The journalism program I attended offered an opportunity to pursue your inner Ernest Hemingway and spend a semester studying creative writing. At the same time, I took an internship at the Humber School for Writers Literary Agency. The Agency shopped the completed novel and short story manuscripts of students who’d completed the correspondence program around to publishers. As an intern, it was my job to read the submitted manuscripts, write a short report and determine if the work was ready to be represented. Despite the fact that all works had been reviewed and revised under the direction of an instructor (a published writer), many of the manuscripts I read were not close to being a finished novel. A few of the manuscripts showed a glimmer of being a publishable novel, strong plot, lovely use of language, compelling characters, etc. These were the ones that would be sent back to the writer for further revisions before being sent to potential publishers. Despite all of the revisions, the manuscripts that did get accepted for publication still received a thorough work over from an editor. I’m happy to say that at least one of the manuscripts I read did get published and did well in terms of sales.
Editing, especially from a professional editor, was integral to helping these manuscripts by first-time authors get published. So I was dismayed to read a story last week about the reduction in the number of editors at the major Canadian publishing houses. The economic downturn is, at least, partially to blame. Publishers are tightening the belt by laying off editors. The publishers can’t afford to spend hours editing a work before publishing it. This means that writers must now often resort to hiring their own editors in order to get their work closer to publication, and this makes it even harder for first-time writers to get published.