“You write to communicate to the hearts and minds of others what’s burning
inside you, and we edit to let the fire show through the smoke.”
– Arthur Plotnik
“No passion in the world is equal to the passion to alter someone else’s draft.”
– H.G. Wells
You editor is someone with a special skill-set. One that is often described as being intrusive, overbearing, heavy-handed, and just plain wrong. But it is also described as being artful, challenging, insightful, and brilliant. Is it one or the other? Or is it both?
There are a few things your editor does that you may not fully appreciate. I thought I’d gather a few of them. See if you agree:
1) Reads widely. This is no small feat. When your editor reads for a living it could be surprising to find that they are reading for fun too. The advantage for you is that the editor can bring breadth and variety into the editorial conversation.
2) Cares About Making Your Book Better. It may not sound like it when the editor is being critical or dismisses your latest brainstorm. But editors genuinely want to be a part of great books. Lazy or cavalier editors don’t last long in the industry. I have heard editors speak passionately about a book they worked on…even books that were published years ago.
3) Fights In-House Battles Big and Small. An author rarely, if ever, knows the extent of the hallway conversations or the formal meetings that have an impact on your book. Everything from reminding a publicity person of their promise to do something to navigating the cover design decisions to the Title meeting. Some battles are won, some are not. But that editor is in the trenches working with the team to get your book done the best possible way it can within that organization.
4) Confirms Sales Copy. As the book makes its way through the marketing and sales process someone has to write the catalog copy or back cover copy. Someone has to proofread it. Someone has to make sure that it describes the book accurately. If your editor isn’t the one who created the copy it is very likely that the editor will be reading it at some stage in the process. Don’t take this for granted. It is a crucial piece of the puzzle.
5) Understands You and Your Book. Or at least attempts to understand. Your editor has their proverbial hands inside you doing surgery. It can be messy. It can even be “dangerous.” But they have talked to you, listened to your vision for the story, and is one of the few people in the world who knows your book as well as you do. This is not an easy job. If they poke too hard you may scream or if they let something slide it may ruin a chapter.
Do you have some other things that can be added to this list? Please add them in the comments below.
Meanwhile…thank your editor today. They are overworked and underpaid. But they still love their job….and hopefully still love working with you.