So. HAWKSPAR…long story short.

It ain’t all over yet, but here’s what happened with HAWKSPAR, and where I am now:

Back in November-ish of last year, the editor working with me on HAWKSPAR (we’ll leave names out of this) told me about 55,000 words needed to come out of the 190,000-word story if I wanted to have it printed as one book instead of broken up into two (breaking it up into two dooms the book in question). I didn’t know where I could make those cuts and still leave the story intact, and said as much, and asked her to help me figure out where I could do the slicing. She agreed to help me, and I went on to write another book for another editor in the meantime. I got a couple of e-mails from her telling me it was taking longer than she’d thought, but she’d have the request for revisions to me by X date or Y date.

And then she quit her job to go elsewhere, and I still hadn’t gotten my edit requests. I got an e-mail from the new editor—again, no names—saying “Hi, I’m your new editor, I’ll be taking over HAWKSPAR.”

And then I got an e-mail forwarded through my agent asking how many galleys I wanted.

Now, a warier and more cynical person than I would have smelled a rat, but I just figured the publisher had decided to go ahead with the book at full length, and I got all happy.

Then one day a few weeks later, the copyedits showed up on my doorstep, and the other shoe dropped. Hard.

My ex-editor had not passed the book on intact. Neither had she made sensible cuts in it (which she wasn’t supposed to do anyway, but for now never mind that). She had not in any way, shape, or form edited the book. What she had done was absofuckinglutely unbelievable. She had simply removed every scene from the hero’s POV, with no regard to continuity, missing information, missing storylines, missing characters, or anything else. This brought the book down to the length the publisher wanted, but left the manuscript an incomprehensible, reeking mess in the process. The hero, after all, carried half the story, half the love interest, and about 90% of one central, especially critical, storyline, as well as large parts in almost all of the rest of them.

This editor sneaked what she did past me, never letting me know she had cut the book, never letting me see what she had done, never sending me a copy of the manuscript, or an email, or anything. Instead, she sent the gutted HAWKSPAR on to a copyeditor and to galleys simultaneously as if it were finished work approved by me, before scooting out the door to her new life. And, when I hit the ceiling over what had been done to my book, she had the nerve to defend what she did in a way that had the new editor e-mailing me and telling me “I know that the book was cut with your and its best interest in mind.”

I don’t get angry all that often, but over this, I was livid. And I’ve been fighting for the integrity of the book since then. As of today, we’re asking for an extension so that I can cut the 55,000 words in a sane fashion (won’t be asking for the help of an editor again, though). If the publisher won’t see its own editor’s responsibility in this and give me the time I’ve asked for, then the book will go out at full length, but in two volumes, where it will sell like crap (a fact the new editor admits), and sink into oblivion without further notice.

For all of you folks who think you want to make a living doing this, realize that although nothing like this little cautionary tale had happened to any of my previous long, long list of books, it happened to this one, and there’s no guarantee that I’ll be able to fix the thing.

And for those of you who are considering buying the book, check back. I’ll let you know whether I’ll be able to recommend it or not.

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About the author: Novelist, writing teacher, on a mission to reprint my out-of-print books and self-publish my new ones.

52 comments… add one
  • TinaK Jun 29, 2007 @ 9:27

    That sux! No matter how it comes out though – I’d still buy it. One book, 2 books, 3 books and a comic strip. I’d be in line for at least 2 copies of each.

  • hollylisle Jun 29, 2007 @ 8:45

    I’m told if the book is split, the halves will come out six months apart.

  • Jim Jun 28, 2007 @ 22:57

    Holly, that is horrible. Please let me know if I can do anything to help, even if it’s just listen. I’ll keep you in my thoughts.

    Jim

  • Charlene Teglia Jun 28, 2007 @ 22:11

    OUCH. Ouch, ouch, ouch, ouch, ouch. But here’s a thought, some books have been pretty successful releasing in rapid succesion, i.e. back to back months. Since Hawkspar is all done, would they consider doing this if you split it into two halves? I know I wouldn’t feel like a month was too long to wait to get the 2nd installment.

