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May 22, 2006

On editors, below. But first:

This weekend, I was met with a brutal reality. I don't have a good space for ink work. I have to use either a soft card table using something solid as a back, or risk ruining my nice dinner table. In other words, I don't have a designated space for art, like I do for writing.

For a long time, I've been wanting to try ink on a solid surface. Well, last week I told you about the canvas panels I would try on. I will not try it again until I finally learn to get keep hand away from wet surfaces. That's how I learned this brutal reality.

The panels take several days to dry, unlike the forms of paper I've been using that dry in a matter of minutes. I also tried a medium canvas, but it pooled, took hours to dry, and left streaks. So, I'll be picking up a watercolor canvas tomorrow and trying that.

Don't get me wrong, I'd prefer the canvas panels because the ink smooths out on its own. Once it dries, I'd use a fixative to protect it. The problem is that the five days it takes to dry actually increase the chance of smudging. So, that's something I may try occassionally with less detailed projects.

It's not a bad idea, except that I can push out a 4x6 piece in an hour, and an 8x10 in two and a half. I have a 14x14 that took three hours and a 16x20 that I've worked on a few minutes a day. I think it'll take five man-hours.

Now, these are all black and white non-objectives, mind you. Stipplings take days, at best. A Chiaroscuro can take me two hours. If you read my last blog, you know how eternal writing can be in comparison. I ended that blog with the editor's draft for a reason.

Editors are called editors because they edit. That's a "duh" statement, but many people don't make the connection. They think an editor reads it and prints it as is if they like it. If they don't like any part of it, they send a form rejection letter.


Editors have the legal right to tell you what to change before they will print it, but you, yourself, must make the actual editing change. Editors do not have the legal right to change your work. Your work is protected by copyright law the moment it is finished (as of January 1, 1992) unless you sign away that right. That's the catch: Some editors will actually trick you by including a clause in the written contract that gives them editing rights. They'll make changes, sometimes a few words to make it more entrancing, sometimes they'll mess with your ending. Yes, this does happen.

So, if your contract includes a publisher-editing clause, can you get out of it? No. Once you put your name on that contract, it is legally binding and there's no getting away. Oral agreements are different: It is not legally binding until any of the terms are completed; however, if an exchange of $500.01 or more is involved or you know it is impossible to complete any terms within one year, it must be in writing. Such oral agreements are unenforcable.

Now let's talk about fees. An editor, publisher, or agent can legally charge you for any fees they accumulate in the process of publishing your book.

Read that again. There's a catch. The book must be published before they can charge you fees. BUT . . . it includes any fees connected to whatever is published. So, if your agent says they haven't found a publisher and wants you to pay for their postage, paper used, and long-distance calls trying to find that publisher, seek legal counsel. Further, the fees should come out of any payment you receive from the publisher. Be careful, though, because they may try tacking on airfare and parcel post, which can really dig into whatever profit you could have had.

Editors will never charge these fees because they get paid from selling your work, whether a novel, magazine article, or song lyrics. Most good agents won't charge you anything, while newer agents may charge the smaller fees. But beware the bad agent or editor, who'll charge you for Everything Under the Sun. If you find one, send out a warning to anyone you meet!

The third thing I want to talk about is one huge myth about editors. Many new writers will send something special: a bright yellow envelope with a ribbon, their favorite font, margin notes. The truth is, these will never be read. The editor's draft must look like every other editor's draft in the world. The editing process begins the instant they see your envelope for the first time. If it's not plain white with plain lettering, both inside and outside, they won't even let it sit on their desk. You're through before he even reads your query. If your query is informal or has even one grammatical error or misspelling, you'll receive a rejection. Many editors want a query and won't look at a manuscript without asking for it; this is to save time for "better" manuscripts.

As for the manuscript, there are actually some editors who measure the margins. One inch margin on all sides and double spaced so he can make his own notations; if you've made notes in the margin, he'll think you're pointing out mistakes and won't bother with it. Use Courier 12 point font. That's Courier, not Courier New; the quotation marks are different and sometimes don't print out right. Editors get annoyed by this. Include your surname, work title, and page number as the top line of each page after the first, right justified, except poems. Finish with "THE END", never anything else.

Finally, send everything your editor asks for and no more. This is important. An editor does not like his time being wasted by people who don't know what to send. If he asks for a synopsis, don't send a full chapter. If he asks for three chapters, send the first three chapters or he'll think something's wrong with them, and don't send any more. If you leave something out, start looking for a new editor. This is where a checklist comes in handy, and the positive responce will include what to send.

Frankly, I have no idea what I'll talk about next week. I'll just wait and see.

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