from manuscript to bookstore -- the publishing process

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From Kris:

"1. I've been told by a published author that I should try and concentrate on getting a few articles published before trying to contact an agent/publisher about the manuscript that I've completed. Would you give the same advice to an unpublished author?"

Yes, though if your ms. is fiction you'd be better off getting short stories published than articles. It's a lot harder, though; the short story markets are very few. Any publication, and especially multiple publications, will help convince an editor that you're a pro, you can be worked with, you're in it for a longer haul than a one-book wonder. I had a few short stories published before my agent submitted my first novel, and my first editor says it helped his thinking to know that.

"2. Do you have others read your completed manuscripts, or do you just turn them into your editor?"

I'm in a writing group that meets every other week. I write a lot faster than that, so I get group input only on the first half of each book; but that's where I need it, to firmly set the groove. Once a book is done I send it first to my agent, who's a terrific editor. Many agents aren't good editors, and it's not really their job, but mine's good and I always take his input seriously and revise areas that didn't work for him. He then sends the revised ms. to my editor.

"3. How many times do you edit a manuscript before turning it in to your editor?"

About ten thousand. I edit yesterday's work at the beginning of each day, and I constantly go back as I go on, especially in the first 1/4 or so of the book as the voice and mood are getting established. I print the whole thing out and sit and read and edit maybe a dozen times as I'm going along, to see about things like coherence and rhythm. So by the time a ms. is finished, it's been edited, re-edited, and re-re-edited.

Hope that helps.

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