    Ouch again. : (

  • DawnH Jun 28, 2007 @ 12:09

    Very stinky. I’m sorry you have to deal with this. If it comes out in 2 books, I will buy it, and then tease my friends just enough with the story that they’ll go out and buy them too.

  • DarkAngel Jun 28, 2007 @ 11:24

    Ah, that’s…awful. I’ve been really looking forward to Hawkspar after reading Talyn, which I LOVED (I found it unexpectedly in my local Waterstone’s in Bradford, England, and was really surprised, as I’d never seen any of your books there before. Snapped it up and was very glad I did.) So I would buy Hawkspar whether it was one volume or two, though the fact that your vision of the story was messed with for no apparent reason is infuriating and it must be so horrible for you. It’s ridiculous too. Talyn never read as overwritten (which is more than you can say for a lot of fantasy novels) and the whole picture built up by having both Talyn’s and Gair’s perspectives was part of what made the story special. So those changes to Hawkspar just seem arbitrary.
    I hope we get to read your words, as close as possible to how you wrote them. And my sympathies for all the hassle you’re going through.

  • nienke Jun 28, 2007 @ 10:38

    Sending you strength, power, and peace…

  • Bettye Jun 28, 2007 @ 8:05

    Another thought-the Outlander and Harry Potter books run 750 to 1000 pages and sell like the proverbial hot cakes. So what makes them think your book wouldn’t do well as a “BIG” book?

  • Bettye Jun 28, 2007 @ 7:53

    The resident law student says “She’s SOL.”
    However, she also pointed out that Patricia Briggs seems to be doing quite nicely being published in two books-sooooo-it might not be a totat disaster. I’m sure your fans will rally round for this one.
    PS She also mentioned Indiana has an unusual law (tort?) that might be helpful if you live there.

  • BookLover Jun 27, 2007 @ 19:51

    {{{HUGS}}} However Hawkspar emerges – one book, two books, e-book – I’ll be in line on day one to get my copy and a copy for a friend.

    I love e-books, and there are never enough good ones to go around. If the publisher insists on making Hawkspar into two books, I wonder if they could be convinced to allow an e-book version also. I think there are many people like me who get eyestrain reading regular print, and love a digital book they can read in big print on the screen. I’ve seen other books published simultaneously as print and digital. Just a hope.

  • hollylisle Jun 27, 2007 @ 12:29

    Gabriele–TALYN was 230,000 words.

    As for the your other questions, I’m asking them, too.

  • Gabriele Jun 27, 2007 @ 11:50

    But wasn’t Talyn a 200K book as well? So why is it a problem now, and is it really more expensive to produce one big book instead of two smaller ones that won’t sell as well?

    Just curious.

    And good luck.

  • katiehasen Jun 27, 2007 @ 10:53

    Eeegk. Sounds like a horrible situation you’re in. I hope it works out.

    However Hawkspar ends up, though, I’ll be buying it.

  • hollylisle Jun 27, 2007 @ 10:00

    Getting through this isn’t that hard. This is just infuriating. I did heartbreaking the last few months through forever, and next to that, angry is easy.

    What I can do? Not much. At this point, buying the book back and reselling it isn’t a real option. Costs more than I can swing. Getting them to print it the way I wrote it? Odds aren’t great unless I go with the two-book option, which I’ve about decided to do, even though it will be the death of the book.

    What you can do? The fact that you care is enough. Thank you very much for that.

  • Jason Penney Jun 27, 2007 @ 9:51

    So sorry to hear about all this. I can’t even imagine how you must feel. I hope you can work it out, and whatever happens I’ll be buying the book(s). If there’s anything at all your readers can do for you, please ask.

  • shay Jun 27, 2007 @ 5:24

    sorry to hear about your editor (i think i know who you were using tho as i read her LJ, muffins get a big mention it seems) i can’t believe it’s something they’d do, its unprofessional and not helpful. *hugs* hope you get the book you want, even if it is two, i’d still buy both copies 😀

  • klharrds Jun 27, 2007 @ 2:54

    Oh my god – I can’t believe that they are allowed to do this.

