Like cures like

You would think that the persnickityness of the proofs would have me knitting garter stitch washcloths, but nope. Leaves. Who knew? There’s a homeopathic principle that says “like cures like”, and it seems to be the case for me this time. Somehow, even though I’m still busy writing stuff like this on a manuscript:


(Added later, when seeing some confusion in the comments: I wrote that note. The red marks are from the editor, who is trying to change a sentence so that it begins with a conjunction. The black note is from me, where I am “stetting” her. I thought it was extra funny that I was correcting her while simultaneously making two errors (the misspelling of “conjuntion” and “sentance”) but perhaps you have to be in my rather frayed frame of mind to find that rippingly amusing in a terrible but ironic way. Har-dee har-har. I may need a nap.)

I feel a real relief in the tiny, little, perfect leaves that are “just so”.


The Deadline for getting this proof out of here is today, so I’m copping out on the real blog writing and answering questions from yesterdays comments.


I am currently reading The Yarn Harlot’s Guide to the Land of Knitting, and I noticed that it’s “color” and not “colour”. I love seeing that extra u in words (I secretly wish I were Canadian), and I wonder where the decision to leave the u out comes from? Is that the author’s choice? the publisher’s? Does customs take the u out when the book comes over the border?

It’s definitely the publishers choice. They get my manuscript with Canadian spellings, but they are an American publisher, so my choices are changed to reflect standard American spelling. The very first time that I encountered this, my copy editor phoned and told me that the manuscript was very clean and they liked it and they were just “going to correct my spelling.”

“Correct my spelling?” I queried. (I am normally pretty careful about spelling. I have a multitude of flaws I freely admit, but a am a good speller.) “Are there lots of errors?”

“No, no” she backtracked “we’re just taking out your Briticisms.”

“Briticisms?” I said.

“Yeah, you know, added “u”s, extra Ls… Briticisms.”

“Hmmm…. ”

“You don’t call them Briticisms?”


“What do Canadians call it then?”

” English.” I replied


Okay, I’ll be the rude, impatient person and ask what we really all want to know. How soon can we expect you to haul yourself around the planet for signings? And when can we start clamoring (and bribing) for our favorite cities to be on the list?

It’s not rude to ask. I’ll be on the road for this book April 2nd. As far as I know, there are 20 cities booked, pretty much back to back. When I have details, you’ll have details. (…and for the record, I believe the publicity department to be fairly immune to bribes, or I would have had a seven day book signing in Fiji by now.)


Why is it more expensive at rather than…. is it an american publication ?

Yup, and all American books (and a lot of other American things) are more expensive in Canada. American books are distributed in Canada by (not surprisingly) Canadian distributors. The price rises to cover the distribution costs. A lot of people believe that it’s the exchange rate that causes the difference, but as many Canadians discovered this year when our dollar was at par (or above) the American dollar, it didn’t make the book prices on par.


How long (in general, I know all your books are different lengths)is the first manuscript in terms of word processed pages? I’m guessing it’s different than what is type-faced, justified, headed, and illustrated in the final version.

It depends. Manuscripts are managed by word count, but books are pages. (My books are usually between 25 000 and 50 000 words.) I would guess that I lose about 3-10% in the editing, but it’s pretty variable. Usually the publisher has an idea how long the book should be – or must be… have a look at a book from the side and you’ll see that there are “sections” of paper. When they print a book they can add one more of those, or one less, but not a part, and as an author, your work is trimmed to reflect that. For example, this new book needs to be 160 pages. After my work was typeset and made pretty, I was told that I was coming out at 8 pages too long. Part of this last part of the process is deciding what 8 pages should go. (I hates it – but I’m trying to be mature.)


One reads about authors getting huge advances to write books … is this true or does it depend on whether your name is, say, Stephen King or Joan Didion or Stephanie Pearl-McPhee?

One does read about that, and yeah. It does depend on your name and reputation. (Hint: my name is not Stephen King.) An advance is exactly that. It works like this: A publisher makes a guess about how many copies they think a book will sell. They offer the author that money “in advance”. The author writes the book, the book is published and (with a little luck) the book starts to sell. The author gets a portion of the book when it sells. That portion is called a “royalty” and it’s usually somewhere between 4 and 15% (depending on your name and publisher… think under 10% for “not Stephen King” types – the industry average for a paperback is 6%.) of the price. If a book is $10 the author will get a 60 cent royalty for every book sold – assuming the royalty is 6%, which – a lot of the time….it isn’t.

So the book sells, and the author waits, and every time someone buys a book, 60 cents goes into their account with the publisher…BUT, the author has to pay the publisher back the advance before they make any money. If you got a $10 000 advance, a book needs to sell more than 16 THOUSAND copies before the publisher owes the author any more money. Only once you have paid back the advance do you get any more, and if your book never sells 16 000 copies, you would never get any more. (Technically, without a clause in your contract that says otherwise if a publisher paid you $10 000, and your book only ever sells 2000 copies, they could ask for their money back, which is a black nightmare that haunts the dreams of all writers. I don’t think it ever happens though.)

In addition, an author is not paid for being on tour, or otherwise promoting their book. If you are lucky (and I am) being on tour doesn’t cost you any money and the publisher covers the costs. That’s not always the case though, and it’s difficult for many writers to lose that time to income earning. I remember when I started all this, and was boggled to learn that out of all the people involved in selling a book, the author earns the least per book. (Although I don’t really know a lot of rich publishers or booksellers either.) It explains why a lot of writers work so hard to keep the books coming. It’s the only way to earn a living at it….and it isn’t just the case for middle of the road writers like me. I was listening to Nino Ricci on the CBC a while ago and he said something to the effect that if he added up all the time he spent writing, revising, proofing and promoting, he would have earned more working at McDonalds – and he’s a bestselling, award winning novelist.

In short, yeah. Authors get advances. No, they are not usually huge, and I think you really have to love writing if you want to make it your day job.


Although you do get to knit leaves at work.

162 thoughts on “Like cures like

  1. Stephanie — I was a graduate student in English. And I taught writing. And now I’m a copy editor. And I start sentences with conjunctions all the time, especially when writing in conversational style. . .

