All writers need good editors. Even successfully published authors need “outside eyes” to help perfect their work (and many more understand this than do unpublished folks). Once upon a time, a writer would work with her editor at a publishing house to make the book the best it could be, and to further the author’s career as a writer. Well, Dorothy, that was before the tornado blew through town.
The business has of course changed. Radically. With POD and e-books, now you can whip something off of your computer and see it “published” quicker than a wave of Oz’s wizard’s hand. Gone are the days of waiting and waiting and striving to secure an agent, a publisher, perfecting your craft as you went. Even the greatest of writers subsequently were grateful their earlier works weren’t published. When Hemingway lost his first three manuscripts on the train, he ultimately said that was the best thing that happened to him. Learning this craft is truly exacting.
This “instant publishing” has been to the huge detriment of books in general, as editing has often gone out the window, and it shows.
Even if you still strive for the brass ring—Traditional publishing—the way things are done has changed. Once, editors at publishing houses spent most of their days editing books. Now, that is rare. Today’s editors focus on acquisitions; on selling the books they want to publish to editorial committees and the sales force; and on positioning those books in the list while keeping an eye on production (jacket copy, etc.). In essence, these editors’ jobs too have changed radically over the last 20 years. And so has your relationship with them.
Publishers are no longer willing to spend the time with a “project” book—one that shows promise but needs a major or often even a minor overhaul. Manuscripts these days must pretty much be camera-ready when reaching an editor’s desk.
Conversely, if you plan to self-publish, you’re also at an editorial disadvantage. Even with the above, Traditional publishing-house editors do still go over the books they acquire. Although not the relationship of yore, said editor and copyeditor see your book before it goes to print. With self-publishing, you’re on your own (and the “editing” I’ve seen from different self-publishing packages has been abysmal).
As writers focus more on production and marketing, many miss the first element: Putting out a brilliant and polished book.
So, what sort of editor do you need? We’ll discuss that in Part II!
Thanks to Susan Malone from Malone Editorial Services for this guest blog post. Award-winning writer and editor Susan Mary Malone is the author of the novels, I Just Came Here to Dance and By the Book, as well as four co-authored nonfiction books, including What’s Wrong with My Family?, and many published short stories. A freelance book editor, forty-plus Malone-edited books have now sold to Traditional publishers.
You can contact Susan here.