The Gravity of the Thing has been publishing defamiliarized writing since 2013, and over the years our editors have discussed various ways the journal might defamiliarize common editorial or publishing practices just as our writers defamiliarize traditional forms of writing. One way our contributors defamiliarize writing is by “baring the device” or foregrounding a creative piece’s construction or craft, which inspired us to foreground and bare our practices as editors. Thus our Baring the Device column was born, a space where The Gravity of the Thing’s editors and contributors can share writing that uncovers different editorial and publishing processes.
In this chapter of Baring the Device, our editors bare the common editorial practices that come into play after a submission is accepted for publication. On the happy day that a writer receives an acceptance letter, there are a few ways the writer and editor begin their correspondences. Here are some ways The Gravity of the Thing editors and other literary journals and presses reach out to writers:
- Common acceptances: The editor will ask the writer if the submission is still available for publication, inquire about copyright, ask for an updated literary bio 2-3 sentences in length, and wait for confirmation from the writer. If the editor does not hear back from the writer after a week or two, they may send a follow-up email or assume the writer is no longer interested in publication.
- Acceptances with edits: The editor might ask for all of the above information, as well as ask the writer if they are open to edits. Not all writers are open to editing their work and, likewise, not all editors will accept submissions that require edits. However, some editors will accept work that calls for minor edits, each defining “minor” in their own way. Their editing process might include anything from light proofreading to developmental editing, though the writer should be given the opportunity to approve all edits prior to publication. To review…
* Developmental editing involves the reshaping of craft decisions. This could mean an overall or in-depth revision of the structure, character development, voice, pacing, etc.
* Copyediting or line editing focuses on sentence-level revision in regards to clarity, consistency, and accuracy, in content and in formatting.
* Proofreading includes checking the manuscript for any minor edits, such as typos, dropped punctuation or words, etc.
Note: the writer has every right to decline edits that do not strengthen their original vision for the piece. To learn more about editing rounds, read the following section on proofing.
- Conditional acceptances: The editor may offer to work with the writer to help develop a piece of writing, which implies the piece is not publishable in its current state but the editor sees potential in the writing or writer. Again, if the writer does not feel that the editor shares their vision for the piece, the writer can and should decline the editor’s offer and submit their piece elsewhere.
Once the writer has accepted the editor’s publication offer, the writer can expect to receive a proof of their work. The proof may be printed or electronic, and it is essentially a version of the writer’s work as it will appear after publication. By providing a proof, the editor is presenting all proposed edits and giving the writer the opportunity to approve the edits and request any final changes to their writing or their bio. If the editor or writer request substantial edits, a second proof might be created and shared for a second round of editing.
- Electronic proofs. Whether a creative work is being published in print or online, the publisher will forward the writer a proof, often in the form of a .pdf file. This .pdf might be large (containing the cover and the interior file of an entire issue or anthology) or it might be small (an excerpt from an issue, showing the writer only their own work), but the proof should portray the final layout of the piece as well as the final version of the writing.
- Physical proofs. For book-length works or anthologies, publishers will usually share an electronic proof with the writer(s) and then later distribute printed proofs, often called galleys or advance reader copies or ARCs. These bound proofs will reach literary critics, reviewers, book distributors, etc., as well as the writers, and these uncorrected proofs may still contain formatting errors the writers and editors can catch before the book goes to its final printing.
As the publication date approaches, editors will launch different types of promotional efforts to boost readership. For a book or anthology, marketing and publicity plans can span a year or two in advance of the publication date. For literary journals that release issues on a regular or rolling basis such as The Gravity of the Thing, promotion usually launches shortly before or after the publication is available to the public. No matter the scale of the promotion, the writer is essential to the success of these efforts, and it is important that the editor and writer communicate on a few basic topics prior to publication:
- Compensation. Not all publishers offer their writers compensation, though most publishers aim to compensate their writers in some form. For example, if a publisher cannot pay their writers, they might instead offer free contributor copies of the upcoming issue, or they may offer free subscriptions, etc. The editor should be forthright with information about the writer’s compensation, though the compensation itself might take weeks or months to go into effect or arrive in the mail.
- The publication date. For a book-length publication, writers might know their publication date six months to a year in advance. For online literary journals that publish shorter works on a regular basis, writers might learn their publication date a week in advance or the day of. Regardless of the time frame, it is important that the editor contact the writer when the publication goes live, so both the writer and the editor can celebrate the publication and encourage readership as a team.
- Social media. Whether a writer is being published in print or online, almost all literary presses and journals promote their publication activities through multiple social media platforms. It is important for editors and writers to swap any relevant social media handles before the publication date, so all online activities are linked/tagged and different readers from separate communities can easily find the publication.
- Future opportunities. If the editors are planning any public events or readings, either to promote a specific publication or to attend a literary conference, etc., writers and editors should discuss ways to keep in contact in the future. For example, The Gravity of the Thing has a separate newsletter for its past contributors, so we can notify our contributors of any upcoming opportunities, and our Community News column is dedicated to celebrating the ongoing literary accomplishments in The Gravity of the Thing’s writing and editing community.
All literary presses and journals are built around some form of community (be it in-person or online, defined by locality, demographics, or theme, etc.), though all publishers, whether they are established or emerging, depend on the writer’s engagement to successfully promote a publication. If broad readership is the goal, effective and ongoing communication between writers, editors, and community members is essential. To view our next article, “Baring the Device: Ethics in Publishing”, please click here.To receive Baring the Device posts by email, please subscribe to our newsletter.