  2. “Hives.” “English.” ::snerksnerksnerk:: And I’m guessing giving those answers 1) took about as much time as a regular post would, or 2) have been given so many times you could roll them off in your sleep. Which…uh, well, doesn’t make much of a point. I think it’s my bedtime. 😉
    Proof on, with courage and all that. The leaves are still looking gorgeous!

  3. But if you love writing, there is nothing in the world like having your author’s advance copy in your hands and seeing a life’s dream becoming a physical reality. It’s incredible.

  4. Ooohh, maybe if I knit leaves at work I could stop the bout of stress-induced insanity I feel coming on. ‘Course, I make more than if I worked at McDonalds. And I commute, which means I get to knit on the train. But not leaves. I might drop them and they would unravel.
    Can’t wait for the book!

  5. So it’s a pretty safe bet that a stay-at-home mother of two who gets the nice fat cheque of $100.00 per kid from the gum’mint is making more than the average authour. She may or may not get to knit leaves at work too.

  6. By the way, I think we should all gang up on your publisher and tell them that we know you’re Canadian and that we want a little colour back in those spellings.

  7. “You don’t call them Briticisms?” “No.” “What do Canadians call it then?” ” English.” I replied.
    I’m laughing hysterically here. Friends who are Welsh, Scottish and English have explained very patiently to me several hundred times now that I and my countrymen speak “American”, not English. If we spoke English, we would, they say, know how to spell things correctly and would still be part of the United Kingdoms.

  8. Hooray for knitting at work! (I get to knit at work, too — I’m a stagehand, and there can be LOOONG spells between cues. Although there _is_ the problem of dropping stitches in the dark…)

  9. I’ve lived in the States now for almost as long as I lived in Canada and I still want to spell British style. I’m now a court reporter and had to change to honor and color and traveling, etc. My proofreader is constantly finding things that I “need” to change to Americanize it. She thinks it’s funny; me, not so much. Loved the “English” comment! I have a driver’s license with Z in it and have unwillingly converted to saying Zee, just because I got tired of all the “Huh?” from cashiers. At least they can’t force me to call my mother anything other than Mum!
    Sorry you aren’t making more on all the entertainment you provide us, but I promise to keep buying!

  10. I think you should find a Canadian publisher so you can include English in your books and support Canadian publishers. Hey, there’s one right here in MB called Friesens…

  11. I tried using “STET” with the kids last night and I don’t think they truly appreciated the power of the word, I wish they would.

  12. Hi! As soon as I saw your book on, I ordered it….I can’t wait!I knit at work. I’m a sign language interpreter in a call center ( all on the internet) and in between calls or on hold lots of knitting is done! Yay for those who knit at work:)

  13. Well, I can read about you knitting leaves at work, while I’m at work.
    Hmmm, do you have speech software (like Dragon naturally speaking) so you can “write” while knitting? or do you just take knitting breaks at work?? I wonder if the sound of the knitting needles would create words on the page if you did use the speech software? What words could come out of the knitting needles…

  14. I don’t get to knit at work but that’s only because I got canned last week (BIG difference of style with the boss). So I am spending my time enjoying the yarn harlot and knitting on the couch. I think there may some leaves in my future!
    P.S. Can’t wait for the new book.

  15. Knitting leaves at work is a real perk. I promise I will buy two of your next book. One for me, one for my best pal.
    Living so close to the BC border her in Idaho, both spellings are considered “correct”. Nobody I know even notices.

  16. So- can you be my book Doula?
    Kind of kidding- appreciate the inside the writers workshop info;)
    PS— just wondering what would happen if I wrote STET sll over the house… as in- I cleaned the floor- please leave it as is…. and I Cleaned the floor around the toilet- please STET (I have 3 boys:) COuld be useful…. this STET… too my guys aren’t editors… more like eating and mess making machines;) Good luck… and the leaves are lovely– still say hockey socks though…

  17. I really want to know what those arcane red symbols are, now that the mysteries of “stet” have been revealed.
    And who’s the one with the hives? Enquiring minds want to know.
    Knitting leaves may be an antidote for almost anything. Maybe on the same principle as capsaicin, the active ingredient of hot pepper, used as a pain remedy as a ‘counterirritant’ — the idea is that it stimulates other nerves and blocks the pain signals. Eh? (Though I hate to describe Lisa’s leaves as counterirritants, but perhaps occasionally when they unravel, it’s very apropos.)

  18. I think I might want to write if I grow up…hmmmm.
    And I’ve started spelling colour with the u, even though I live in the US. It must be your blog influencing my english.

  19. I was going to say something along the lines of how I love the Canadian spellings better and being in the writing business barely seems worth it, but I got hung up on the comment about getting money from the government for each kid, and then I had to click on Dorothy’s link and see where she lived, and the reasons for moving to Canada are just stacking up all the time. I would like to be a stay-at-home mom in Canada, I think. I’ll fit right in. It will take but a moment to adjust all my spellings.

  20. Your last sentence nails it on the head – you’re doing something you love, which, sadly, isn’t the case for most people in the world. So maybe the moola part isn’t the biggest driver? If the money is someone’s biggest driver, they become oil men. Or something like that…

  21. Perhaps we can work out a cheap drugs for books exchange?
    Why is it more expensive at rather than…. is it an american publication ?
    Yup, and all American books (and a lot of other American things) are more expensive in Canada. American books are distributed in Canada by (not surprisingly) Canadian distributors. The price rises to cover the distribution costs. A lot of people believe that it’s the exchange rate that causes the difference, but as many Canadians discovered this year when our dollar was at par (or above) the American dollar, it didn’t make the book prices on par.”

  22. OK, I’ve got to ask: how come you’re working with a copy editor from the middle ages? Aren’t these things computerized yet?
    I know, I know, it’s not your choice. But when I see that sort of dialog on a typeset document, I always get the urge to look for wax droplets from the candle the copy editor was using to illuminate her hovel. (This is not criticism of you. It is, however, very strong criticism of your publisher. They are wasting time and effort – yours – in a process that would be better and more easily done by computer.)

