But it’s not mine!

A writer I follow on a critique site has this amazing short story. It’s a raunchy, on-the-edge romance, and it is very well written. The characters are rich, the humor is spot on (as they say across the pond), and her beta buddies have given it the seal of approval to submit to e-zines, magazines, publishers, etc. She did and lo and behold, she got a bite for publication, just like everyone said she would.

But there’s a problem. They want her to change everything great about the story and turn it into something it’s not. We’re not talking about tweaking a few lines, or strengthening a character. We’re talking full-blown re-write to ‘appeal to the masses’. Needless to say, she finds this very upsetting. If she makes these changes, then everything about it that makes it fabulous is gone. The author loses the integrity of the story. The characters will change. The humor will disappear, and the spark will vanish. We all hear about author’s not wanting to change “the voice” in their stories, but this particular publisher’s requests go beyond that. These revisions will actually change the essence of the story, the meat and fiber, the beauty of its uniqueness, individuality and expressiveness.

She says she’s going to make the changes even though her insides are screaming. Many of us have told her to tell this publisher very politely “No thank you”, and believe in herself enough to know that there is someone out there who will like the story the way it is, and won’t be afraid to take on something so honest and distinctive.

Don’t get me wrong. We, as authors, understand all about edits and revisions, and we all know editors are going to make them, and we have to trust those decisions are for the best. Most of the time they are, and our writing becomes tighter, richer and better for their wisdom. But what do you do when they want to turn your baby into something that’s not yours? As one of her beta’s said: “It’s like being told to make cookies from scrambled eggs, applesauce and a biscuit instead of just digging in and enjoying a hearty breakfast.”

So, what do you do? Do you suck up, fight off the heartache, stress and anxiety you’ll get as you make every single edit, and submit something you hate, OR do you stand your ground, say politely, “Thank you very much for your time”, and withdraw your piece and hope someone else will bite? At what point do you tell the publisher you want to stay on board, but you aren’t going to change certain aspects because of…. Remember, the last thing you want is to be perceived as an argumentative author. Word does get around in this business, so you have to remain professional at all times.

What would you do if you were in this situation? Which survival mode would you take on: fight or flight?


4 thoughts on “But it’s not mine!

  1. If the changes are going to make the author unhappy, I think they should pass. I’ve thought of this myself. I know in my novel there are going to be changes requested in the story… mostly to what happens to the edgy prince character in the end of the story. Right now, I can say I will decline, because this would effect the entire series. However, I know it would be tempting to balk in the face of publication. It must be hard for her. I hope she does not do something that she will regret later. I’m not sure I would be happy with myself if I was published, but send out something that I was not proud of.


  2. Well said, and I completely agree. I’ve turned down a couple of publishers over the years for this very reason, and none of them I feel guilty about. My most recent submission to a publisher, however, has me scrambling to make the changes because they were so right about so many things. I pray they like the revisions as much as I do and we can move forward. Fingers crossed.


  3. If the changes they wanted me to make made me sad, or I knew they’d make me feel differently about my piece, I’d politely decline. Same as if I thought the changes would completely alter the structure of my plot, or I was unable to see the benefits of the changes they made. Yes, the publishers are putting out work out there for us, but the work is going out with our name on it. Ask yourself: Are you going to be happy with that product one sale as a representation of your work? If not, you have your answer.


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