Tuesday, April 21, 2015
Club Orlov Press: Editing and Review Process
When you agree to work with Club Orlov Press, and to use the site and the name as a platform for your book, you're also agreeing to follow our editing and review process. As stated in the initial announcement, "...it's in my interests—and yours—that your ideas find their way to the printed page as clearly, concisely and unassailably as possible." How does this happen?
1. Read, and check, every line and every word, making sure that all is being communicated as well as it can be.
2. Note where things might better be explained, or could be expressed in fewer words, and, sometimes, suggest a solution.
3. Check your facts. You need to understand why and how we do this, and why it's good for you.
These steps happen concurrently; the actual process works something like this:
In first-pass editing, we focus on spelling, grammar, usage, and the like. Please run spell-check before you submit your manuscript, making sure not to just accept every suggestion. (Please turn off the grammar checker; it's generally useless, sometimes worse than useless.)
When we find an error that's fairly clear-cut—minor typo, misplaced comma, spacing issue, etc.— we'll make that change, and you will see it using the "Track Changes" function in Microsoft Word or the “Changes->Accept of Reject” function in Libre Office (which is excellent and free).
If it's more ambiguous or more serious—improper word usage, odd grammar, or any fix beyond something purely mechanical—we'll flag it with a comment in the document. Depending on the issue, we may or may not suggest a fix; if the meaning is unclear, or if a passage might be interpreted in two different ways, we'll leave it to you as to what you're trying to convey.
If a section gets a bit wordy (unneeded repetition, taking too long to set up a point), we'll tell you, and may suggest a fix. Alternatively, if something isn't explained quite well enough (that is, an important thread is picked up but abandoned too quickly), we'll add a comment asking for a longer rewrite.
What we won't do is rewrite your work to make it sound like one of us wrote it. This means that when we make suggestions, that's all we are dong—but we'll work with you to resolve the issue. You may find that your work is marked up more than you expect, even if you've worked with professional editors before. If this sounds like it might be damaging to your fragile ego, or if you feel that your words were revealed unto you by the spirits and thus shouldn't be changed by mere mortals, well... this may not be the place for you to publish your book. We respect your work; in return, you must respect our process. If you don't feel like this would work for you, then best of luck in finding a publisher.
After first-pass review we send the manuscript back to you, at which point you should read through it again using "Final Show Markup," accept or reject (with comments) the changes we've made, address the comments or changes that we've suggested, and then send it back to us. Key point regarding changes: they aren't optional, and you don't get to pick and choose the changes you want. If you feel that an edit we made or suggested was wrong, you must tell us. Should a word or a passage remain as is? Was a change we made, or a suggestion, just bad? Fine; tell us how you think it should be, and we'll work it out. A book is by necessity a collaborative endeavor, and we're far from infallible. On the other hand, once the manuscript has been submitted to us and accepted for publication, you can no longer revise it or expand it unless specifically asked to do so by us; nor can you throw up your hands and walk away. The commitment is two-way.
Next is second-pass review. Typically there are enough changes from the first round that, after you've taken a look and sent the document back to us, we'll take another full pass through the manuscript, making sure that all corrections have been made, that any new or substantially changed passages work in terms of both content and context, and that the whole thing still hangs together properly. If there are still more corrections to be made—something we missed in the first round, or new questions raised by an author's rewrite—then we'll take yet another look, but with any luck the third pass is fairly quick.
When is it done? When we all sign off on it and declare it done; neither the editors nor you gets to make a change that the other doesn't see and sign off on. It's not unusual for a manuscript to get to the “final” stage, then move right along to the “final-final” stage, and then eventually make it to the “final-final-final” stage before being declared fit to print.
For any fact you cite—a statistic, a date, a quote, even something which is “common knowledge”—please be ready to explain where you got it. You can do this inline by inserting a comment, or at the end in a footnote—it doesn't matter, as long as you do it. Saw it on a blog? Overheard it in a public restroom? Know someone who swears by it? Great! Tell us who said it where, and what's their basis of knowledge? Does any other reliable, verifiable source say the same thing?
We have to be rather strict with facts in order to not look stupid and incompetent, because that would reflect badly on other authors we publish. If we publish a book that references Humphrey Bogart saying “Play it again, Sam!” or mass suicide by lemmings, or Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong—all “common knowledge”, right?—we'll all end up looking dumb, because they're all inaccurate. If you're prone to quibbling about any of the above, or feel that they're “truthy” enough to print, please tell us—it might save us all some time, because we won't print anything that makes us look dumb, even if you're not concerned about that for your own sake.
So, be prepared to back up your facts. This doesn't just mean finding the one blog where you read it. This means finding more than one reliably unbiased source that says the same thing—not just two Web sites that cite the same study. With some things, statistics in particular, the arguments that can be plausibly made may be somewhat different depending on one's point of view; sometimes, smart, reasonable people can come to diametrically opposed and yet equally valid conclusions using the same information. Is this the case with something you cite? Do smart, reasonable people debate about it? If they do, make yourself aware of what they say. Most likely you can still make the point you originally wanted to make, but, armed with additional knowledge, you may find that you need to write something a little differently. If, on the other hand, it's a matter that's greatly in dispute, then you may need to rethink the genre of your work. We do not dismiss proposals to publish works of fiction out of hand, but the bar is set very high for them.
Q: How long does this all take?
A: Depends on how long the book is, how much work it needs, and what's going on in all of our respective lives. If it needs minimal work and all of our schedules are clicking, it could take as little as a few weeks.
Q: My work has already been edited (by me, or by someone else) and I don't want anyone changing it. Won't you just take the manuscript and publish it? Isn't that easier for everyone?
A: No. Sure, lots of people self-publish books that way—and you're free to do so, but anyone who is handed the microphone at Club Orlov needs to meet our editorial standards. If the editing was done professionally, that should save us some time. Editors who are professional in their attitude and not just their job title understand that different publishers have different styles and different standards—not necessarily higher or lower, just different.
By the way, no one really edits their own work; like plastic surgery or embalming, it's best and most typically done for you, not by you.
Q: This sounds like a lot of work. Is all this really necessary?
A: It is, and it is. The wonders of electronic communication have lulled us into thinking that getting your ideas out can be a solo project—and it definitely can be. But, based on our experience, if the goal is to make something with a bit more permanence, the path is a bit longer, and involves the skills and opinions of other people. We don’t see this is a negative; quite the opposite, we find that it makes the work better, and the authors read by more people, and happier.