  23. I know why you love the leaves…they are totally within your control. No editors, proof-readers, no one trying to make you use US instead of metric needles. Just you – in total control.

  24. Hey Steph,
    Having lived in the USA and now in Canada as well as my native Britain I can speak all three languages (English, American, & Canadian) but you can imagine what it does to my spelling!
    Sending you lots of concentration to get through it today- can’t wait to see it in print. Congrats!

  25. Dear Stephanie,
    While I recently extolled the virtues of excising the serial comma, I do believe that there are times when a comma is a necessity and a sacrament. Such a time would be in the note at the top of the page from one whom I can only assume is your editor, though it is terrifyingly omitted.
    Please consider carefully the wisdom of letting someone edit your books when conjuctions give him/her hives and s/he wails about the lack of a serial comma while omitting a sacramental one. ^_~

  26. Could we still get the eight pages if the publisher took the type size down one notch? I’d be happy to use a magnifying glass or stronger bifocals if it would mean not losing anything you deem essential to the work.

  27. In the old days (think 1800’s) authors were responsible for paying back their publisher if their book did not make as much as the advance they got.

  28. “What do Canadians call it then?”
    ” English.” I replied
    HA HA HA HA HA!!!!!!!!
    That’s great! I was laughing so hard one of my across-the-hall buddies came into my room to see what was going on.
    That’s the uber-cool thing about English–it’s so diverse. (sort of like the uber-cool thing about humanity in general)
    Thanks for the laugh, I needed it. We just found out today that a budget cut may lead to some of us losing our jobs. (thanks a lot Tommy effing Thompson)

  29. Yay! I knit at work too! It’s the best part of my job. Hope you are coming to Atlanta, and that I get to see you this time around (missed it last time)

  30. For whatever reason, it didn’t occur to me that I could ask questions here and possibly get an answer! So here’s my question: I’m curious about what program you use to write your books. MS Word? Or something more sleek and zenlike?
    And about the leaves: it makes perfect sense to me. Leaves are fidgety little things over which you have complete control. Sounds like a great proofing side job to me!

  31. There is a bottle of GlenLivet (yes 18 yr. old) in your future…. and now I know I’m never writing a book unless someone else takes a tape recorder to me and then does all the other parts. Thanks, it seemed painful (ridiculously hard and more “time allotment” than three people could have) and now I know I don’t need to enjoy that pain. I don’t care if they do think “I’d be perfect”. Unlike you, my spelling ( even to write this I had to check spell check three times) sucks and my grammar (I just don’t even “get it” or worry about it any more. I’m too old) is worse. I will be paying my .60 or maybe even 1.20 for your “blood’s money” and sorrowful you don’t get more. If you ever need a pint I’m B+ (really B positive!). Thanks for your blood sweat and tears, though “thanks” is little enough reward.

  32. leaves at work?
    Screw the crappy pay scale! Sign me up for a writing gig.
    It drives me crazy to see ‘american-isms’ all over the place, especially in advertising, here in canada.
    dude. there should be a u in that.

  33. I can’t wait to see the book on the shelves. I’ve recently learned to knit and read so I’ve been devouring books. (I maybe didn’t read so much for a few years while I learned to knit) Now, if I can only figure out how to knit and soak in the tub….

  34. This is fun for me, I’m near the tail end of the book process and a lot of the early stuff is mysterious, thanks for sharing it!
    Plus, let them know Benadryl works great for hives.

  35. You can count on me for my 60 cents. In fact, it would be more lucrative for you and even better for me if I could just pay $20 to come and hear you talk – maybe once a month? No pressure…
    Briticisms, my arse. My coloured, labelled arse.

  36. You GO, girl… love dem leafies. They are charming. I’m wishing that someday you AND your pretty sock, too, will visit Santa Barbara, California… really, just up the coast from most of the publishers in the LA area.
    Fibre rules!

  37. Every day this week I’ve brought my knitting into the office with me; I ordinarily leave it in the car. I’m still trying to formulate a plan for walking approximately 20 meters to the loo while concealing my knitting. Maybe I could dislodge a brick in the wall and just keep it there during the day…..hmmm…..

  38. “English” – lol. Kind of like how in Italy they just call it food, not Italian Food? Love it.
    And, although we may not have had the biggest turn out, please don’t forget that Louisiana *loves* you! We’d love to show you Baton Rouge in addition to NOLA! =)

  39. Ooh. Ooh. You’re going on the road again? I had to miss you last time because you came to Chicago on Passover. This year, I live in Washington, DC. I really hope you come here, and that it’s not on a holiday. I’ll bring others.

  40. If you want to wow your editors, next time you refer to those “sections” of paper, call them “signatures.”
    Yep, it can be a drag to fit all the copy into the allotted signatures. But honestly, as hard as it is to cut copy, it’s 1,000% WORSE to add copy. That’s when you have the deep urge to go lie down in traffic.
    cheers, and come to Portland!

  41. Eight pages – eight blog posts? or 8 stories for the tour? I hope we read/hear them at some point. Sweet leaves, btw.

  42. I can’t believe that you don’t get paid when you are on tour! I will certainly bring you beer and homemade treats the next time you are in Seattle.

  43. Should we picket to add the “u”s back into your words? ‘Cause frankly, I love spellings like that (I insist upon spelling travelling with two l’s, and you should see the look of horror on people’s faces). Here’s hoping SoCal is somewhere on your list!

  44. Umm. . . guys? Ix-nay on the the iticism-cray. Okay?
    The note you are making fun of appears to have been written by Stephanie. Mistakes happen, but if I were getting razzed like that at such a stressful time, I would likely curl up in bed and not write in my blog for a while.
    I’m just saying, is all.

  45. I gave my niece some books from Australia for a present (The Ranger’s Apprentice series, several volumes of which are only currently available there and NZ). She was disturbed by the weird spellings. I told her to open her mind and get a grip, and that in what passes for the real world Harry Potter uses those funky spellings too. She was not impressed.
    OTOH, I gave those same books to my nephew for Xmas, but before I did, I checked to make sure he wouldn’t toss the books in frustration by encountering interesting words and spellings. Nope. Good kid!
    I think you should come to beautiful Annapolis. Or at least some nice place on this side of the Potomac. Get your wonder publicist on the ball here!

