable.”

But instead many, many people expressed concern about changes being requested that would substantially change their vision of their book. In other words, that was what they zeroed in on–fear of an editor asking them to tear out the parts of a book they really believed in so that the book would essentially become someone else’s creation.

Yes, this can happen (I’ve heard enough published authors bitch about it), but this is very much the exception. If an editor wants to buy your book, she has fallen in love with it. She knows it’s unique to you and she only wants to improve on what you’ve created. As I tweeted on Twitter, “Changes editors request are not intended to suck out your soul, but to improve your ms. Never cast your book in concrete.

I’m here to say that getting every one of my 18 books published has always required moderate to very extensive editor “suggestions.” My editor always put in his or her two cents (and sometimes a whole dollar) before the book was ready to be published. I learned to go with the flow (except for my dirty little secret below) and make those changes that would improve the book.

When I wrote, edited and polished the manuscript for my YA science fiction book Tankborn, I had no expectation that my future agent (I was unrepresented at the time) would consider my book perfect. That of course proved true when I signed with Matt Bialer at SJGA. He wanted some fairly extensive changes, much of it cutting back on the “throat clearing” in the opening chapters.

Matt submitted Tankborn, and Lee and Low bought it for their new Tu Books imprint. I went through three major revisions and ended up with a book I’m thrilled with and proud of. My editor saw potential that I hadn’t realized in the book and she was instrumental in guiding me toward a finished product that is garnering great reviews.

Even still, let me tell you the little secret that I alluded to above about all those revisions. When I receive my agent/editor notes, I don’t bounce around saying, Thank you, thank you, thank you. Well, sometimes I do when they point out something that makes a light bulb come on and I realize, Doh, that’s why that part wasn’t working.

But usually my response is (a) sheer terror that I won’t know how to fix the problem, (b) anger that they have a problem with what I’ve written, or (c) a sense of being totally overwhelmed by the amount of work required to make the change. It’s kind of the stages of grief, I guess. I’ll often let myself wallow in those emotions for a few minutes.

Then I’ll put on my big girl panties and start working.

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