Friday, February 22, 2008

Artistic Vision? What?--Pepper

I cannot wait until the end of April. I've been maintaining radio silence for the past few weeks because I am overwhelmed with work, and when I'm not working, I'm overwhelmed with being overwhelmed. The thought of collecting some thoughts and actually blogging is enough to make me cry with frustration, so I spent two weeks trying to avoid blogs altogether (though Vivien won't let me completely ignore our blog).

But an issue presented itself today, and I have thoughts. Vivien recently sold a novella to Big Time Publisher. This is her first sale there, and I don't have anything with this publisher. She received her edits today, and now I'm wondering if I even want to submit to Big Time Publisher. I think one of their requests was unreasonable to the point of being insane.

I hate this issue. I don't want to be one of those people who take offense to editors because they're destroying my vision. Mostly my vision consists of hot sex, I won't deny it. But I try to keep my hot sex within certain boundaries of stories and style, and most importantly, I want it to make sense. Sometimes that means my characters won't have sex for a long time, until the time is right. All I ask from an Editor is to respect that. I want my characters to behave consistently within their world and within their relationship--context matters.

But the request Vivien received disregards characterization, it disregards context, it disregards the logic of the universe. And that really makes me uncomfortable. It makes me wonder if it's just a minor compromise and if we want the sales/recognition, we bite the bullet and deal with it. Or is this something that's worth standing my ground on, and dealing with the consequences--which are, at this point, simply never having any sort of publishing relationship with this particular publisher.

Anybody ever face a similar dilemma? Any thoughts?


veinglory said...

Sometimes I have accepted an editor's judgment over my own--other times I have stood my ground. I guess it would come down to how much I respected the editor, how dogmatic they were likely to be, and how bad I wanted that house to publish me :)

CJ England said...

I always try to look at each edit objectively, something hard for a lot of authors, myself included, to do. If I think it helps the story, I'll go for it. If not, I'll reject their suggestion.

Not knowing exactly what they are asking from her makes it difficult to answer fully, but one thing I believe is that the story belongs to her and the editor / house should respect that.

If major changes are required such as you're mentioning, this should be requested BEFORE the author signs, so they can make a decision based on that fact. Otherwise the house is shanghaiing the authors work and that's just wrong.

Any author in this position, who gets blindsided by an edit that seems outrageous has to decide just how far they want to push it. I've gone all the way to arbitration and won as well as lost, but I guarantee the house that did it is no longer one I submit to, no matter how big they are.

CJ England

Anonymous said...

What you've described is actually typical. Ask any Harlequin author. Heck, after signing a contract, they make you change everything from the title of the book to the names of all the characters, then make you incorporate major plot changes, dump characters, create new ones, etc. several times until they deem it appropriate. The notion of actually signing a contract prior to being notified of any changes to be made is, frankly, unrealistic.

Angelia Sparrow said...

If the edit truly reveals a lack of understanding of the story, talk to the editor first.

Explain why the scene is as it is, how it ties in to the rest of the story and ask why they think it needs changing. explain how the changes would affect the rest of the story.

Unless the request is just so far out of line (Have him fall in love with person B, when he's clearly devoted to person A) that it will destroy the work, there should be room for negotiation.

I got Ellora's Cave to allow me a colon. Huge victory, but there literally was no other way to correctly punctuate the sentence.

Vivien Dean said...

Unfortunately, it has nothing to do with my editor's opinion. The issue at hand is apparently a publishing house standard that they won't budge on. Regardless of the context of the story, I have to find a way to stick to it. As the story currently stands, it makes zero logical sense for me to incorporate, so I have to adjust some of the story in order to shoehorn it in.

This is the first time I've ever encountered this, to be honest. Every time I couldn't find a way to make something make logical sense within the story, I always had a long discussion with my editor that usually meant some sort of compromise. I haven't had a publishing house tell me yet, "No, you have to do XYZ because we say so," even if it doesn't fit the logic of the story.

I know I have to find a way to make it work. This is the way they operate. But I'll be honest and say I'm with Pepper here. Based on this incident, and this ignoring of logic/context/world-building in order to satisfy a publishing house mandate, I'm going to seriously question submitting there again.

Angelia Sparrow said...

When they are demanding pink pachyderms in a world that has no elephantsbacause all their stories must have pink elephants, it's time to look for a different house.

Anonymous said...

That's tough, Vivien. I feel for you, since you're between a rock and a hard place. I wish you good luck as you try to work in the "logic" to make it happen. I'm glad you stuck to your guns, though, and attempted to reason with them. It's one thing for an author to fight to keep their head-hopping POV shifts or their passive sentences or their screwed-up punctuation when they think their words are golden and their style goes against house standards (or English language standards for that matter...LOL), but this sounds like it was definitely worth the fight. Anyway, you are not alone. When it was released, my first NY book was hardly recognizable from its original draft since so much of the plot and the subplots had been changed or removed entirely, so I completely empathize with you. Hang in there!!!

Anonymous said...

Nice blog. Very good work.