  46. “What do Canadians call it then?”
    ” English.” I replied
    ROFLMAO! I love this exchange. *grin* There go we Americans, again, being contrary to the rest of the world.
    Lovin’ the leaves!

  47. Umm, guys? I believe that would be Stephanie herself who wrote that note. I myself am graciously overlooking the spelling errors, because, as an English major, I know what it’s like to be nitpicked about that sort of thing. Everyone makes mistakes every once in a while– especially when writing quickly.
    I did my undergrad emphasis in editing, but I realized quite quickly that I would go absolutely insane doing it more than a few hours a day. I was quite right about that, incidentally. Still, it’s nice to see the power of stet extolled every now and then. And to see the good old proofreader’s marks. 😀
    (Long live the serial comma, incidentally. :P)

  48. Editors with two spelling errors in one sentence give me hives. Giant ones.
    I’m looking forward to a rolicking good read. I hope you enjoy writting it as much as I will enjoy reading it.

  49. Um, yes. Yes it is wrong. I do it while talking, I do it in email and even blog posts. Proper writing, however (anything professionally written/work related) does not allow for sentences beginning with conjunctions. I’m sorry.
    Did she really call it “Briticisms”?! That’s just silly!

  50. Thanks for sharing the realities of a writer’s life. It’s pretty amazing how badly writers are rewarded these days. When you read that young writers (even short story writers!)in the 19th and first half of the 20th century could actually support themselves, it’s discouraging to see how far we’ve fallen. There’s a great article by Ursula LeGuin in Harpers magazine this week about publishing as a messed-up industry.

  51. A friend of mine won the Globe and Mail writing contest a few years back and the prize was publication of her story (the end of the serial they ran) and dinner out with all the other authors who were A list Canadian writers.
    She was just on the verge of selling her first book and had a husband with a decent job who supported her. She was so surprised to realize she was the richest person in the room and she’s far from wealthy.
    It’s rather sad.
    Hope the editing continues with lots of stets.

  52. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for not starting sentences with a conjunction! It might be okay, but I find it an abhorrent way of writing!
    I am in love with those leaves – the colours are so beautiful!
    Briticisms? Hmmm, this sounds to me like some good old “we Americans are always right” theory!
    Although, I do prefer our measuring system …..

  53. Wow. Basically, it sounds like one has to work their ass off (or arse, as you prefer it ;)) to even get by almost on writing (for non-Stephen King/JK Rowling types). Wow. Wow. I didn’t realize it was such hard and poorly paying work!

  54. *smile* It’s that last part, about making leaves at work, that would make it worth it to me:-)
    And if anyone’s taking a poll–hate the serial comma, starting sentences with conjunctions gives me the hives unless it’s in dialog or done stylistically (to mimic thought or to give emphasis), and I’ve spent so much of my time reading British literature that spellcheck keeps dinging me for the extra u’s and l’s.

  55. Color-colour? Who cares? One time when we were in Ireland, the 7-year-old son of our B&B hostess challenged my husband to a spelling contest. (Smart kid–my sweetie can’t spell!)
    Afterwards, the son confided to me that “Bob doesn’t even know how to spell colour.” I didn’t bother to explain….

  56. I’m a counsellor, and I always keep a sock on hand at work to knit if I have a no-show (and with my university population, that happens with some frequency). But it’s thanks to you that I even contemplated the idea of knitting at work, and that I even started knitting socks, so allow me to thank you for spreading the “knit EVERYWHERE!” credo. I loves it.
    Looking forward to the new book!

  57. I’ve already pre-ordered your book and the calendar! I hope you keep the cover of the book, I think it’s cute. I hope that adds a buck 20 to your pot. I’m voting with Karen E for putting those 8 pages onto your blog, I’d love to see what I’m missing. I got all your books for a christmas present from hubby and have already read through them all and are starting to re-read them. If we’re starting to put in for town nominations for your book tour, I’d like to nominate Oklahoma City, but not in the summer like last time you came, WAY too hot. October is a great time of year here, and we also have a great craft fair that same month, that might entice you to stay a couple of extra days! It could be research for your next book. I think you should to a book about our needles’s perspective on knitting. I would like to know how they think and if they screw us up intentionally because they don’t like our project. Keep up the great work. Nat Alea in OK

  58. Thanks for answering questions. My husband has been wanting to write a book and I will definitely make him read this. I can’t wait for the new book and I hope you are coming to a city near me when you start tour. I’m in NYS, only a cannon shot from Canada.

  59. I have a dear friend with dual Canadian / U.S. citizenship who has been known to send me e-mails with “extra” letters in parentheses, like so: behavio(u)r. Cracks me up.
    @Jo-Anne: Hockey fan? 😉

  60. So you’re kicking off your next tour on my birthday, eh? Any chance you’ll be starting out in Boston or somewhere in Maine so I could actually go see you?

  61. Every time I see “Americanism” words I think they mispelled it. Due to the fact that you are a Canadian author they should leave those words alone STET! I love the colour of all those leaves . Good luck thanks for the post . Have an enjoyable weekend

  62. In every creative writing class required for my major in college they gave us the “speech” the first day of class that went something like this: “If there is anything else you can do with your life besides write, do it. I know that you think your writing is the best thing since the Bible; it’s not. I know you are now snickering thinking I’m talking to the person behind you. I’m not. It’s you. Your stuff probably isn’t any good, and you? Your stuff is worse. I’m not interested in your angst ridden poetry about your ex-boyfriend. I don’t care if you think your novel is the next Harry Potter. Personally, I think most of you would be better off in an elementary education class. If any of you wish to leave, please do so now.”
    Then we would continue in negativity for the rest of the semester. I used to be very bitter about it. Now I realize that all those teachers were just getting us used to disappointment.

  63. When I was a little girl I read a lot of books that used Britishism, and it affected my spelling accordingly. Imagine my surprise when my Southern California teachers marked my papers wrong. Harumph.

