Today we have a special treat–a glimpse at the world from an editor's point of view. Editor Mason Lavin has kindly shared with us some tips on making it over the transom and how to not be daunted.
I’m Mason Lavin, and I’m an editor for erotica e-book press Breathless Press. I’m a content editor. I’m currently editing Hot Shots Volume III, an anthology for BP. I’ve been an editor for over two years. In terms of other experience, I have a Ph.D. in English literature. I’m also an avid reader.
Now, this is my first guest blog, so here goes. I’m going to talk about how to work with editors both in submitting your work and in publication.
Submitting your Work;
First—and this is important—rejections (and acceptances) are NOT personal. I don’t know most of the authors that send me their work. I do my best to read a piece, evaluate whether it fits the need of the house (more on that in a minute) and then send an appropriate acceptance or rejection letter. I reject well over 50% of what I get, sometimes as much as 95%.
First and foremost: it’s been said before, but I’ll say it again: FOLLOW SUBMISSION GUIDELINES. If your story doesn’t fit what I need—for example, Hot Shots, the anthology that I’m editing right now, requires m/f (as opposed to m/m or f/f/) and a heat rating of at least 3 (on a 1 to 4 scale). If a submission is a sweet romance (heat rating 1), no matter how lovely, I won’t accept it. If a submission is m/m, I won’t accept it. If a submission is longer than 10,000 words (we’re looking for shorter pieces), I won’t accept it. There are other places at BP for those stories, but not in the current anthology.
Second: DO NOT LIE on your “about me/bio” paragraph or in your list of publications. I have had authors do so. They were probably surprised that I bothered to check, but I have. When I see that the “publications” are things you’ve posted on your own blog, that makes me wary of working with you. Directing me to pieces you’ve written and posted on your blog is fine, but suggesting that you’ve been published (i.e. paid in some capacity for your work) when you haven’t is a problem.
Third: If I say no—whether I give a reason or not, and, especially, whether you agree with me or not—do NOT argue with me (or any editor). DO NOT reply with an explanation of why I’m wrong, why so many people love your work, how many other publications you have, your experience writing, or anything else. I will not, ever, suddenly go “Oh, this person said his work is great, so I must be mistaken!”
I say this because I have had authors argue with me (via email, thankfully nothing in person, yet), “yell” at me, and say nasty things like “be a man,” “get out of your parents [sic] basement,” and “your [sic] a hack.” This did not help them get published. In fact, I doubt BP will ever publish anything by the authors of those quotes again. The hostile replies led me to check into this person’s bio, whereupon I found out that they had about 3 publications, not hundreds because they’d had about 3 pieces published in several places. This, of course, led me to question the veracity of their other claims of industry experience.
Breathless Press is a small house, and we try to be very friendly. We’re encouraged to give feedback to authors when we reject a submission. When I get really hostile response to this feedback, it makes me less likely to give such feedback ever again—especially if the piece was very clearly a “no.”
That said, if I take the time to give feedback, please listen to it. And please remember that if I give a lot of feedback, it is because I see a lot of potential. It’s a cliché of the industry to say that a rejection with feedback is a great rejection and it means you’re close, but it is true. I’ve even had email conversations with a couple of authors I’ve rejected because I saw so much potential, but the authors weren’t quite there yet.
Working with an Editor for Publication
So, you polish your query letter, edit your manuscript, submit it, and then—woohoo!—it gets picked up for publication! Hooray! You’re done! NO. Now you will be working with an editor on your piece. (Seriously, if there is no editorial process, if they just take your story or novel and throw it up on a website with no editing, you need to think about the choice of house).
A note about the editorial process. After a work has been accepted at BP, and I’ve become the editor, I send the author a list of things she needs to do with her manuscript. This includes formatting the document in basic house style. After that, we begin content editing. Our house uses MS Word and Track Changes and Comments. I will make changes and/or highlight passages and give comments on where I see a need for revision. These comments will cover everything from basic grammar to large narrative/character/pov issues. I often also include an editorial letter when I give global comments—overarching issues I see. These letters explain where I think the revision needs to go. I also often include the positives I see in the piece. We usually do three content edits. Sometimes more (especially if something is 50,000 words or more). Sometimes fewer edits are necessary, especially if the piece is very solid to begin with or very short. After I’m done content editing, the piece goes to the Line Editor and finally the Proofreader. Then, once the piece is complete, we create blurbs, choose excerpts, and the author submits a bio. I then turn in everything to the publisher.
First: The editorial process is collaborative. I don’t tell my authors what to write. I want to help them make their piece the best it can be. So when I make suggestions, I make them with the attitude that, if the author isn’t sure about a change, he or she can talk to me about it. (Usually this “talking” comes in the form of comment exchanges within the document or via email. I’ve yet to meet one of my authors in person.) Often, I want something changed because there is a problem I’m seeing: a pov switch, a confusing action/sex scene, unclear motivation for characters, inauthentic voice, etc. When an author says “I really like this moment and here is why,” then I can say “OH!” and we can work to make their goals more clear.
Do NOT do the following:
Read my edits and then delete all of them, sending back a “the story was fine as it was, so I ignored all your comments and changes and deleted them. Except for a few grammar things.” This happened. The author’s contract was revoked. If you don’t want to work with an editor, do not submit for publication.
Tell me “just write whatever you want…” I have seen this in two forms. The first is when the author is lazy and doesn’t want to put in the work. This is your piece and your voice. If you want me to write it, then you want me to get all your royalties, too, and just go ahead and put my name on the cover under “author.” Your writing wasn’t done when the piece was accepted!
The other time I’ve seen “write whatever you want” is when the author is being passive-aggressive: “I don’t want to change it, so I’ll just have the editor do it.” This doesn’t help either. If you are passionate about changing or not changing something, we can discuss it. A majority of the time an author has said “I don’t want to change this because…” I’ve said “okay,” or at least “okay, but here is the problem that needs to be addressed. How can we address it?”
Some things to do:
Do email me with questions! Do add your comments to my edits! Do interact with me and tell me your goals for the piece—especially if you think mine are different! Do remember that it is your piece and your choices in the end!
And Do trust your editor. At least give him or her the benefit of the doubt in the beginning.
The truth is that most editors (all that I know) edit because they enjoy it. I love working with authors to make their pieces the best they can be. There’s nothing so great as seeing a project I’ve worked on come together in a lovely way. My goal is to help authors write great pieces so they can be proud of them and, yes, make a little cash, too.
I encourage folks interested in writing or reading erotica to check out Breathless Press: www.breathlesspress.com. Some authors I’ve recently worked with include DC Juris, Doris O’Connor, and Sable Grey. I encourage you to check out their works! They’re hot!
Check out our submission guidelines. Hot Shots is open until May 31. I’m also happy to answer questions in the comments.