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Why Editors Select Flawed Free Manuscripts
By Meredith Coleman McGee, Acquisition Editor
Meredith Etc www.meredithetc.com
August 27, 2015
As an acquisition editor, I attempt to acquire manuscripts for publication with potential sales power.
You may remember the bestselling novel Gone With The Wind, written by Margaret Mitchell, an Atlanta newspaper reporter. Her 1,036 page manuscript was not well organized. However, an editor thumped through the pages, fell in love with the story, and spent the next year guiding Mitchell’s reorganization of her work.
Shortly after publication in 1936, the character Scarlett O’Hara captured the attention of 176,000 readers. Four years later, the book was converted into a film. Book sales climbed. John Grisham, James Patterson, Terry McMillan, and other writers have blossomed in the publishing industry too.
Today, editors seldom select manuscripts with severe structural problems because it takes a lot of time to revise flawed manuscripts.
In the era of print on demand, writers must produce well written manuscripts to get the attention of readers which equates into sales.
For starters, writers must avoid overusing words such as, “that,” and “so.” I requested an author remove “that” over 100 times, and delete 75 instances of “so” in a manuscript when I first got into this industry.
Fiction stories need strong characterization, and should avoid critical flaws. In general, writers are too close to their story to detect manuscript imperfections.
For example, a character cannot wear a full length fur coat in Palm Beach, Florida on Thanksgiving, or an arresting officer cannot hand cuff a fugitive outside of his jurisdiction. Stories must be believable as well. Pres. Dwight D. Eisenhower was a five-star general in the U.S. Army during WWII. A “WWI” typo should be corrected.
A good editorial review will suggest authors have characters dress appropriate for 70 degree weather on Christmas in Miami, Florida.
Manuscripts must follow style rules. Chicago Manual of Style rules differ from APA or MLA. Chicago requires manuscripts cite the page number for statistical sources (250 million bales) in the form of notes. Marcus’s coat is the proper possession citation of a word ending in “s” for Chicago, while “Marcus’ coat” satisfies APA.
Writers must follow style rules, become fact checkers, and eliminate manuscript errors.
A good editorial review is much more than spelling and grammar. In the end, readers are attracted to polished stories.
Meredith Coleman McGee is an author, publisher, editor, and blogger. She is the author of Odyssey, a collection of her poems and other writings, James Meredith: Warrior and the America that created him, a biography of her uncle, Civil Rights icon, James H. Meredith, and the coauthor of Married to Sin (Casada al Pecado – Spanish edition), a memoir about Darlene D. Collier.
McGee is the acquisition editor of Meredith Etc, www.meredithetc.com, and the blog administrator of www.shopheirs.com. She was previously the acquisition editor at Mose Dantzler Press www.mosedpress.com.