    Surely there is something in the contact or in copyright law that says the author must have the final say on what is printed under their name. I’m astonished they are allowed to change anything without giving you an opportunity to comment on it at least. Even to take it as far as they have seems ridiculous!

    As this book was written under a contract, can you decide to dump them and take it elsewhere? Or would that be unfeasible economically even if it were allowed?

    It makes me wonder whether writing every book to completion then toting it round the publishing houses might not be the less gut wrenching option.

  • bonniew Jun 26, 2007 @ 23:37

    How awful. I think I know who the ex-editor is, and I never would have suspected her of being such a jackass.

    For whatever it’s worth, I will buy Hawkspar whether it’s one volume or two.

  • Chassit Jun 26, 2007 @ 21:58

    Oh for the love of God! How could your OE do that to you? And what kind of editor (this being aimed at the new editor) wouldn’t notice a problem with eliminating one of the major characters? I’m not a professional editor by any means and I noticed that. Rest assured Holly, I’ll buy the book anyway. I’ve loved all the snippets, and if you can find out how to trim it down, or if you publish it in one or two books, I’ll still buy it and read it!

    Here’s hoping you get to publish the story you wrote. You can overcome this, Holly! I have faith! Good luck!

  • cherylp Jun 26, 2007 @ 21:39

    Can you go over the new editor’s head and appeal to Teresa Nielsen Hayden?

  • eowynjedi Jun 26, 2007 @ 21:02

    Oh… oh, wow. That is absolutely OUTRAGEOUS. Whatever form it’s in, though, I’m going to buy it (I’ve read FITM and Talyn and loved them both). And I’ll pray to St. Francis of Sales that you can save it.

  • Ann Jun 26, 2007 @ 19:20

    I just wanted to add my 2 cents and say I’m sorry your editors (past and present)are acting so unprofessionally. I hope it works out best for you (and your book).

  • wolverine Jun 26, 2007 @ 19:00

    Is there anything we can do? Heaps of hugs to you, I can’t even imagine how you’re getting through this, but there must be some way the readers can tell the publishers that their solutions so far have sucked! They need to know that readers don’t like split books and fantasy readers would prefer a long, *good* book than a short, shallow one. I really wish I could help on the sales end of things to help boost their confidance in you, but your books don’t even get to my country (if at all) until the critical time is over.

    That editor sucks! Be very careful with you new one too. I’m thinking of you.

    Wolverine

  • MattScudder Jun 26, 2007 @ 17:35

    “It just goes to show that publishers do not necessarily have the writer’s best interests at heart.”

    Nor the readers’ for that matter. This sucks rocks.

  • PolarBear Jun 26, 2007 @ 17:31

    I’ll pay for the e-book full-length version and print it myself…Of course, you have to let the contract run its course.

  • arrvee Jun 26, 2007 @ 16:39

    That is horrid! Unprofessional in the extreme. I hope word gets around that this is the kind of “editor” she is. I’m not really willing to cut the new editor much slack either. Either she’s covering for her colleague or she is incredibly naive. Either way, not a good bet for a successful book.

    I’ll pay double for Hawkspar if I have to. What I’ve seen of it makes me sure it’s worth it.

    It just goes to show that publishers do not necessarily have the writer’s best interests at heart. Watch you back, and read everything with suspicion. What a life!

  • ErinH Jun 26, 2007 @ 16:30

    How utterly awful! {{Hug}}

  • lizb Jun 26, 2007 @ 15:56

    Damn it all! That’s hideous. Why do the worst things happen to the nicest people?

    The very best of luck with this — wouldn’t it be just too delicious if HAWKSPAR turned into a massive best-seller? Here’s hoping!!!

  • felchan Jun 26, 2007 @ 15:49

    That is awful, completely understandable about how upset you are about this whole mess. Hopefully something comes along to make this whole situation right. I know I’ll be purchasing Hawkspar no matter if its one book or two but I really do hope that it ends up being the story you wanted to tell all along and not your former editor’s hack job. Good luck Holly.

