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TOEING THE LINE

December 18, 2019

Because of a personal experience, not mine, but one I witnessed, I thought it was time to bring up this subject.
What I mean by toeing the line, is that say, you get accepted by a publisher. However, once you get turned over to the editorial staff, it’s nothing but grief.
Maybe the agent or publisher never did their due diligence when they accepted you in the first place. During this time, they not only look at your work, but should talk to you about writing philosophy, and what they expect out of you. What are their standards? What are yours? You all should meet somewhere in the middle, at least, if not totally agree philosophically as to how to do things.

IT ALL GOES DOWNHILL FROM THERE

The next thing that happens is that you’re turned over to the editor and you two constantly butt heads. You can’t agree on anything. You become a source of grief for not only the editor, but the publisher.
Say, you get through the initial editing.
It gets to the final stages, yet you’re not satisfied and start demanding changes.
However…
You’re under contract, and while the publisher would love to publish the book, because they think it has potential, they’re also in the camp that you’re looking less and less like it’s worth the hassle.
You make demands.
The publisher pushes back.
You two reach a compromise.

DUE DILIGENCE

The thing about avoiding all of this is that the writer and publisher have to come to an agreement on writing and editing philosophy, BEFORE ever signing a contract.
Getting a publishing deal can put a lot of stars before the writer’s eyes. However, if you let that blind you to the details, you may be in for a rude awakening.
From the publisher’s side, the last thing they want is a pain in the ass. That’s a quick way to find a reason to drop the author, contract or no contract.
The publisher SHOULD do their due diligence, but you as the author, need to step back and be honest with the publisher. You need to rein back the enthusiasm and excitement and listen to what they’re saying.
Once you’re committed, you need to toe the line.

TOE THE LINE

Keep in mind that they (the publisher) invited YOU to be part of their team, not the other way around. Therefore, you’re only in a limited position to make demands. You can only push those limits so far.
They see a potential in you, and you DO have some power in that you have a product they want to sell. A potential profit making machine. However, THEY have to develop it, and it’s up to you to go along with their sage advice and make it work.
Now, does this mean, compromising your integrity and changing your story, or re-writing it?
Of course not. We’re not talking that at all. They never should have accepted you if that was the case.
However, editorial tweaks, cuts, grammar, etc., are all reasonable things to expect from an editor. That’s normal editing.
Major re-writes are not. Completely re-writing the plot are not.
The publisher is supposed to do their due diligence with the synopsis before they ever except your story in the first place. However, let’s make it clear that you have to be very honest with your synopsis in the first place. It needs to match your story and not try to glorify and try to sell it on some false pretense!
However, to argue every little comma, every dotted i or crossed t, change the plot in mid-course yourself, change your mind constantly, be a general pain in the ass, that’s what I mean about toeing the line.
Everyone is going to have philosophical discussions about certain things. That’s what they are, discussions. However, you need to go by house rules. Plain and simple. If you don’t like them, tough. You signed the contract. You need to toe the line and not make yourself a pariah.

SUMMARY

If the publishing of one book ends up being nothing but misery, stop right after that one and find another publisher. However, if you’re able to toe the line, it could turn into a productive relationship.
Happy writing!

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