Friday 16 October 2009

Being an Editor

It is so interesting seeing it from the other side. I have to reject really well written pieces sometimes. Often, it is because there is really no story in a piece, or not enough tension, or the pace is all wrong, or everything is great but what is produced just does not fit what we’re looking for. Sometimes, also, it’s a matter of scale. Sometimes we just happen to have extraordinarily good examples for a particular title.
Then there is the editing process itself. I think of editing at three main stages:
Overall structure
Grammar, punctuation, formatting.
The less editing that is needed the better, but if something is going to be extraordinary with a bit of work, lets do the work.
Unfortunately, you do not know until you start how people are going to react towards being asked to edit. Most writers are fine, some don’t mind the suggestions but can’t react to them and a minority become very precious about their work and refuse to budge. Note to self: never accept anything again by people from the third group and if time is pressing, avoid the second group as well. If an author can’t respond to editorial advice, the editors themselves have to make the changes. Fine, but where’s the time? And actually, the results are usually better if the editor and the writer work together to find a third, much superior way.
Then there is author anxiety. When will this book come out? Why haven’t I heard from you? When will we get the proofs? Well, actually, as soon as possible…. And sooner if I don’t stop to answer this question.
I know, too, as a writer who networks with other writers that even those published by the big guys in Random House end up doing a lot of their own marketing. We’re only a small company. The staff work for love and peanuts. We give as much of our time as we can. What we can’t do is pay Waterstones £25,000 to frontline our books. What we can do is produce wonderful books and I think, on the whole we do.

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