How Publishers Censor Your Words
Once you’ve finished your manuscript and you’ve submitted it to your publisher they will begin working on the editing process. Depending on what type of publisher you are working with, they may give you back a completely different manuscript that doesn’t resemble what you submitted in the first place. Each publisher has their own priorities and caters to a certain audience that they are publishing for. This is the case for many traditional publishing companies.
Why they may change your content
In working with traditional publishers, they have a specific target audience that they are going to be marketing your book toward. You may have your target audience in mind when you are writing your book, but your publisher and their marketing team will alter your work to better market it to their audience. Traditional publishers invest in you at the beginning of the publishing process, giving you an advance, hiring the editors, and spending money on marketing and promoting your book. They have a vested financial interest in making sure that your book sells enough to both cover the costs of publishing and to ensure that they turn a profit. Making sure that they are able to meet those goals means editing and making changes to your book so that they have a better appeal to their audience base.
How they censor your work
What do these changes and edits look like? They might be small incremental changes that they make during the editing process. During editing, an editor will change words, remove redundancies, and add their own input on your work. That’s a standard procedure to make sure your work is the best it can possibly be. Censoring comes into play when the publisher or the editor deliberately removes or changes parts of your work in order to cater to the audience they are selling to.
For example, one author, who is a black woman, tried to submit an article to an online journal. The editor came back with their revisions and they neutralized her words by removing any cultural references that were directly related to the black community. This was done specifically with the journal’s audience in mind. Another example that we have seen is in talking to another author, they had pitched their memoir and the publisher wanted to make the main character gay, despite the fact that the author writing the memoir is not gay. Again, trying to change a story to meet their audience. Censoring can come in many forms. The important thing is recognizing when it is happening to your work and understanding what rights you have in place to make decisions about your work.
The Importance of Having the Rights to Your Work
It is very important to understand who you are publishing with and what rights you have to your work, whether it’s a manuscript or an article. You need to know what rights you have so that you can make the ultimate decisions about what changes are to be included. With a traditional publisher, you typically forfeit the rights to your book and they are the ones who make the final decision about what goes into your book in exchange for them taking on the publishing and marketing process. Even after your book is published, they still maintain the rights after and are able to promote it to different audiences than the ones you intended and are free to do whatever they choose to do with your book.
Which types of publishers might censor my work?
There are three main types of publishing: traditional, hybrid, and self-publishing. Traditional publishers are the ones that will handle all of the publishing and marketing logistics for you but they are also the ones that are going to be censoring and altering your work for their audience base. Because they are the ones who are essentially paying for everything, they want to make sure that their audience receives your book well.
Self publishing is, well, self explanatory. You are the one who is making all the decisions about your book and you have full control over who edits and designs your book. You are also the one making the marketing decisions and are able to market specifically to your target audience. The downside to self publishing is that you have to front the cost for every part of the publishing process.
Hybrid publishing is the middle ground between traditional and self publishing. Hybrid publishers will work with you through the publishing process, giving you the resources and team that you need in order to have your book published. They won’t handle all of the publishing logistics but they will be there to support you and guide you through the process. You also typically keep all of the rights to your book and all final decisions about your book are made by you. Each hybrid publisher is different and it’s important to ask your publisher questions about what rights you have, during and after the process, and who they are publishing for.
Things to Keep in Mind and Questions to ask a potential publisher
These are questions to ask a potential publisher and things to keep in mind when deciding on a publisher for your book.
Who is your target audience?
Asking a publisher who their target audience is will give you an idea of what audience base they are marketing to and what types of books that they publish. If your publisher isn’t willing to answer this question, that’s not a great sign. You want to make sure that anyone you are working with is transparent about their process and who they work with.
What types of books and authors does the publisher work with?
Different publishers are also experts in publishing certain types of books. Certain publishers only publish fiction books, while others concentrate their focus on health and wellness books. Knowing which types of books a publisher focuses on will give you a solid idea of if your book will be taken on by a publisher and which publishers should be on your list of potential candidates.
The rights to your book
Before you sign any contract or deal with a publisher, you should be careful and ask what rights you will have to your book in the middle of the publishing process and at the end. If you don’t have the rights during the process, then final decisions are likely not up to you but your publisher to change as they see fit. You may have the rights to your book in the middle of the publishing process and are able to make the final decisions but if you don’t legally own your book at the end, then you won’t be able to make any changes or market it. If you want to put your book on your website or give copies to a friend, or make it available anywhere else, you would need to have your publisher’s permission.
How does the editing process work?
This is a more pointed question for a potential publisher about how their editor will work with you. Will you be able to review the edits and choose which ones to keep? After you submit your manuscript, do you have any further input on what gets changed? What is the editor going to be focusing on? What does their editing process look like? These are important questions to ask in order to make sure that your words aren’t being censored and that you are able to maintain control over how your words are presented.
Publish Your Purpose Press is a hybrid publisher and we work with people who have a story to tell and a drive to make an impact in their communities’ lives. We make sure that our authors take the lead with their stories and that their story is told the way they want. To learn more about PYP and if we are a right fit for you click here!
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