Tuesday, December 14, 2010

How to Maintain an Author and Editor Relationship?

I have heard that some author – editor relationships are tumultuous to say the least. In that way I have been lucky: I have  collaborated with four editors and we had no problems whatsoever.

When my  first two children’s book were confirmed for publication, the first thing my editor who was also the publisher asked me on the phone “are you one of those difficult writers who refuse to let the editor delete a single word of their manuscript?” I assured her that I was pretty easy to get along with  where editorial feedback was concerned, as I had written for several years for many local newspapers and was used to editorial feedback and cuts.

Our editing went very well. And within eight months the books were out. Several months later, I heard that a writer whose book was selected for publication had  stalled the editing process because the writer was being difficult. I was appalled. This writer was someone I knew, her book had been rejected by several publishers on the basis of its length. I felt that the writer should have been thrilled that some publisher was willing to publish her book without compromising on its length.

The writer’s attitude led to a major rift between her and the editor; things became so bad that the editing was stopped for several months. After much bitterness and anger the editing process was restarted. The result was a half hearted attempt at reconciliation from both the parties involved. It showed in the manuscript.

Another writer after the entire editing had been completed  and sent to him for approval  asked for his manuscript back as he was not happy with the changes made by the editor. This was such a colossal waste of time, I felt sorry for the editor: her efforts had gone down the drain. As the contracts are signed just before the edited manuscript is sent for publication, writers can withdraw their manuscripts if they want to do so. Thankfully, now  one of the conditions of the contract  is, agreeing with the editing changes.

         I feel there are few points to remember when it comes to an editor - author relationship:

  1. The editor should not be treated like a word gobbling monster. His/her interest lies in making the manuscript  crisper, the story better, the protagonist more lovable and improving the writing style. The editor is not there to criticize or hurt us. They should be treated as friends who can  give valuable feedback on our work.

  1. Editors not only know the demands of the market well, they also know what  will work and what won’t work in a story. Remember, that they have years of experience before them.

  1. If few of  their suggestions don’t meet with our approval, then its time to initiate a dialogue. We can try to convince them  that we don’t think their  suggestions will benefit  our story. We should give them  a chance to convince us that their suggestions will  definitely improve the story.

  1. Editorial feedback is extremely crucial as we are seeing our story from just one point of view: the writer’s. The editor is getting an entire overview of the story; like an aerial view. I have almost always liked my editors’ suggestions. I feel it has really enhanced my stories.

  1. Editors suggest changes with a view on the market as well. Their changes give our books the best chances of survival in a tight and overcrowded market.

How has your experience been with your editor? Is it a hostile relationship where you hate the changes suggested by them? Or, do you welcome the changes suggested by them? What advice would you give us to maintain a calm and trouble free relationship with our editors?


  1. HI Rachna, I'm not lucky enough to have a book published yet, but of course several of my articles that have been published have gone through revisions and I always felt the editor spotted something I missed. I make it a point to not miss that kind of thing again.

    Word ver = Conveno: an Italian convention!

  2. When the times comes, I will be thrilled to work with, and not against, my editor.

  3. My book is in the hands of an editor as we speak. It is scheduled to be completed and returned to me this Friday.

    I'm pretty excited to get a professional polish on my 'script. But I also know it's going to mean many hours of work going through the changes. Still, I believe it's a step forward for me and my story.

  4. I'm always in favour of dialogue rather than conflict. The main thing is that the manuscript is published in the best state possible.


  5. I'd just be thrilled to get a publisher who was able to give expert advice on tightening up my manuscript! Great post.

  6. Hi Rachna...I am sure all editors will thank you after reading this post. More often than not they are treated like monsters and the editor author equation is not good.

  7. great suggestions- can't wait till I am at this stage :)

  8. I think that's funny that your editor actually asked if you were difficult!!! I guess it's all in fun at that point, but they really do want to know. I think I'll be more than easy going because I'm so anxious to get anything published. Can't wait to have that great relationship. Fun post Rachna! Where can I find your children's books?

  9. I can't wait to say, "I have an editor." My relationship with be super. I guess there are some writers that are hard to work with just as there are people in life that we come across that are grumpy and unpleasant. Not me! I'll be easy pleasant and thankful. :)

  10. Hi Friends....I wish all of you lots of luck so that each and everyone reaches that stage fast; where we have to collaborate with our editors. I am sure that it will be soon; I am waiting for good news from all of you. :)

    I have always liked my editors' suggestions, they are almost always spot on; she sees the gaps which I have overlooked and suggests great ways to plug them.

    @ Anne...you can check out my children's books at Amazon.com. They have quite a few pages up there for people to read and then decide whether to buy or not.

  11. Congrats on your books! This is such great advice. I haven't had difficulty with editors; I know that they are looking toward publication and not looking to work against me. The only potential conflict I could ever see is if they requested something that would compromise my faith somehow. Good post!
    Have a good week,

  12. The editor's job is to make the writer look good. Why would a writer turn that down? And we can learn so much from good editors. of course, I've only dealt with brilliant editors whose changes I've agreed with.

  13. I can't say I've had much experience with this, but the editorial comments I received on a poem I wrote improved it tremendously. I can't imagine having gone through all the multiple hoops to get before a publisher and then balk at editorial comments. Discuss, sure. You need to know you're doing something productive before you start, so if you have questions, be sure to ask. I've edited from critiques often enough to know what's suggested in a critique isn't always what I read and understand from the comments and discussion is therefore imperative. But blowing off an editor's suggestions without talking is a career-ending move.

  14. I've been a magazine writer since 1994, and what I find interesting is that I am much more open to edits on my fiction than I ever was with my journalism articles. That being said, I think there needs to be a level of respect between editor and writer. Without it, the project is doomed from the start. It's hard to "let go" of your baby - an extension of yourself - and allow someone to chop, chop away. We can only hope our editors will make less drastic changes, but be open to the major ones as well. That doesn't mean, for the big points, you can't negotiate.