slapped by an agent
After 20 years in the business, it’s hard to pick the most outrageous thing an editor has ever said to me. I’ve had 17 editors. And no, I’m not difficult to deal with. Most of them have had children and not returned to work. I’m the fertility goddess of editors.
So I decided to pick the one that stung the most. I was a newbie. Sold only one book. Wrote my second book and sent it in. Those were the days when you sent in a hard copy and the editor wrote in the margins and sent it back along with a revision letter. So you had to read the margin notes as well as the revision letter and often times they contradicted one another. A tough way to do revisions. Personally while I like Track Changes, I still miss having pages to flip through but I’ll get over myself.
Back to the topic at hand . . . there were hardly any notes in the margins so I thought I’d written a wonderful book. My second time out of the gate and I’d hit a homerun. My ego swelled. Then I read the first line of the revision letter. “Rhonda, this manuscript is simply subpar. Please rework the plot and have it back to me in six weeks and we’ll consider publication.” Um, ouch! Not at all what I was expecting. I did the natural thing. I cried. I got pissed. Then I got humble.
I went to work rewriting the whole book. I had a few margin notes that gave me a feel for what she didn’t like so I worked from there. By the way, I got this letter the day before Thanksgiving; I had a real job and a small child. I exhausted myself changing the story around and quite frankly, I thought the revision sucked, but I desperately wanted to please the editor. I worked through Christmas, stopping only long enough to have 40 people at my house for Christmas Eve. But I made it. 5 weeks after delivering the ‘subpar’ manuscript, I sent in my revised version.
One week goes by, then two, three and four. Finally, after waiting nearly 6 weeks I hear from an editor. A new editor. Turns out my editor left the company to spend time with her children. I’d been reassigned. New editor introduced herself and in short order, she asked me why I’d sent in another manuscript. Did these people not talk to one another??? I explained that editor number one wanted a full revision. Editor number two said she’d read both versions and really liked the original version and wanted to go with that one. She had a few comments and revisions, but nothing major. She faxed me revision notes and there were maybe five things she wanted changed. Knocked them out in one night.
That taught me some valuable lessons. The most important being life is much easier when you have the right editor. One person’s subpar is another person’s brilliant.