Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The skinny on editors

From yesterday's comments came this quick overview of editors. Read those comments, then read this.

A ghost writer will take your story and write it. This is often the case with cleb memoirs. Prepare to pay them well. They get no byline credits. Often though, people in the industry recognize their writing, so there is that...such as it is.

I hinted that there are different types of editors. In the big publishing houses there are acquisition editors. In a nutshell, they receive an ms from an literary agent. (It might be pre-read by an assistant.) If they like the story and think it will be a commercial property AND fit into the "list" they are putting together for one of the 'seasons' in 18-24 months, they will pitch that ms to a group of VIP who determine whether or not to buy the rights to the ms, and which rights to buy. This is a condensed version of the process. It is very much like the US Congress, they solicit votes for their ms among their peers and may trade votes for their peer's projects.

Skipping all the in between stuff, there are content editors, who like Yvonne mentioned, look at the story line and throw out the fluff and point out gaps in the story. They do not rewrite the ms, you do - and if you're smart, you will do what they ask. If a writer - especially a debut writer - is difficult to work with, very little effort will be put into making that book amount to anything. They will cut their losses and any hope of future work together the author had are out the door. Again, this is just the highlight of the process.

Jerry Simmon's book covers this in depressing detail, but if you want to play ball with the big kids, you should google Jerry and buy his book - AND READ IT. (It is the one with a stack of books on the cover.)

There are line editors. They focus on grammar and punctuation items. Enough said.

Sometimes proof readers are not the same as a line editor, sometimes they will proof a ms after it is formatted into book form.

The one clear point is that an editor does not rewrite your book. You have to do that. They are not going to change your voice. They will cut out the garbage and the hard part for beginning writers is to let go of the unessential stuff that does not serve the story.

When someone calls their book, "their baby," I steer clear of them. Most likely they will treasure every word and be more trouble than they are worth to get an ms ready to be a book. There are literally millions of writers in the world. No one needs to put up with a diva - and they won't.

The point of this is less about editing an ms into a book, and more about moving the writer to an author's mentality.


  1. I thought your closing line was rather good. x

  2. Ah thanks. I'm at my friend's cabin in the mountains, so I'm not sure how brilliant I'll be with all this fresh air going to my brain. The electricity went out in the storm last night. I'd better blog for tomorrow now since it has already started to lightning again and the rain has started to fall on me and the laptop. Cheers.