Sunday, December 25, 2005

Editorial Cruelty

Hmmmmm. Where does one begin? I'm the editor of an ezine, and I really enjoy that. It doesn't make me any money, but it does allow me to get to know and become friends with a lot of people I probably wouldn't otherwise know. I get to read a lot of stuff by new (and established) writers, and it's a great learning process for all concerned, I think.

But at heart I'm a gentle soul, and there are times when the editorial sword is in my hand and I have to think - "This is going to hurt!" I have a review that I have written coming up in next month's issue, where the book probably should not have been put on the street. At least, not yet. It needed heavy copyediting, proofreading, call it what you will. If this was a new publication, or I had an advance review copy in my hand I would think, "Ah, well - the bugs will get straightened out before it goes into full production." But this book has been in print for over two years!

I had a rather protracted debate about the merits of self-publishing versus the "traditional" route with some folks, and it was touched off by my offer to review self-published or small-press books on my ezine/website. I was severely taken to task by a couple of folks for "encouraging" these "talentless hacks who couldn't make it in regular publishing". I was also accused of planning to present only glowing reviews in order to make the self-published books look good. That last part really got my dander up, to use a very old phrase.

So, I made a commitment to give honest reviews. What WAS I thinking???

The first book I received for review turned out to be an editorial nightmare written by someone who attempted to imitate the hard-boiled authors of the thirties, forties and later - but only succeeded in sounding like a cheap knockoff. Unfortunately I had made my editorial bed, and now I had to try to sleep in it.

Thankfully, there are many other self-published and small-press books out there which ARE good reads, which ARE well-written and deserving of glowing reviews. Perhaps it's best, though, that my first one will not glow very much. At least, no one can accuse me of trying to falsely pump up the book.

Tony Burton
Editor, Crime and Suspense ezine

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