I'd like to introduce you to the people behind the wonderful authors and books—the editors! Aspiring authors often ask what editors want, what editors like—and what editors are like. Well, they are people and come in every variety. The one thing they have in common is an absolute love for good books and reading. Publishing is a poorly paid career field—editors do it for the love of books, not for the love of money.
I have met some fantastic editors from many publishers, and learned a lot from them. And here at Ellora's Cave Publishing we are very proud of our editors and of our editorial standards. The editing quality of our books has been praised by big NY publishing companies.
So we're going to run a weekly feature to let you see "inside" some of our editorial staff. Learn what inspires them about editing and books, what their pet peeves are regarding submission, what they like to read. We'll start with...
What is your background and experience in editing?
My editing background comes from a career in journalism, which didn’t begin in the editing field. I was a writer before the opportunity to become a lowly copy editor presented itself. I switched careers, and with the endlessly patient support and tutelage of my editor, worked my way up to associate editor.
Four years ago, my former editor wrote a cover story about Ellora’s Cave for my newspaper. I was inspired by the story and contacted EC about part-time contract editing work.
Four years later, I’m still working for EC and loving it so much that I wish I could edit books full-time. I’ve had dozens of trials and tribulations along the way, and with the help of my fellow editors and the seldom-seen but greatly appreciated final copy editors, I’ve become an editor who can be proud of her work. I’ve also learned as much from my authors as they have from me.
How would you describe your editing style?
Brutal. LOL! My authors would probably say I’m hard to please, extremely anal retentive and fixated on minutiae. I prefer to think of it as not letting anyone rest on their laurels. :-) When editing, I consider myself first and foremost an advocate for the reader, and I ask the questions I think readers are most likely to ask. I’m looking for understandable yet compelling, and I try to steer authors away from that which has been read or written too often.
It’s rare that I don’t request some revisions before accepting stories. I expect authors to learn from past mistakes, and should I find the same errors—whether grammar or narrative or world building—I require them to fix those items. I believe an acceptance should be a reward for hard-working authors who take their writing seriously.
What is your favorite thing about editing?
The power trip.
I’m just a more behind-the-scenes person. During high school, I always wanted to be the stage manager for school plays, not the actor. Some would say that suggests a need for control, but I really just wanted to be the one ensuring all the elements were in place for the actors. It comes down to wanting to feel helpful, which is still extremely important to me in every area of my life.
It’s the same with my authors. I’m more than content to let them shine…my satisfaction comes from knowing I helped them do so. And that satisfaction, for me, is immense. It’s my own personal “best feeling in the world”.
What are your pet peeves in books or submissions?
Spelling errors are number one. Hands-down. In this day and age, there’s simply no excuse. I’ve turned down projects based on the synopsis alone, due to excessive spelling errors.
Beyond that, there are the usual pet peeves…insufficient grammar skills, overdone plot lines, unfamiliarity with basic fiction-writing rules, lack of proper research. And in regards to potential EC submissions—sex for the sake of sex.
IMO, writing is a job and writers should arm themselves with the tools necessary to be successful. Those tools include grammar texts, formal education when possible, reference sites, research skills and knowing the market for which your book is targeted, to name but a few.
For personal reading, what are your favorite genres and all-time favorite books?
Oh man…how much time do you have? It might be easier to list the genres I don’t like. I haven’t read many self-help books…
I’m an ardent Chuck Palahniuk fan; have a fondness for horror in the vein of Brite and Lovecraft. I went through three copies of Charlotte’s Web by the time I was eight years old. My shelves are heavily lined with multiple titles from 19th century authors (Bronte sisters, Poe, Dickens, Twain, Irving, Hugo, Hawthorne, etc.).
A very, very short list of more “recent” all-time faves includes:
Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal
The Catcher in the Rye
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich
The Bell Jar
The Great Gatsby
The Magician’s Assistant
And lots of biographies.
Secret guilty pleasures: Shipwreck biographies. Really. Probably has something to do with growing up surrounded by the Great Lakes. And photography collections; Annie Leibovitz, Herb Ritts and David LaChapelle are favorites, though I’ve some interesting ones by people you might not expect, like Dean Koontz and David Lynch.