Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Publishing Myths

You don't have to listen to anyone else when they suggest changes to your story.

When I first began writing, I was assured by other aspiring authors that I should always do whatever I thought best for the story. That others were welcome to provide suggestions, but that I didn't have to take them.

If you want to get published, you don't rely solely on your own opinion.

As I've surfed through the many, um, interesting works on authonomy, I've read many rants from potential authors, where they've adamantly refused to change anything about their writing.

I can only imagine how agents feel when they've spent hours reading a manuscript and making suggestions, only to hear that the author didn't agree. Yes, it's our perogative not to change our own work, but did we actually try implementing those suggestions? Almost every time I've gotten feedback from an agent or editor, I've tried it out and discovered it made me sound much more brilliant than I really am.

An author friend of mine (3 published works) always advises me to make the changes agents/editors tell me to make. Yes, it stings to know my manuscript isn't perfect, but if I take a day or two to think about it, I almost always end up agreeing with the suggestions.

What do you think about making changes based on agent's/editor critique?


Scott said...

I would LOVE to have the opportunity to make changes based on agent or editor feedback.

My stories are mine. I want them to remain mine, but I also want to share them with readers. Anybody who knows how to help me make MY stories appeal to the readers I want to share them with is welcome to suggest anything they want. If they're really wrong (especially with my historical stuff, if they have the history wrong) I'll defend my choice, but I don't ignore anybody's suggestions, and I make most of them.

Ken Baker said...

I agree and I disagree. Just because someone in your critique group, or even an agent or editor, suggests a change doesn't mean you should make it. One of the first questions you need to ask yourself is why are they requesting this change. Readers are subjective, and this might just be one person's opinion. For example, I've had several experiences where one person in my critique group hated a certain part of my story while the other loved it. Both were successful published authors, so who do I believe? Sometimes, I would base it on which one was closet to my target audience, familiarity with the genre, or my gut. The same thing goes with editor or agents, why are they requesting the change? If they have valid reasons for the request, by all means you should probably make the change. But if you strongly disagree with the request, first talk to the editor and agent to understand where they're coming from, and also let them know what you're thinking. Find some middle ground. If there is no middle ground, then you might have some hard decisions to make.

Julie Daines said...

Thanks for figuring all that out for me Tiff. You've saved me a lot of extra work...again! You're the best!

Scott said...

Agreed, Ken. You definitely shouldn't make every suggested change, but you should consider each one (except for the occasional suggestion that's just plain dumb). But you shouldn't automatically discard them either. There've been suggestions I wanted to ignore, or tried to ignore, but then made later because it suddenly made sense when it didn't at first.

It's tricky. It's your story, but it's also communal to some extent, between you and your readers (if you're lucky enough to have some), and you want the best experience for both sides.

Ken Baker said...

Scott, I agree completely. The fact that a change is requested signals a potential problem that needs to be addressed. A few weeks I ago I recorded my personal experience with this process as it relates to my two books, and I just posted that experience on my blog today. If you're interested, you can read about it at