  64. Calendar? Did someone write they ordered your book and “calendar”? Really…where? I need to order many calendars for presents. Thank you so much for posting on a Friday during a deadline.
    My sister and I look forward to traveling to the closest Yarn Harlot tour city and seeing you this spring.

  65. I make a living as a writer – a technical writer. How weird is it that I can make a good living writing documents that no one really wants to read much? The slogan for technical writers is RTFM – read the freakin’ manual!
    But I’m not allowed to knit at work…

  66. “I remember when I started all this, and was boggled to learn that out of all the people involved in selling a book, the author earns the least per book.”
    I am sympathetic, truly, but as someone who works for a publisher, I have to say that this is only true if you call the entire publishing company a “person.” As an employee of a publisher, I promise you: I do not make even close to 60 cents for every book we sell.

  67. I am giddy that my question made it onto the Yarn Harlot’s blog! I’ve been telling and showing all my co-workers, but they don’t seem to care. Like a certain cat I read about who doesn’t get excited over extraordinary accomplishments in knitting.

  68. This is all very interesting. I have a question, though, and I’m trying to think of a nice (Canadian, although I’m not) way to ask it. Here goes, anyhow: I just re-read your Secret Life of a Knitter and loved it, again. Your more recent books are, ah, less in-depth, if I can say that – does that reflect the reality of your needing to write books quickly (one a year, in between the millions of knitting stitches) to keep your publisher happy and you in appropriate SABLE mode?

  69. If it’s any consolation, editors earn shockingly little money and nearly all of us have advanced degrees. All one has to do to earn significantly more money is to leave the editorial department and work in marketing (where they do not have to write any of their own ad copy…the editors have to write it for them). Go figure.

  70. As an aspiring writer, I want to thank you for your frank discussion of life in the world of publishing. I’ve attended conferences and workshops and have never heard anyone put in such simple terms what it is like to make a living as an author. Since it’s also a long hard road to be a brain surgeon or even a top pastry chef, I am not discouraged, but it’s helpful to have someone be honest about the road ahead. Thanks – and hey, knit on, Dude. Its an Excallent Adventure.
    PS – to this day I spell “gray” “grey”. I blame Mary Stewart.

  71. The spelling differences are just because Noah Webster was in a snit when he wrote his dictionary.
    It ticks me off to no end that our spelling is considered incorrect, when a large percentage of the English speaking world spells the same way we Canadians do.

  72. Ah, the burning irony of needing correction while correcting. Yes. Yes, I know it well.

  73. sigh! and if only they could find a way to pay us for sitting in our comfy chairs and knitting…. if I were allowed to knit throughout the day at work…. I would be a VERY satisfied lady! but since I work in a special needs pre-school for autistic children I think the issue of pointy sticks would pose a serious problem… oh well, I may need to knit some of those leaves.

  74. To Katherine C who said “I wonder if the sound of the knitting needles would create words on the page if you did use the speech software? What words could come out of the knitting needles…”
    I think the needles make a laughing sound when the stitches “unraveling-sound” is displayed on the screen as “plink,plink,plink,plink,plink,…..”

  75. I could *swear* I learned it as labelled, travelled, cancelled, etc, back in the dark ages when I was in grade school. In TEXAS, no less. (where they’re not the bottom of the heap, scholastically, but they aren’t in the top 10, either.)
    “Briticisms vs English” – LOVED that!
    keep on keepin’ on, you know we love ya.

  76. When people say things that are obviously totally and completely wrong, I am usually able to let it pass and try to pretend they hadn’t just said something really stupid. But I can’t this time. I am only going to say this once, so pay attention.
    You are NOT a “middle of the road writer”.
    Thank you. Now go back to what you were doing. Ta.

  77. I hope you come back to Halifax. I so wanted to go see you when you were here in August but I had three babies under 12 months, 2 were sick and no babysitter. I just bought two of your books and now my family definately thinks I have lost it. When I am not knitting I am laughing out loud while reading of your knitting exploits. Finally someone I can relate too!
    Please, please, please come back!

  78. As you no doubt know, in informal or conversational-style writing it is now considered perfectly acceptable to begin a sentence with a conjunction or to end one with a preposition. And I do it (although not in technical documentation), but I still get a little twitchy when I do. Yes, I am twitching now. This is because I am a fuddy-duddy and (as you may have noticed yesterday) anal-compulsive not only to a fault, but to the point of being a royal nuisance.
    Sadly, the anal-compulsive thing does not carry over into housework.

  79. I am reading through the gentle Milly-Molly-Mandy series by Joyce Lankester Brisley with my 4yo at the moment. It feels like every second sentence in that book starts with “And…”, which I think would normally annoy me, but it works with these stories. In fact it is part of what makes it a delight to read out loud. There is nothing wrong with conjunctions in context.
    About a week ago I blogged in passing about the changing of books, (not just spelling, but also language), for American audiences in a post to do with the fabulous Margaret Mahy.
    I’m looking forward to your new book, starting conjunctions and all! *g*

  80. PEOPLE: PLEASE READ STEPHANIE’S POST MORE CAREFULLY. As a couple of readers have pointed out, the note in black ink was written by Stephanie – she says so herself!!! So stop pointing out the spelling mistakes, already.
    Lynn at 5:05, I think you can safely forget about emigrating to Canada. You’d never pass the Polite Test.

  81. Odd.. the publisher for whom I do editing work allows the author to specify spellings when there are choices. We’d leave your … ahem …”Britishisms” … ahem … IN so that your book would be spelled in English. I’m thinking I’d love to edit your book…. it’d be so easy!

  82. You don’t call them Briticisms?”
    “What do Canadians call it then?”
    ” English.” I replied
    You slay me!
    People must love dealing with you and your quick wit. 😉

  83. I’m enjoying learning about the publishing industry. Please keep going!
    I also want to know more about how you “broke into the business.” No one ever talks about how the knitting industry works and how you get published.
    Any resources you have to share are appreciated.

  84. Steph, the fact that you are so open and engaging while facing down multiple deadlines says all that needs saying about you.
    If the book tour comes within a days drive from minnesota, I will be there. I may even drag my friend who graciously introduced me to you. She is the only one who doesn’t look at me as if I have lost my marbles while I gasp for breath through the laughter.
    Canada should just appoint you their roving ambassador, pay you an unseemly amount of money(for stash padding) and be done with it.

