Stormbreaker author Anthony Horowitz writes an interesting article in today's Guardian newspaper about the changing role of traditional book publishers:

Now I've never had a publisher (my only book's on Kindle) but what he says about support and advice does ring a bell. For a few years I had a very supportive literary agent who helped me through several drafts and even paid people to read and critique my book in order to shape and refine it. If having a publisher is like that but more so, it sounds like a great thing to have.

I also chuckled my way through his dissection of the ebook. I reckon I read about 20 Kindle samples for every book I actually buy and many of them start as badly as the one he chooses to pick on.

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I had a very good editor and a good copy editor from my British publisher.  I can't say the same for their American equivalents.  As it is, I can do a reasonable job myself by now.  The quoted paragraph looks too long to me. And yes, it plods.  And some of the detail could be fed in separately if it's relevant.  I don't like those long paragraphs of detailed description that some authors add every time a new character walks on.  But publisher-pubbed authors use them all the time.  Not all publisher-pubbed books are as well-written as the example he gives.  Some even contain gross grammar mistakes.


As for the future:  publishers will continue for the time being.  The big houses will publish the best-selling authors, and the small ones will publish whatever the libraries will buy from them.  The rest of us will go digital.

I think what happens next for book publishers has a lot to do with how quickly they get their heads out of their asses and do something about their business model and how they treat their suppliers. They used to have a monopoly on what got published. Not any more.

Well said, Dana.

Thing is, I read that paragraph and was thinking, "Is this more awful than something you could pick up at the bookstore?  He mentioned Dan Brown, I thought of Waller and a lot of Brits crime stories I've seen.

I have no doubt most editors are conscientiously trying to improve their authors' work, within the constraints they have to work in. Most publishers--especially those now owned by larger entities--are interested in what sells. Period. let's not kid ourselves with talk of how they are the gatekeepers needed to ensure quality. Beyond the vetting of some basic grammar and Freshman English storytelling skills, the quality of the writing doesn't enter into it with them.

And if they do try to improve the quality of the writing, they are essentially doing the writing instead of you, right?   Rewritten by somebody who's not an author, but an employee?  

I agree Dana.  And I'd add that I think writers are also conscientiously working to improve their work.  

Well, most anyway.  I'm sure everybody has seem some messes from both "indie" and "outdie" writers

To clarify - when I said I discarded 20 ebooks for every one I bought, I wasn't picking on ebook only titles. I just meant what Cammy May pointed out – that there's a lot of badly-written books out there. I started reading one the other day (crime fiction, published by Hodder) where the whole first page was describing what the first two characters were wearing. I mean, that's not going to get me reading any further, is it?

I suspect that Dana's right when she says that publishers are filtering for stuff that sells. If that really is all that they're adding then ebooks have turned that race on its head, haven't they?

I wouldn't agree with this entirely, Dana. I think commercial viability can override concern for the quality of the writing. (How else to explain The Da Vinci Code? The Meyers stuff?) But editors are book lovers too and have to make yea or nay decisions every day so the quality of the writing comes into play in making those decisions.

For example, a few months back on my Crimespace blog I posted all the feedback from the editors who'd passed on a cowritten crime thriller of mine, and the quality of the writing is mentioned in one way or another in a majority of the responses:


I think the post you link to proves my point. The editors like the writing. They're less enamored of what they perceive the sales potential to be, so they passed. 

I'm not blaming editors for this; I'm tasking bean counters. There are a lot more of them since publishing houses no longer exist to publish books, but to provide profits for a parent entity.

I always loved that Orwell quote. 

As a lot of mainstream publishing houses are downsizing by clearing out their editing teams etc, I've noticed that since my last book, freelance editing charges had DOUBLED!  It leaves me to wonder whether editors are worthwhile to the cause nowadays with the ebook revolution.  I've read a number of books by independent authors where they have stated and thanked an editor for working on their books yet I spotted a lot of basic editing mistakes in these books.  Have the standards dropped?


One best selling author recently said in a magazine interview that he does not use editors for his books because how many editors had actually written a published novel themselves?  He had a very valid point and felt that his level of english was good enough to go it alone! 


I had my first two books professionally edited but as the charges are so much higher now, I'm going to edit to the best of my ability for my new book which will be released as an ebook only.  The main expense to be on the book's cover to keep my overall costs down.


That makes a lot of sense, Mark.

If they're laying off editors, wouldn't competition and desperation drive the price of editing down?

Just kidding, a bit...I hate seeing editors getting the axe.  But still...

Well, there's a difference between an editor and a copy editor, which one are you guys talking about?

And I just want to say I really appreciate the input from my editor (who has written a number of books himself, though mostly non-fiction about professional wrestling) and the work of the copy editor. And I have a new book coming out tomorrow... (is this too many threads Cammy?)



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