  • WritingAngel Jun 26, 2007 @ 15:45

    {{HUGS}}

    Oh my gosh. We shall all be warned. That is really horrible.

  • Tech Jun 26, 2007 @ 15:37

    Absolutely horrible. I’m so sorry you’re having to go through this. However Hawkspar is published, be it one book or two, I’ll be right there in line to buy it.

  • Krista Jun 26, 2007 @ 15:29

    That’s terrible! I don’t blame you for being livid.

    ~hugs~

  • Zink Johnson Jun 26, 2007 @ 14:54

    That’s bloody ridiculous. “Hi, I’m your editor, and I’ll be deleting every fourth word in your manuscript. Forget about things like “cohesiveness” and “sense”, we’re just trying to make it fit into a pretty binding!”

    I sincerly hope your new editor is 100% better than your last one, but, then again, it’d be tricky not to be, wouldn’t it?

    Absolute BEST of luck working this mess out. You deserve it.

  • Jess Jun 26, 2007 @ 14:53

    *picks jaw off floor* Ok… Original Editor (OE) was very unprofessional. That was just stupid. But I’m confused regarding New Editor (NE). Did NE not realize that OE’s edits were “unauthorized” cuts, or is she covering for OE? Because if she is, that’s unprofessional, too.

    I do have to say, though, that if they snuck into the contract the 2-book-split clause, sucky as it is, I don’t see how it could be avoided or how you otherwise could’ve not seen it coming…? Not that I approve or anything, but I would’ve expected them to play the card they made sure was in their hand.

  • PJ Jun 26, 2007 @ 14:52

    I also have excellent ears for listening to vents. {{{HUGS}}} I have to admit to feeling pretty offended –for– you. I know these things happen, but still…. And if I have to … I’ll buy the first and wait until the second book is out – and read them together. ^_^

  • LadyQ Jun 26, 2007 @ 14:44

    Oh no!! 🙁

    I hope it works out somehow. What a hard hard thing.

  • Susan Jun 26, 2007 @ 14:42

    To clarify, I only meant the “this is too long” attitude might be understandable from someone without a background in speculative fiction. Not that saying that and then dealing with it by just hacking out a specific number of words would ever be acceptable!

  • hollylisle Jun 26, 2007 @ 14:27

    Susan–I’d have cut her some slack if she’d said, “Hey, I’m out of my depth here. I actually can’t do this.” I would have taken the thing back and reworked it in the five long months she sat on it.

    For the way she acted though, no way. She hasn’t earned any slack. That sort of dishonesty earns nothing but loathing and derision.

  • hollylisle Jun 26, 2007 @ 14:25

    The thing with Diana Gabaldon and John Jakes is that they sell hundreds of thousands of copies of their work, so the printing costs even out. Me, not so much.

    The publisher did contract for two 200,000-word books, but even then, they had an out in the contract that they could cut the books in half if they wanted to. They’ll sell fewer books that way than leaving the damned thing at full length and in one volume, because readers feel ripped off having to pay twice for one book. And readers should feel ripped off. The publisher contracted for a 200,000-word novel. The writer wrote a 200,000-word novel. The publisher then decides, “Nope, it’s too long. Cut it in half and make readers pay double”–but whatever. Clearly they don’t care.

    And I’m at the point where I’ve about given up. Two books with all of my words in them, versus one with cuts I STILL can’t find places for—yeah, I’ve spent a good part of today looking. If we can’t work it out, I’ll go with two books, just so the story will be complete.

  • Susan Jun 26, 2007 @ 14:20

    If the editor is who I imagine it must be, I would cut some slack for the attitude because she’s not a fantasy editor, not really. Speculative fiction isn’t like other genres. Imagine a romance novel clocking in at the more than three hundred thousand words that I’ve heard attributed to Cryptonomicon. I can’t imagine that ever happening. These huge fantasy and sci-fi novels tend to incorporate numerous plotlines and world-wide scopes. Other genres rarely take on a story with that kind of scale. Similarly, no fantasy reader I know has ever looked for something that would be a “quick read”–we want *solid* books. 🙂

    No slack for the behavior, though. That’s just rotten.

