Thursday, February 5, 2009

Outside Editorial Development -- The Wave of the Future?

"Editorial development is increasingly taking place outside publishing houses." This is a quote from the website of namelos, a new firm formed by a respected group of children's book professionals including Stephen Roxburgh, Carolyn Coman, and Joy Neaves, many if not most of them with ties to Boyds Mills/Front Street, especially the now-shuttered NC Front Street office. Altogether, the staff has a host of experience in editing, art direction, publicity, agenting, teaching, and writing. They offer development services to authors and illustrators, even editors, agents, and publishers, to make a book everything it can be. The advantages, they say, are that the writer gets editorial guidance (and honesty, if they feel the project isn't marketable); agents and editors get more fully developed, high-quality submissions; and the writer/artist receives the company's help with submitting to agents and editors "with a few well-placed emails and phone calls." Alternatively, namelos can and will guide you toward the goal of successful self-publishing, offering their "editorial, design, production, subsidiary rights, sales, and marketing support."

Outside editorial development, they say, is "evolutionary and inevitable" in these times when publishers must cut the costs associated with getting books in print. The concept is certainly interesting, and the idea that these reputable people are in your corner with ongoing editorial help (to the extent that you want to purchase it) and networking -- networking! -- is more than a little appealing. So -- what do you think? Would you welcome the chance to get this kind of editorial help before you ever submit to agents or editors, and then get help with submission too? Would you balk at paying a fee for such services? Could this be the first step in a major change in how the industry works? Will namelos become overworked and then copycat companies spring up whose credentials will be harder to assess? Are the higher costs of publishing being passed along to the arguably poorest people in the chain -- writers and artists? Do chime in!


PJ Hoover said...

I think all the help you can get on a manuscript before you submit it is golden. And advice from editors and agents is the best, but not always readily available. It's why when they attend conferences and workshops, they get so many submissions for critique.
As for fee, I guess it all depends on what it is, how much you want to invest, and what you feel the return is.

Marcia said...

PJ -- I think advice from agents and editors carries the most weight, too. At a conference, where you may pay twice as much if it's several days in length, it tends to be the luck of the draw as to who you get critiqued by -- it might be another writer or an art director or something. The Christian industry has done this type of thing (with less cost, but also less service) for years. To access most publishing houses, you go through these outfits if you don't have an agent. I just wondered if now this way of doing things is springing up in the mainstream industry.

Mary Witzl said...

A few years back, I would have scorned such a service. Then I won a free professional critique after submitting the first five chapters of a novel for adults I'd written. I was skeptical about this prize until I got the critique. It was detailed, perceptive, and immensely helpful. I'm finished with the novel now and I'm planning to send it back to the agency that does the critiques. It's in the U.K., but it sounds a lot like namelos.

I do think it's a shame that writers will have to absorb the cost here, and I can foresee copycat companies springing up. But if we do our research on the company's credentials, that gives us some assurance we're getting good value.

Marcia said...

Mary -- I'm glad you got such a great critique. It's good to hear your international perspective. It'll be interesting to see if namelos makes a go of it. If so, I wouldn't be surprised if more such companies follow. But unless the personnel can match the experience of the namelos people, the networking aspect may be hard to match.