Monday, October 29, 2007

Making Nice With Your Editor

by Mackenzie Walton

If you are an author and your manuscript has been accepted for publication, you’re going to be edited. For many authors, this is a traumatic experience. Your story, which you’ve labored over for months, is sent to a veritable stranger and CHANGED.

In spite of this, editors are not evil people. (Well, not because of the editing. I can’t speak for everyone’s personal lives.) And even if they did turn out to be evil, bad news—you still have to work with them. It might make your relationship with your editor a little easier if you keep a few things in mind:

1. No, really, we’re not doing this to be mean to you. Our job is to help you improve your story until it is as wonderful as it can possibly be. We WANT it to be good—not just to help you, but because a poorly edited story will make everyone involved look bad—not only the author, but the editor and publisher as well. Suggested changes may not always make sense to you, but that’s the nature of the game; someone with a new perspective is going to see things differently than the person who’s been staring at this story for months. I often advise my authors not to fall in love with their words, because if they do, it can make the editing process a lot more painful.

2. Be patient. When we’re not whiling away the hours with sophisticated martini parties in the office, we actually edit, which, like any craft, takes time. We want to do the best possible job for you. Also, while we would love to lavish all of our attention on you and you alone, you are not your editor’s only author, and we must distribute our time fairly.

3. Remember that your editor is human. Unfortunately, the development of the Edit-Tron 3000 has stalled, so in the meantime you are forced to deal with someone who is a living creature with actual emotions. Your editor may not work as quickly as you’d like or may make decisions you don’t agree with, but he or she does have feelings, and your communication with your editor should remain polite. As anyone who has worked in customer service can tell you, honey attracts flies better than vinegar. Your editor is someone you have to work with; you want them to like you, and they’ll be more willing to go the extra mile for you if you treat them with respect.

4. Send us bribes. Okay, apparently I’m not supposed to suggest this. Never mind. Forget I mentioned it. (PSSST, I LIKE DIAMONDS.)

It is rare for an author and editor to have a perfectly harmonious relationship. There is likely going to be some misunderstanding and disagreement. However, keeping these few things in mind will make the situation a lot easier. Remember, even the best writers have editors, and hey, like they say—change can be a good thing.


Anny Cook said...

Why would you ever treat your editor with less than respect and good manners? I suppose there are authors who firmly believe that they are without peer, but I don't personally know any. I happen to think mine's the best!

Heather said...

Anny, I agree, I have a wonderful editor (not sucking up there, Mackenzie). And I sent her a very nice thank you note a while back...and we've not even edited anything yet. Am I scared of the upcoming edits? A bit, but more because of the unknown than what she'll do to the book. And Mackenzie, can I use the Edit-Tron 3000 in one of my Hunters books? *bats eyelashes prettily*

Denise Rossetti said...

Don't forget that your editor took you on because she/he liked your work, something about it applealed. It's not as if she/he doesn't have enough to do! The two of you are on the same wavelength from the get-go.

I'm lucky enough to live in the same city as my editor, the incomparable Sue-Ellen Gower. I still remember the first time we spoke on the phone and she talked about my characters as if they were real, with such insight and affection. I almost burst into tears, I was so touched.

So I KNOW (at a visceral level) that anything Suz suggests will improve the book. I couldn't be more grateful.

Unknown said...

from someone down in the edit-cave, and wondering when I got detached enough to make edits....


I love my editor. But it's better with chocolate.

Celia said...

Is it the editor's job to change the content entirely? When my husband used to write for a local entertainment publication, the editor would often edit his words to the point where the entire meaning of the article would be changed. This often left him ashamed to have his name attributed to the work, as it was no longer a representation of the original work he had written in any way or form.

This is different from a book, I know, but I'm wondering if the same situation occurs in the book world as well...I can see changing sentence structures and whatnot to make the best flow possible, but I'd be very upset if an editor wanted to change my content or idea. Does that happen?

ECPI Editors said...

Yes, we do edit book content. Sometimes, it's just necessary. However, we work with the authors on this - we do not rewrite their stories.