Small presses don’t have the reputation that larger presses do of having high editorial standards. But my experience with these presses, especially the one that is publishing Bone Songs, my second novel, has been revelatory.
Before submitting the manuscript to the press for its consideration. I had been through it numerous times on my own, seeking to strengthen it. I also had hired two different “professional” editors to read and review it. They made valuable suggestions, many of which I used as a basis for additional rewrites.
But I’m discovering a whole new level of revising in my interaction with my publisher/editor. She has done one read through where she looked at overarching problems that should be addressed. Now I’m going through her second review that consists largely of line editing. She has found many inconsistencies that are unavoidable in a 350-page work. She also has made numerous suggestions that have helped me to add important detail or to deepen/streamline the narrative. It’s an invaluable experience to have this kind of attentive and intelligent questioning of passages that I thought were complete.
Of course, I resist some of her comments, and I don’t act on all of her recommendations—maybe two thirds. Though she is deeply involved in the characters and action, it is my creation, and she doesn’t know the book in the same way that I do. But, then, that’s my role as the author. Even so, the work is much stronger because of her involvement in it.
From this experience, I’ve discovered how valuable this kind of intensive editing can be. While I gave birth to the world I’ve created, it helps enormously to have a sensitive eye that can assist in the midwifery. I feel I’m receiving an even higher caliber of help in this process than I might have if a large publishing house had purchased the book. Not only is there more clarity, but seeing the characters/situations/settings through a sensitive reader’s eyes gives deeper insight into the work in general.
This won’t be the final edit (a copyeditor will look closely at grammatical/typographical errors next after I go through it again on my own), but it has been more than illuminating. My publisher/editor’s reading has raised the novel to another level, something not all published authors achieve.