Lessons Learned at Publishing University

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This past weekend I attended the two-day “Publishing University” in San Francisco, put on by the Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA). Always wise to invest in a bit of professional development–just to keep clear of ruts and bad habits! I left feeling inspired and better informed, just as I had hoped. The speakers’ line-up, in fact, represented a treasure trove of knowledge in subjects like e-books, foreign rights, crowd-funding, drawing up contracts with free-lancers and the like. One session I particularly enjoyed had to do with editing, presented by the wise and insightful Ivory Madison, the Editor-in-Chief and CEO of the Red Room, based in San Francisco. Within the first two minutes, she described one of my habits to a tee. So often, we look at manuscripts and immediately begin fiddling with phrasing and punctuation. But the real work, she pointed out, lies in examining the bones of the manuscript: the interplay of structure, character, motivation and plot. While it may feel satisfying to refine the language early on, it really can be akin to re-arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic, if the foundation of the manuscript is still unsound. Another nugget to remember while editing someone’s work (or your own!): don’t allow yourself to read more than one book on editing for the genre in question (Y.A., picture books, novels, etc.). More than one book, she says, and you’re procrastinating. Amen…

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