Sunday, April 01, 2007

Better Editing or More Publicity?

On her blog Justine Larbalestier, author of the Magic or Madness trilogy, asked if writers would prefer great editing or great publicity for their books. I've been sitting on this link for over a week now, mulling over the comments, trying to figure out how I would answer it if I were a writer. On one hand, if I had a really strong reader group who helped iron out all the plot wrinkles before my writing ever saw an editor then the lure of more publicity money would make sense. But on the other, look at all the books who've found fame with little or no traditional publicity help? Would more money have helped in these situations?

Given that many of you are writers out there, what do you think?


Radthorne said...

As one of the respondents to Justine's blog noted, the editor at a major house is not only working with the author on the text, but becomes the manuscript and author's advocate within the company, and that in itself is a part of the marketing machine when dealing with one of the majors. So it's hard to separate these into a box.

However, to try and respond to the spirit of the question, I would opt for the editor if I had to choose. While garnering (fleeting) fame and (unlikely) fortune through a successful marketing campaign would be wonderful, I would not want it to be on the back of work that was of poor quality. People write for many reasons, but as it is a creative endeavour, I think most of them want to be proud of their work. It may sound naive, but I would rather create a work that I knew was my best and have it not take off, than put out something substandard and see it everywhere.

One other point from Justine's blog is worth noting, though: the 'insider advocate' issue aside, a writer can hire excellent editorial help to aid in that quest for producing his or her best material. While a writer can also try to buy publicity, that seems far more uncertain and less likely to succeed, unless the publishing house itself is behind it.

Robin Brande said...

I agree with Radthorne. I'd rather have a book I'm proud of, that I know is the best I can produce. Books have a long, long life. You may not become known until a book further down the line, which will then cause people to go back and read your earlier work. I'd hate to cringe at that and think, "No, don't read that one!"

Keith Strohm said...

Leaving aside Radthorne's great admonition that an editor is very much an in-house champion for your work, I posted a more detailed answer to this on my own blog, but the short answer is that I'll take an average editor and great publicity any day of the week.

By the way, I love this blog and have greatly enjoyed your insights into the publishing industry--particularly at the retail level.

Keep up the good work!

bhadd said...

Keith's stance is based upon his confidence in his ability. Those of us who feel less confident identify, I think correctly, that especially good books are their own sale force, and opt for the editor.

The Hood Company

Stephanie said...

I'm picking the publicist, hands down. For editing I have terrific beta readers and a sharp agent. Plus I'd never submit anything I hadn't edited nigh unto death, and I'm my harshest critic.
In an odd turn of events, my publicist called today to introduce herself. I was giddy with delight, because I'm not great at self-promotion. I don't think most authors excel at it. So yes, I'm picking the publicist.

David de Beer said...

gawd, it's been ages since I've been here, good to see you're still running.

hmm, what a question! it's hard to seperate those two; I do agree with what Robin and radthorne said.
I almost want to give it to publicity, but let's runa few things past:
the crit groups are so fabulous now, it's hard to think works won't be well polished when it sells. Also, publishers and editors are pretty rough to begin with, anyhow. The ones I've worked with [in the short fiction field only admittedly] have a pretty keen eye and work hard to produce a polished product. It reflect on them, after all.
I've heard novel editors are pretty tough too, not likely to skimp on a book.

Publicity - writers, especially novels, you do need it.

But, publicity, as has so often been said, is something the writer can do a lot of on his/ her own.

A really, really good editor who doesn't only improve the book, but improves your writing as a whole - now, that's something I'd treasure.

I'll go with editor.