Monday, 5 August 2013

Visionary Publishing

I am currently preoccupied with two exciting editing tasks:

  1.       Having completed nine tenths of my Very Different New Novel  I have gone right back to the beginning to tackle the super-edit of all time before I flourish with confidence, knowledge and insight on that vital last section.
  2.        I am re-editing an earlier novel - already popular on Kindle -to publish it in hard copy and to publish the revised edition again on Kindle.

This has made me think anew about the nature of publishing.
My Current Cave

In what now seems like the good old days my books were edited by experienced professional editors, the main one of whom was brilliant, insightful and enabling.  In writing and publishing more than twenty novels, having worked with this great editor and a couple of good ones.  Their informed, functional and ultimately visionary approach to editing has been an education. All of this contributes to my own  present exciting task of last-stage editing.

Nowadays the responsibility for proper last-stage editing for publication is more and more the responsibility of writers themselves. This is very much the case with the varied and very different aspects of self-publishing, including Kindle and other eBook publishing.

One has to admit that one outcome of this is the problem of under-editing that one does witness in eBooks. Although I reflect that in their hurry to sweep through a story very fast this might matter relatively little to modern readers. The jury’s out on that one.

Fundamentally I think there’s been a sea change in the nature of professional editing. One aspect is that modern commercial non-writing editors who – often before the fact of writing -  guide, commission writers to produce what they see is ‘hot’ in the market. This is why we are treated to variations on  Fifty Shades of Vampires, Mutant Teenage Masochists, Uncaged Rampant Soldiers, Uncaged Rampant Housewives.

The outcome of this in the commercial field is a body of competently written, derivative  narratives as consumable, digestible and forgettable as cornflakes and going in the same direction.

Now no wonder the Writers in the Caves are turning with relief to various forms of self-publishing.

The current Business Model that dominates publishing forces even idealistic editors to root around frantically for the Next Big Thing. What seems to escape them all is that the Next Big Thing only becomes visible in retrospect and such a novel will be the outcome of some writer obsessing away in her or his own writer’s cave, producing some idiosyncratic story that will find a very new way to pluck the heart- and mind-strings of dedicated readers.  

It’s ironic that some such books do in the end become commercially successful through being  ‘found’ by commercial publishers, having been market-tested for then in the eBook or self-publishing process. (Less risk for them here, of course.)

 To discover the Next Big Thing good editors and their managers need to value risk-taking. This is so even when serving the Business Model that appears to demand a Sure Thing for its investment.

For them – however idealistic they are - the Writer in the Cave is no Sure Thing investment at first. They need to learn again to take risks to nurture interesting fiction which will still be enjoyed by a very wide readership. They need to have a new vision.

Until then we Writers in Caves need to become better and better end-stage editors of our own work so that when it gets out there into the public domain it’s as good as or better than the commercial competition.    

NEXT POST: Visionary Editing – My Top Tips for First Class Last-Stage Editing.

Not the next Big Thing
but an original novel
bought and borrowed by
many thousands...

From my Writer’s Cave.W


  1. A unique and highly perceptive look at what drives and dominates contemporary publishing - how thankful we must be for our caves, for the empowerment of new options and a new vision. Every writer worth her salt knows there's no sure thing and that the only thing is to write truthfully, to honour her work and make it the very best she can.

    Inspiring Wendy!

  2. Exactly right Wendy - thank god for writers in caves! Look forward to your editing tips - I'm just at that stage myself.



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