So there’s been a lot of recent attention to Mandy DeGeit’s frankly horrifying report of how her first piece of published fiction, “She Makes Me Smile,” was rather callously butchered by an amateur publisher, Undead Press.
The changes DeGeit describes include introducing an embarrassing error in the title (changing it to “She Make’s Me Smile”… what?) to re-writing whole sections, and altering several characters and plot points — all without informing her.
However the worst offense (in my professional opinion) was in how Undead Press treated DeGeit after she protested the changes. Here’s an excerpt from the response she received from the publisher:
wow, i truly cant believe that e,mail. you go girl. this one one hell of a story about dealing with unstable writers… lets see. on the contract, it clearly says publisher has the right to EDIT work. you signed it. are you saying you are a dishonest and immoral person and will now try to deny you signed the contract? well i have a copy right here
and as for the story. the editor had a hard time with it, it was very rough and he did alot to make it readable. despite what you think, your writing has a long way to go before its worthy of being printed professionally. we did what we had to do to make the story printable. you should be thankful, not complaining. ah, the ungrateful writer, gotta love it. the contract also says any disagreements you have about the contract must be filed legally in Massachusetts and when you lose, you must pay all court costs.
so, we are done here. any more correspondences from you must be from your lawyer.
I’ve been a small press publisher and editor for over ten years and, if it’s reproduced accurately, that may just be the most thoroughly unprofessional piece of correspondence I’ve ever seen.
I want to be clear. Editors make mistakes. Lord knows I’ve made plenty. And there are certainly times when you need to change a story, often over the objections of the author. Judith Berman once called me “the most intrusive editor I’ve ever worked with,” and it was probably deserved. We worked on multiple revisions of her story “Awakening” before it appeared in Black Gate 10 and was nominated for a Nebula Award.
But I hope I’ve always been straightforward with my writers about changes I wanted, and why I wanted them. And far, far more important than that, I hope I’ve always treated my authors with dignity and respect. Because when you screw up (and you will), you’ll also need their understanding and forgiveness.
Any company that treats its writers the way Mandy DeGeit describes being treated does not deserve to survive.