  85. Ahh but the big question for me is, ‘Are there any European destinations in your back-to-back city tour – like London maybe…?’
    Just think of the book and blog inspiration that the Isles of Briticisms might provide!
    In all seriousness though – I am sure that there are plenty of people on this side of the pond who would love an opportunity to hear you speak in person.
    We might spell funny, according to your US publishers, but we are friendly. Mostly!

  86. I think it’s even worse for textbooks. I’m an art historian and can guarantee my students that even though I made them buy a $75 book (because I chose to use the cheaper one!), the author got a whopping 2.5 cents worth of that money. Regarding editing: When I worked for a publisher we had a house style guide that mandated things like use of serial commas, etc. and I was under the impression most publishers had their own style guides. Perhaps that’s only the case for science/technical/academic books? Dunno. Thanks for sharing your experiences–very interesting indeed!

  87. That is one reason why awards are so important, particularly for literary writers. And awards for first books can make a big difference to whether or not a writer can spend time writing the next book. Same with “writers in residence” at universities. I was involved in raising funds for one of those recently and there was a big push to get money with no strings so that the writer actually had time to write while she was in residence. A couple of teaching things but mainly a salary to write.

  88. Thanks for the glimpse into the world of publishing – very interesting stuff. I still don’t get where you find the time to write books, blog, and knit (oh, and that whole taking care of the family, house, and Mr. Washie thing, too). You are an amazing person!
    Still resisting the socks, but your pictures of the sweet little leaves make it hard…

  89. You’re tired. Do what you need to do to get it finished and out the door, then take a good long nap. Then have yourself some good tea, some good chocolate, and tell your publicist you want better travel arrangements when you go to Ann Arbor next time. I’ll dye you something pretty.

  90. I’ll echo others and say thanks for these posts. They’re sobering and illuminating, especially for a reader like me. You make me want to run out and hug any author I can possibly find, and then go buy multiple copies of their books.

  91. My mother encouraged us to read all the classics as kids. I constantly failed my spelling vocabulary tests in elementary school. Yes–I was using the British English spellings instead of American English. Noah Webster wanted to emphasize the differences between American and Brits so we got different word spellings foisted upon us in the mid 1800’s.

  92. i live state side lower
    forty eight- april can be lovely
    do read an author don marguis
    his archy stories the little
    rodent who cant spell and cant
    reach from the shift key
    to the capital letters
    and does not spell well
    what the—boss its the meaning
    that counts they will just to
    figure the rest out for themseves
    the past days have been so interestng

  93. I greatly admire your willingness to blog (and answering questions is hardly “copping out”) during an unimagineably stressful time. Here’s a funny story for you – if you get time to read these comments – while serving as a copy editor for the (Bates) college newspaper, I, and everyone else on the staff, missed this: (Geez, I hope this works without a picture)
    Caption below a man holding his hands out about 1 foot apart (1/4 meter metre??) “U MASS Debater Makes a Point” – Read it out loud for full effect.
    We ran the same picture and caption again for our Lempoon – spoof version of the paper.
    Just remember, Shakespeare didn’t worry too much about spelling, and neither should you!

  94. P.S. Reading through the comments, I see a lot of people didn’t realize Stephanie wrote everything in black, and didn’t catch her admitting her spelling mistakes in the parentheses (or did those appear later). I think most of the reactions were meant to support Stephanie against the copy editor.
    And for Lynn, I don’t think anyone would fault you for having a favorite book of Stephanie’s. I’m sure we all do. But I think that most people who read and love her blog (and love her for sharing so much of her life and experiences with us), understand that she writes what she wants and loves to write. When I read your comment I had the same initial reaction as Rams – there is no polite way to suggest that one’s writing is based on publisher demand/financial need rather than on a desire to express yourself and tackle topics that interest and excite you.

  95. I just had to tell someone who would care… My husband and I are moving into a house that has… wait for it… ALL cedar-lined closets. Not only that, but it has what we’re going to call a “knitting room” all for me to store patterns, yarn, etc… Plus a basement that is 1010 sq. feet full of wooden cabinets perfect for… well… hee hee. So … no one is getting this quite like this crowd would. Share my joy. Stephanie, can’t wait for your tour. I hope you can come to Third Place Books again.

  96. Just had to ask – should we worry that your new book is due out (according to Amazon) on April 1st? As in April Fool’s Day?
    It’ll probably be best to just ignore that and keep working on those leaves, you knitting fool!

  97. I just read your “Briticisms” bit to my husband. I got to “What do Canadians call it then?” and he snorts, “English!!!” We both spent a lot of time reading British authors (Agatha Christie, Dickens, Douglas Adams, Terry Pratchett, etc.) so most of the time we don’t even notice the differences
    When I was in college, my English professor wrote a note on my first assignment asking me to see her after class. When I met with her she said, “I love reading British authors and completely understand what you mean, but could you try to stick with just one form of spelling. You’re switching back and forth and the inconsistency is making it a bit ummm… challenging.” We both laughed and later began loaning each other our favorite British books. “Briticisms” rock!
    P.S. I do hope you will visit the D.C. area again. Edison loved meeting you and his big brother wants to have a chance to see you sometime.

  98. Oh MY this is fun! Turning the light on the business end of writing is terrific from here. For my part, I say “leave in the Canadian spellngs”; where I come from we call it “flavour”. (Well, I come from Wisconsin, but who’s counting?) Furthermore, Milissa at 9:00 is right, “Shaxper” was unencumbered by standardized spelling. That’s a fairly modern conceit, all things considered. As the daughter of a Newspaperman, I wince when I see clear spelling errors, particularly in some print venues, but ’twas not always so. The fact that a new book is in the works tickles me no end, though; I can hardly wait!! (As has been said before – you ROCK!) (Ever notice how fond I am of parentheses?)

  99. Beginning a sentence with a conjunction makes my skin crawl. I went to a Catholic school. We were taught better than that.

