Recently, I had an experience that I hope taught me something about what I need to look for in my book contracts and I thought I'd share that here for some of us who either haven't yet signed a contract or who have and may not have considered a paragraph such as I will be discussing. I was lucky enough to have it in mine in this particular instance but it was totally not because I knew to ask for it. Thank goodness the publisher thought it was important.
Anyway, I got a set of edits (not my first book with this publisher, by the way) not too long ago and I tell you what, that editor who was assigned to work on my manuscript was one of the unkindest people I have ever come across. For some reason, my story brought out the absolute worst in this lady. I don't know what struck her core but something sure did. She did not like one thing about what she was reading. She hated the heroine, the hero, the premise of the book, and even the villain was too villainous for her. Yep. She said that.
I'm not sure about how editors are assigned but I would hope if someone's story struck such a negative nerve in the editor that they could ask to be reassigned. This woman did not do any such thing; rather, she took her venom out on my poor psyche. Nasty comments abounded which made me hate my own work that I'd been so happy to submit and have accepted by the publisher. Now, that's pretty harsh treatment there.
A couple of examples: "You must not have worked very hard on this book as I've read one of your other books and it was better."; "You must not like your characters."; "I want to cold-cock your heroine." (AND this was not meant in a sexual way); "I want to tell her to go screw herself." and, after highlighting most of a chapter: "Rewrite this as it's nonsensical." No guidance, nothing - just rewrite it. And one comment was just, "You're kidding."
Somehow, I think editors are supposed to make the story shine, not tear down the manuscript or insult the author by basically calling her lazy and/or inept. I did the best I could with what the woman sent me but I looked over my contract to see if I could take my rights back since I was so unhappy. Before I did so, I emailed the editor in chief about the whole thing and asked her to look at the comments. I was then offered a fresh edit from scratch. The editor in chief also pointed out a contract provision I didn't notice in my haste to find the one about returning my rights to me.
Happily, the contract has what I am calling an "Author's right of last refusal" paragraph. This paragraph means I can refuse any and all of the edits. I have final approval of the manuscript. That makes me feel a whole lot better and I recommend making sure you have that kind of provision. A book going out with your name on the cover should reflect what you want it to, not what some woman who hates the book thinks it should.
The other thing that made me feel better was the editor in chief said she contracted the story as it was and she thought it was good. My poor lil ole ego that had been crushed to the core needed that. :) Yes, I admit, I let the vicious comments move into my head and make me think I was a terrible writer.
Why do we do that to ourselves? Why do bad comments tend to stick and the good get glossed over? Any ideas on how we, as writers, can learn to focus on the good? Let the negative go?