I recently attended a class taught by a debut author who passed around the editorial letter from her publisher. I had never seen one and was eager to read it. Thirteen, single-spaced pages written in dense, long paragraphs. My eyes crossed imaging how difficult this letter would be to decipher.Today, I read a different author's experiences signing with her agent. Her editorial letter (from the agent. The book hasn't been shopped yet) was 10, single-spaced pages. Again, my brain nearly melted.Questions:
(1) Are such lengthy editorial letters typical from both agents and editors?
(2) If yes, do you have advice on how authors should best tackle them?
(3) Also, why letters? When I beta read, I use the comments function in Word to highlight and add notes. To my novice mind, it's easier to decipher and act upon comments written in the manuscript than a separate letter with page-long blocks of single-spaced text.
I suspect your answer to the third question will be 'tradition' as so often happens in this industry. However, knowing what to expect might help us authors avoid an outbreak of hives when we receive our first editorial letter.
(2) One sentence at a time!
(3) Tradition sure, but also, narrative.
Editorial notes in letter format allow me more latitude than 1" revision notes on the side of a manuscript.
Also, a lot of my notes refer to over all structure: the middle sags, you're explaining too much.
Track change comments are good for specifics, but not things that apply to the whole ms.
Now, my question for you is why on earth are you worried about this?
When the day comes that you get one of these, it's not as though you're sent to a desert island to figure it all out for yourself. Your agent AND YOUR EDITOR will help you.
This isn't some sort of antagonistic combative relationship where if you don't understand something, your contract will be rescinded and you'll be sent to Bad Client Dungeon to languish forever more.
Get off your rodent wheel, and write a book that has me reaching for the phone not a red pen.