I used to assume editors worked long and hard to help an author shape and mold a raw manuscript into publishable form. But as I read more books I'm beginning to wonder if most editors now are more like packagers and marketers. I'm always running across books from major houses with noticable errors in them--factual ones usually. And some with too much turgid writing and filler material. Contrast Flesh and Blood by Jefferson Bass, which I think needed to be edited down to a more focused story, with Michael Connolly's Echo Park, an easy, focused read.

Well, so much for my two cents worth. Having given this hornet's nest a swat, I'm heading for cover.

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The big NY houses don't accept unagented submissions. An agent worth his/her salt isn't going to look past the first few pages of a "raw" manuscript.

Do the math.

If you can't self-edit, or if you're unable or not willing to pay for editing before you submit, if you don't have a solid critique partner/group to give you straight-up honest advice for revision, then you're SOL. Game over. Do not pass GO, do not collect an agent, much less a book contract.

Even if you manage to present a near-perfect manuscript, it's still damn tough. The market is incredibly competitive, editors are taxed with too many titles/year, and the midlist is gasping and wheezing.

Do editors still edit? Sure. But it's not like it was twenty years ago. For a chance at The Bigs, or even a reputable small press, a writer should make sure his/her manuscript is in the best shape possible before it ever leaves the hard drive.

In short, nobody's going to hold your hand these days. There are too many polished manuscripts out there for an editor to waste much time on one that's not.
I essentially agree with you, George, no need to hide from me.

There are some excellent books in the genre being published nowadays, but there are also plenty of dogs. I suppose that the mediocre to worse books get published because of luck factors--say, for example, the subject matter gets to be considered hot at the time of submission, or say you're Pamela Anderson to begin with--or because the author had previously written better books. It can't be easy to churn out a novel a year and maintain standards year in and year out, but that's the pressure on today's writers, which wasn't the case back in the good old days, whenever that was, exactly.

As for the editorial input, that's an old topic going back at least 30 years. I think there's a fair amount of agreement that editors don't put the time into editing the way they once did; they spend time doing too many other things. (Yet for some writers today, including myself, agents take up some of the editorial slack prior to submission.)

Also note that in comparison to classic mystery and suspense novels from the early to mid 20th century--which often barely broke 200 pages in length, 300 pages being considered fat--today's novels are super-sized, and that includes books from Connolly, who is nonetheless one of the tighter writers around today, IMO. And yes, I blame this trend on McDonald's and Walmart and the like, who have trained the American consumer to value quantity over quality, :)

So there it is in a nutshell: authors now have to write fatter books more quickly than ever before and get less editorial support in the old sense of the term, and if you have celebrity or any other kind of platform then you're more likely than ever to be published, regardless of writing quality, now that Hollywood attitudes have invaded Manhattan.
it depends on so many things.

the house
the editor
the status of the writer within the house -- often a writer the house doesn't even know exists will get very little editing. a huge writer could also get very little editing because nobody wants to piss her/him off.

when my house last downsized, i was told that anything beyond a glancing edit would have to be done outside the house with my own dollar. this was something new passed down from above. it was decided it wasn't financially viable for editors to spend very much time editing.

i really sympathize with editors, and can't imagine how overworked they must be. and i imagine they are as frustrated as everybody else, plus afraid for their jobs. as far as marketing -- i've heard books called products and readers called consumers. pretty sad, but maybe to call them books and readers is just romanticizing the industry.
My first books with St. Martin's Press were not edited. They were packaged. I was distressed. My agent said it was a compliment.
I now get some editing, but I agree with whoever said that you are on your own. I make sure that my book is in the best shape it can be. I have readers and I revise many times. Even so, I hope that every future book will at least get one more final revision by me before it sees the light of day. My writing has changed over the years.

All of my books have been copy-edited. Note that this is a different process from editing, one that focuses on matters of grammar, spelling, punctuation, capitalization, and format. I'm frequently startled to see serious grammar errors (like a confusion between the tense forms of lie and lay) persist in books by best-selling authors. I always wonder if it was a matter of not paying for a copy-editor (unlikely), or the copy-editor being too timid to insult the famous author, or the ignorant, but arrogant author overruling the copy-editor's corrections.
In any case, it's a turn-off.
Have the same problem with capitalizing. In addition, the matter of compounds (with or without hyphen) is in a state of confusion that doesn't seem to be subject to any logical rule. :)


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