If the adage is right--that it takes a village to raise a child--it must take at least a minyan (that is, 10 people) to publish a novel.
First, and I must say that, comes the author. Because let's face it--without the author, there's nothing to publish. So that's sort of a given, I guess. But after we type "THE END" on the last page, wipe our brows, exhale and in all likelihood go and get a really stiff drink, we hand the fruit of our labors over to people who are, rather incurably, not us.
(Keep in mind, self-publishing aficianados, that I know you're there, I respect your work, but I'm not so much discussing you today. Stay tuned.)
In my case, I am extremely lucky to have people I actually trust with my newborns. First, of course, comes our very own Josh, who is the initial reader. Agents do not exist, children, just to tell the writer how wonderful the work is and how easy it will be to sell, and then collect a percentage. If I go off the rails--and I have done so more than once--Josh is there to gently (too gently in some cases, because I don't take hints well) suggest that there might be problems with the manuscript, generally with the view of the marketplace in mind. If I insist the work be marketed, and he doesn't think it's a total pox on literature as a whole, he'll do what he can.
But I trust his judgment. If Josh thinks something more than tweaking is necessary, there's probably a reason for that, and I'll give the work another look. I don't think we've ever had a really serious disagreement, as I assume Josh knows his side of the business, and he assumes I know mine. There's really value in that kind of working relationship.
If Josh and I are right and we both do our jobs right, there will sometimes be interest in the work from an editor, and that brings me to the truly wonderful Shannon Jamieson Vazquez, with whom I have now worked on eight (soon to be nine) mystery novels and two novellas.
An editor isn't just someone who cleans up your grammar and sends the book along the way. Shannon gets my first draft, which isn't really my first draft. It's what my first draft is after I've gone over it two or three times and fixed what I saw as the problems. It's what I really and truly believe--every time I send one in--is a clean, perfect (okay, maybe not perfect) manuscript ready for readers.
Then she tells me everything that's wrong with it.
Here's the thing: Shannon will find problems with the plot logic, with clues and red herrings, with continuity from three books ago, with sequencing. She'll point out things that require me to go back and completely re-structure sections of the book. She'll note places where I clearly was just trying to get through the chapter and wasn't, let's say, inspired. And she'll tell me which jokes don't work.
Oddly, however, she manages to do so in a way that I have never, ever, resented her for saying so. One reason is that she has the exasperating habit of always being right, and part is that I know where I was dogging it and need to go back and fix things. I try to get by with things, knowing even as I type that Shannon won't let me off the hook, and she has never missed one.
I am a very lucky writer to have two such strong allies.
Yes, there are many others who are partially responsible for the book that ends up in your hands or your e-reader. There are talented artists who create the covers, actual copy editors who find all the typos and mistakes Shannon and I miss, publicists, marketers, managing editors, assistants and people whose jobs I might not even know about. I appreciate each and every one.
Also, it should be noted, I'm starting to work with some new collaborators at Midnight Ink, so Terri Bischoff is a new friend and you'll be reading more about her in the future as I get to know her better.
But those two? They're the ones I deal with most often, and I couldn't possibly be in better hands.
The ultimate test of a book comes in each reader's mind. When you get the story and respond to it, it is my greatest trial and greatest pleasure. I love hearing from readers and I'm thrilled you want to read what I have the write.
Without those two in my village, however, you wouldn't get everything you do. I can offer no higher praise than that, and simply offer my thanks.
Sorry, no cynicsm this week. But don't worry; that can't last.