  • Nicole Jun 26, 2007 @ 14:05

    Oh, I can’t believe that. For someone to be that unscrupulous and dishonest, and then try to defend the stupid decisions…

    We’re behind you, Holly. And I totally understand why you were upset and silent while you processed it.

  • crystallyn Jun 26, 2007 @ 13:48

    WOW. I can’t even imagine how angry and frustrated I would be.

    I’m sending along a lot of positive energy that it works out all right. And you can bet I’d be buying those two books when they roll off the press!

  • TinaK Jun 26, 2007 @ 13:16

    That is abosfrickinglutely astounding! I know who this editor is and I can’t imagine anyone tearing someone’s book apart like that – without a word about what was going on. I hope you triumph in this Holly and that all 190,000 amazing words are published as they were written to be. I know it’ll be worth it.

    John Jakes is another with huge books (like Diana Gabaldon)

  • BookLover Jun 26, 2007 @ 13:07

    I don’t want to miss a single page of what you wrote, Holly. I’m hoping for something good out this mess, like the publisher decides to publish Hawkspar intact in one volume, or you decide to make it into two stories which get published back-to-back, or some other miraculous event.

    I just finished reading The Secret Texts – again – and I marked the paragraph on page 224 of Vengeance of Dragons that begins “We do not fall in love,”. I felt as if that paragraph was the heart of the trilogy.

    You write about things that matter, Holly; love, honor, duty, and the power of the individual and “small” acts that change a life, even a whole world and worlds, for good or ill.

    Our world needs writers like you, and for needs there must be a way. Please find it. For us.

  • seattlesamantha Jun 26, 2007 @ 12:48

    That really sucks! I know who the ex-editor is, but I’ll be nice and not name names. I had the opportunity to meet her at a writing conference a couple of years ago and found her to be one of the least professional people I had ever met.

    To answer Shawna’s question, yes a person could easily hunt to find out who it was because the ex-editor in question has freelance editorial service now and lists both Talyn and Hawkspar on her “Edited by” page.

  • enjonel Jun 26, 2007 @ 12:31

    I am appalled something like this could happen and end up on your doorstep instead of the editor in questions! In no way did you give her carte blanche, yet that is apparently what she took!

    The new editor’s comment might be her version of not sticking it to her predecessor?

    I hope you win: one great book instead of two doomed ones.

  • Jass Jun 26, 2007 @ 12:09

    Oh for Frack’s sack! What is their freaking problem. Books longer than this get pubbed all the time, just ask Diana Gabaldon. Hugs Holly. Don’t forget to breathe. And remember stressed is caused by the brain overriding the body’s need to choke the living sh*t out of someone who desperately needs it.

  • Nandini Jun 26, 2007 @ 12:08

    You’re kidding. You’ve got to be.

    Does no one at the publisher’s care what book they’re investing in? How did those moronic (for lack of a better word) edits make it all the way to the galleys?

    And here’s what I don’t get at all – someone in this situation is pointing their finger at YOU? How can you be to blame for anything?

    No wonder you were angry, Holly. This is… moronic … beyond belief.

    But you have the guts and stamina to fight through this, so go get ’em. Hawkspar’s one book I’ve really been looking forward to, and if anyone can save it, it’s you.

  • shawna Jun 26, 2007 @ 11:53

    Oh no.

    I can’t even find words to comment on just how much that sucks.

    (((hugs))) and I really, really hope it works out well somehow.

    And hypothetically, if one were to hunt, would it be possible to come up with the name of the editor? I think there are probably those of us out here that would want to make sure we stayed far, far away from someone that dishonest.

  • tambo Jun 26, 2007 @ 11:41

    Hang in there. I’m around if you need to vent. {{hugg}}

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