  100. Thanks for the behind-the-scenes look at the publishing world. I have worked off and on in various bookstores over the last decade and, honestly, there are so many books that end up on the sale table, one has to wonder how any money is made at all! By the way, I love all of your books, mainly because your own voice shines through.

  101. The British tell us we’re speaking a different language, and then they tell us we’re using “Americanisms,” but they don’t refer to French as “Frenchisms,” now, do they? Often what is called an Americanism is a word that goes back several centuries, that America kept and the British stopped using and then forgot. It doesn’t matter. Every publishing house has its own style book that is essentially its own preferred language or dialect; they require the use of their “publisherisms.”
    I just buy and read the books. Write on.

  102. Any chance you’ll make a stop in Ottawa on your next tour? I’d love to hear you talk and get my books signed. I’m sure we could fill the NAC or even the Civic Centre.
    Like Laura, I’m a tech writer. I work from home, though, so I do get to knit at work.
    My ‘work’ writing is done in American English, but I use Canadian English in all my emails. Sometimes that confuses the designers in California and Texas, but they get over it. Rather than worry about the extra letters, they seem to be more concerned about words like centre (vs center) and think I must be dyslexic. Oh well.
    Cheers and thank you for sharing!

  103. “I was told that I was coming out at 8 pages too long.”
    Great – your poor book is being put on a diet. Is nothing sacred? Food diets, yarn diets, and now word diets. It’s enough to drive a literate person to drink…or does that violate the ethanol diet?

  104. As a writer/musician/knitter/all-around creative person, I continue to find it incredibly annoying that creativity is valued so little by the majority of the world’s population. We have our niches: knitters, writers, musicians, artists; we all stick together. But when it comes to the population at large, the things that we pour our hearts, souls, time, and money into are largely snubbed.
    I realize that tiny royalties are probably not a reason for me to get on my soapbox, but this comes on the heels of a show last night at which at least half a dozen people plainly saw me playing and hadn’t the decency to leave even a quarter in the tip jar. (Which has Happy Bunny on it. And says, “Please tip, because starving for your art sucks.”)
    All in all, what I’m trying to say is…I feel for you on this one, and I’m glad you’ve got the stamina and the love of the crafts, both knitting and writing, to keep you going. 🙂

  105. Dear Stephanie: Your comments about the business end of writing books such as yours were fascinating! Thanks for sharing this with us. I hope Kingston is on your tour list.
    Your comments come to me on the heels of an article I heard on television last night about the striking television writers, some of whom make $20,000.00 per rerun in residuals. I thought that was fascinating too, but not for the same reasons: 🙁

  106. Excellent and extremely interesting post. Personally, I like the “u”s. Briticisms? Isn’t that a wee bit difficult since you are, um, Canadian? Maybe your editor needs a geography lesson. Tee hee

  107. I really enjoyed learning a little bit about book publishing from this post! What you mention about the author often earning less than everyone else involved in publishing a book reminds me of current discussion on the Knit Design yahoo list (and elsewhere) about knit design fees. Annie Modesitt posted on her blog not long ago that after doing some research into what everyone involved in patterns published in a knitting magazine earned per design, she found that the designer earned less than just about everyone, including the model & stylist, although the designer had almost certainly put in the most hours on the project (and certainly more than the model & stylist. Not that I have anything against models & stylists.) IMHO, it’s a big problem.

  108. Thanks for the insight on what goes into writing a book. I have a friend who writes children’s books, and now I see why it takes so long to get them into print.
    Also, Rochester is only a scant 3 hours from you, you should come here. I can bring you a Genny and a Garbage Plate!

  109. I’m from a publishing family and I spent most of my growing up between the studio and the printing presses and the offices.
    The authors do earn decent money, in general we prefer to pay them a fixed price and no royalties but there’s always space for haggling. Depends on many factors. However…. to create a decent textbook (that’s what we’re doing, textbooks), you need an editor who knows everything about kids, syllabi, theories of teaching and learning and such. With all due respect to the author, sometimes the editing folk does tons of work that are not apparent to make a pretty book into a pretty textbook. Then, you need to have decent graphic design and decent graphic designers don’t grow on the trees, you need decent illustrations (there’s many artists but not that many who are willing to bend their egos before fourth-graders who wouldn’t get the last developments in abstract painting), you need to get it printed decently. Then, like it or not, you need some folk who sell the books because having a ton of the best books in the world is useless until you make people buy them. You need an office or two to seat the people somewhere, you need someone to answer phones…. there’s a huge overhead. Producing a 80 page textbook takes about 800 000 cowrie shells and the author gets around 50 000.

  110. I’m with you regarding the conjunction. Mrs. Rhuerhmund told us in the 5th grade that it was incorrect to begin a sentence with a conjunction or end one with a preposition, and that the correct pronunciation of the word ‘white’ is ‘hwite’. I don’t know how these rules are different now, because they were not letting us change them in 1979. Is there a grandfather clause? I believe I have some homework grades that need to be corrected.

  111. I don’t comment very often, but I check your blog every day. Thanks for your wit and insight. I’ve given you the You Make My Day blogging award. It’s posted on my blog, today’s entry.
    Can’t wait to add your upcoming book to my collection.

  112. I know Corpus Christi, TX is out of the way but, we have beaches and palm trees and it’s supposed to be in the 70s(F) this weekend. Just in case you want some warmth. We would love to have you here. I can’t wait for your new book.

  113. [quote]
    “What do Canadians call it then?”
    ” English.” I replied
    Well said. *nod*

  114. Well since the publicity department doesn’t respond to bribes, maybe they’ll respond to begging. Pretty pretty please come to North Carolina? I don’t think you’ve been here yet. Consider it a present to me for finishing my master’s thesis. And there’s lots of yarn here too.

  115. STET on, Steph. It is, after all, YOUR voice that we are trying to hear and having heard you in person last fall, I think that needs to STET as well. Let it stand.
    I am from the US. I have always lived here. I am old enough that when I used to do my homework and writing assignments through school and
    would insist on spelling certain words “colour”, “honour” etc. my teachers would let them stand as well. They taught us to spell them with no ‘u’ but they let it alone. Your spellings are not “Briticisms”. Ours are Americanisms. It is a blessed, bloody shame that people who are editing you who PRESUMABLY HAVE SOME DEGREES IN ENGLISH (NOT AMERICAN) OR JOURNALISM cannot figure that out without some help.
    Keep knitting those leaves…it’s much more sane.

