Friday, July 13, 2012

Creative Collaboration

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With the advent of digital self publishing, many writers have chosen to release their manuscripts as e-books on sites like Amazon. People choose this path for a variety of reasons. Perhaps they write for a niche audience, or maybe they know a lot about marketing and think they can earn more money with e-books, or they could just be fed up with receiving rejections from traditional publishers. Along the way, some (certainly not all, but some) self published authors have developed a condescending and pitying attitude towards those of us who've chosen traditional methods. I read many comments along the lines of, "Those poor traditional authors, enslaved to the evvvuullll publishing gatekeepers, who obviously don't care about quality and just publish the same dry drivel year after year. If you're traditionally published, your book's obviously a Twilight-ripoff or unoriginal in some other way. Editors sap the life out of good books."

Make no mistake, traditionally published authors are condescending right back. But this got me thinking about so-called "creative control" when it comes to writing fiction. Many self published authors say they want to retain control of their material, so they don't have to make changes they don't want to make.

Quite honestly, this baffles me, and I think this is the main reason I would never dream of self publishing: I love working with my editor and agent. I love the collaborative creative process. Even the best of writers need input from a good editor, and I would argue that you can't buy an editorial relationship just by paying a freelance editor. My editor has a stake in my book, same as my agent. It's in her best interests to make my book the absolute best it can be, and if I haven't yet reached that potential, she'll tell me. She'll be brutally honest. And if you have an editor who is a good fit for your book, I guarantee you won't feel creativity stifled; rather, working with a good editor is a freeing experience, one that helps you grow as a writer.

(Btw, I'm not bashing freelancers. Hell, I am a freelancer! But I don't consider myself a replacement for the thorough, full-text content and line edits performed by traditional publishers, often over the course of five or six rounds of revision.)

It takes a village to raise a book. Having industry professionals who believe in me - enough to invest their time and potential income into perfecting my book - is a validation I wouldn't trade for anything. My editor points out problems and suggests solutions, but I don't necessarily have to accept her solutions. More often than not I come up with my own ways to fix plot and character issues. To me, this is the epitome of good creative collaboration: rather than wresting control of my book and stamping out the originality, my editor pushes me to be better, guiding the process instead of forcing it. When perfectly matched, the relationship between author, editor, and agent is truly a beautiful thing, and it leads to a type of creativity that transcends what the author is capable of on their own.

Now, my way won't be right for everyone, and I understand that. Some authors don't have such a great experience with their editors. But contrary to what those fed up with traditional publishing might say, I find that most editors at traditional houses are in the business of liberating new creative voices rather than silencing them.


  1. This.

    (That is all.)

    What a great post, Kate.

  2. This is wonderful, Kate. Thanks for putting my own thoughts about traditional publishing into proper words. <3

  3. As one who's still on the drafting/revising/editing side of things, I've enjoyed learning about the positives of both traditional and self-publishing routes. Gotten a chance to see the successes and the read about the failures of both as well. Just encourage each writer to choose the path that works best for them. I've even seen a few "hybrid" writers with the agent and publisher in place but they self-pub in a different genre or subgenre not in direct competition with their traditionally written material.

  4. Very well put, Kate. My thoughts are very similar to yours :)

  5. Nice post. I've enjoyed the collaboration with my agent so far and feel her editing suggestions were superb, yet still in-line with my vision. I'm hoping I'll find the same kind of editor. :-)