This week on [REALITY CHECK], my guests are authors Jeanie Johnson and Jayha Leigh, who are also co-founders of Beautiful Trouble Publishing, a house specializing in interracial erotic romance that has grown in size and following that older indie pub houses envy. When Beautiful Trouble Publishing says they are "a dealer of a superior read," they mean it.
Jeanie and Jayha (aka J & J) are successful erotic romance authors in their own right,but they have a long list of collaborated titles. Their following is huge, eager, and opinionated, so J & J know the importance of producing a quality product or face the consequences. They've taken this knowledge and have used it to benefit the authors they represent.
Today, in their frank, but fun, trademark style, they share why it's OK to hate the editing process...but it's for your own good, so deal with it.
Shouting VAGINA! in a Crowded Manuscript
by Jeanie Johnson and Jayha Leigh
Picture this. You’re in your dream reading spot, deep inside the world that the author has woven around you with their prose. Not only do you want to be there, you’ve already chartered the private jet, reserved the villa, and arranged for the chauffeured Maybach to pick you up from the airport. Maybe, you’ve already put your house up for sale because you plan to move there forever. And then suddenly, you’re yanked out of this beautiful world by a phrase that catches you completely off guard. A phrase like, “cum-drenched, hairy c***hole.” Are you asking ‘What the F*ck?’ You should, because we were too. A single misplaced word or phrase can kill a book. That is why editing is critical. An author needs someone to not only tell them NO, but H*LL NO.
As authors, we abhor, despise, hate, and loathe edits. We also do not like them. After poring over a manuscript for months and submitting what we feel is a document worthy of sitting in a bullet-proof glass case at the National Archives, seeing red editing marks on our manuscript simply sucks. How dare the editor? Of course, after penning dozens of books, we’re simply thankful that the editing marks are fewer than in the beginning. We cringe recalling the amount of red that used to cover our manuscripts. When we say ‘cover,’ we mean it. There was enough red on the pages that we were tempted to look around for tourniquets as our manuscripts appeared to be bleeding to death. Still, as much as we despise edits, what we would despise even more is receiving reader mail talking trash about our editing.
As publishers, we don’t harbor the same resentment for edits. Like pre-op scrubbing, editing’s a vital step in the publishing process. Good editing prevents mishaps such as inaccurate information (for example when an author has the Titanic sinking in the Bermuda Triangle as it attempted to dodge Blackbeard); story inconsistencies (such as the hero starting off being a 1920s gangsta named Geraldo and ending up as a member of Spanish royalty during the Reconquista named Tyrone, which by the way isn’t a historical book but a contemporary, paranormal tale set in Alabama); and, good-old fashioned WTF (such as a Scottish lass in the fourteenth century being named Shanaynay or an emperor during the Early Ming Dynasty being named Bob). You won’t die if you stumble across a poorly edited book, but you might want to commit an act that ends in -cide. This is why we have a staff of grammar mercenaries consisting of beta readers, editors and proofreaders. Yes, an entire staff because sometimes, it really does take a village… Oh, the things we have to convince an author not to do…such as refraining from referring to a vagina as a “pooter,” a penis as a “thingamajig,” and male ejaculate as “manjuice of life.”
Yes, it takes a village, and in that village, there just might need to be a counselor (or five) because there have been many days when we’ve had to console an author who received her/his first round edits. “It looks like my manuscript is covered by the blood of the non-believers!” some have cried. As we draw them to our virtual bosoms that gravity has no effect on, we hold them and mutter, “It’s okay…fix this and we shall never speak of this first round edit again”…unless you start acting like a diva and we have to remind you of your roots.
This is why as publishers, we’re often wary to take on an author who declares that they enjoy the editing process. “Edits are fun,” is not a phrase that falls from the lips of most authors, unless they’re masochists. It definitely doesn’t fall from the lips of our authors. Well, not after they’ve undergone the editing process. Authors who feel that editing is fun are probably authors who have not been the beneficiaries of in-depth editing. Spell-check alone is not an in-depth edit. Neither is having your homie—who is a snowboarder by trade—read it and declare it’s the best ish they’ve ever read.
An in-depth edit should make you feel confident that someone has not only really read your story, but also understands your vision. A good editor is like a proctologist: they get all up into your manuscript. Why? Because they don’t want you to realize that, like the emperor, your manuscript has no clothes on. While you are the sole copyright owner, the finished product is included on the resume of the publisher, editor, proofreader, cover artist, the book formatter, and the book converter. No one wants to be affiliated with a book that receives a review that advises the author to first learn the English language before attempting a second book…especially when English is the native tongue of the author.
To all authors, whether budding or veteran, remember that editing is your friend. Budding authors might fear the editing process while veteran authors might simply hate it, but like anything worth having, one must work for it. If you have a publisher, you never work alone. If you’re self-published, assemble a team of competent people. And keep them. Authors can sell books based on their name alone, but it is important to remember that the story should be the selling point, not your name. Editing should get easier, not because it’s easy by nature, but because you as an author work harder on your prose.
If you’re not consistently working on putting out a quality product, eventually the readers will catch on. Readers will wait on an author who consistently puts out a good book. What they will not wait on is an author who, at best, puts out a mediocre product. Looking back, we’d rather readers say that Book ABC by Author XYZ was worth the wait rather than readers looking back and realizing that Author XYZ really wasn’t that good in the first place.
—© 2012, Jeanie Johnson and Jayha Leigh, Beautiful Trouble Publishing. All rights reserved.