  116. Thanks for the inside story about writing. I had always thought that writers made a lot of money but I stand corrected. It is sad that writing doesn’t pay however I am certain that your much happier writing then you would be flipping burgers.

  117. Stephanie, thanks so much for sharing all this information on here! I like how you’re so open about it all. I can’t wait for your next book to come out (even though I’ve only read “Yarn Harlot” and I’m working my way through “Knitting Rules”), it makes me even happier knowing that you’re a fellow Canadian!

  118. I wish the American publishers would leave the spelling just the way you wrote it. Seriously, so they think we are so dim we wouldn’t know what colour meant? Sheesh! It would just add a bit to the flavor of your books to leave the spelling in all its Canadian glory.

  119. After having done some editing work, I came to the conclusion that there is no bond stronger than that between an author and her chosen word.
    I am really irritated that US publishers americanize the manuscripts. Most British spellings are completely understandable. I don’t know anyone who would not understand “colour” or “licence” or even “kerb” (although I admit that “gaol” for “jail” did have me reaching for my dictionary).
    Do UK publishers re-edit American books to get rid of the americanisms?
    Too bad you can’t get an advance printing of a few hundred books to sell directly from your website; you’d make a lot more from each sale that way.

  120. If your publisher didn’t cover travel costs while on your book tours I’m absolutely positive you fans would. Goodness knows you are more than welcome at my home any time you need or desire to come to Arizona!

  121. Just have to put my oar in here. I’m a Canadian medical transcriptionist, working for an American firm, and my autocorrect is full of Canadian-to-American spellings. I cannot for the life of me bring myself to type “judgment”. I have to spell it “judgement”. But they want it the other way, so…and likewise with a million other American weirdisms (check-cheque, distention-distension, oh, I could go on!).
    What do Canadians call it? English! I’m just dying of laughter! But I guess our “British” English looks odd to them. All those extra letters…

  122. My pre-order for your book and calendar has been made with Amazon.
    Can’t wait to read them both.
    Martha in DC

  123. My first job out of college (journalism and life sciences) found me working as the technical and science editor for a local publisher. “Science” was loosely interpreted to include all animal-related publications, including the Cattleman’s Association magazine, local sheep industry newsletter, Arabian horse association stallion sperm count reports, etc. One of the animal publications was the quarterly magazine for the regional kennel club … this was a very convenient happenstance, as I was raised and teethed in the Land of Dogdom and Field Trials … oh, how I went rounds with the proofreader, a very nice, kind, soft-spoken and innocent Pentecostal lady who kept marking out “bitch” and putting “female” and I had to keep writing “STET!!! Dammit, Melanie, STET! STET! STET!!! A bitch is a fertile female canine, it’s not a bad word!”
    Thanks for the memory, Steph.

  124. I had an interesting experience in a used-book store this past weekend wherein I overheard an older gentleman asking the price of a children’s book that looked to me as though it would have sold for about 50 cents at a garage sale. The bookseller checked her computer and said, This book is out of print, so it’s $15.00. My chin just about hit the floor.
    So, what happens when a book goes out of print? Does the author see any royalties from that, or is the used-book seller the only one profiting (after subtracting the overhead, of course)? I’m sure that book didn’t sell for anywhere near $15.00 when it was published. Just curious.

  125. It’s really interesting to get a peak into a ‘real writer’s’ world! How it all works and such . . .
    The leaves are enchanting . . .

  126. One of my books, Knitting for Dogs, exists in a U.S. edition and a U.K. edition. So I’ve been translated into English! And someone got paid to make it say “colour” and “washing up liquid”. I find this absolutely funny.

  127. I write (technical writing) and I don’t like starting sentences with conjunctions either. We were always taught that it was ‘wrong’, in school. It still rubs me the wrong way. Stick to you guns!

  128. Leaves are lovely. And though I am American, I like the “u” in words — it’s just classy. I had a 4th grade teacher defend my spelling “theatre” as being correct and that is how I like to spell it, damn it.
    Also, if I could knit at work, I’d feel less like smacking my boss so I think tehy should let me.

  129. I see that you very cleverly avoided traveling on April 1 this time. Looking forward to seeing you somewhere in SE Michigan — maybe the Ann Arbor library again?

  130. You should get wayyyyyyyy more than $.60! Like wayyyyyy-wayyyyyy more!!
    Oh…you’re coming to PDX, right?!?

  131. I have thought about freelance writing as a career choice, but the uncertainty of it killed me. I ended up back at a normal job (in a library, so I still have books even if they are law books), but I still get that urge. I should do something with it.

  132. Your story of the “briticisms” reminded me of a joke from Jasper Fforde’s Thursday Next novels. The novels are about this woman, Thursday Next who is a “jurisfiction agent” (a policing agency inside of books). Awesome series, especially for the book nerds out there. In one of the books jurisfiction is concerned because the text sea has a shortage of “u”‘s so to solve the problem they remove the u’s from different words (like colour) and use the excuse that it’s a regional oddity. Good an explanation as any I think.
    Oh, and please come to central florida. We’re not fiji, but we have palm trees, the ocean, and disney world! =^)

  133. English/Briticisms *snort, ROFL* Actually, I hate to play the devil’s advocate here, but I’m an American who lived for four years in Canada. While I was there, I took a course in historical linguistics. One of the things I learned in it was that linguists have studied cultural groups where some of the people leave their native land and move elsewhere. A couple centuries later, the people who emmigrated tend to speak a language that is closer to the original than the people who didn’t leave. So by that logic, Americans are actually speaking a purer form of English than the English are. (Duck and run here — please note I said *speaking,* not writing, which has to do with the personal whims of Noah Webster more than anything else.)

  134. I remember when I first moved to the US (from Russia, not Canada) and wrote, “colour” and “neighbour.” The teacher would mark me down for misspelling, but my dictionary spelled it that way! The injustice.

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