Tuesday 31 December 2013

Cherish your editor

The relationship between a writer and her editor can be complex. The writer often fears the editor and some editors may fear higher profile writers – they have a track-record so they must be doing something right. Who is the mere editor to say that this time they are wrong? 
Yet the editor performs several services for the writer:

·         She checks that the text makes sense
·         That it suits the imprint
·         That the writer is not making a fool of herself
·         That there are no glaring errors in grammar or spelling and no typos  
In fact, the author may well be grateful that the editor has brought some wisdom to her writing. Maybe in the process she has made it a little more commercial and a little less controversial but at least now the author has someone with whom to share responsibility for what is being pushed out into the world.
Writers whose texts are accepted for publication earn the right to be edited and this “free” editorial represents a risk the publishing house is willing to take in exchange for what it considers to be fundamentally good writing. The editor must be paid whether the book sells or not.
All of this implies that those who self-publish should employ an editor. A writer is  too close to her own text to see its flaws.
And writers would do well to remember that editors are on their side.  
The exchange between editor and author becomes a little like bartering. The editor sees flaws and suggests changes. The author retains the sense of the original essence of the book and may not wish to compromise that.
A conversation opens, nevertheless. The editor sees problems and suggests solutions.  Often the writer will find a third way. Compromise, anyway, is not really useful. The text can’t really work properly unless author and editor are in agreement.
So the exchange continues until both are satisfied.
What a skilled editor does
A skilled editor will not indulge in a battle of wills. She knows what is and what is not acceptable for her imprint. She does want her author to be happy with the outcome. Yet she has some responsibility towards her publisher. She will open the way for her author to make decisions with which both feel comfortable. Very rarely but nevertheless happening now and then, not publishing after all is the best for both parties.
There are reasons indeed to cherish your editor.                 

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