My hat goes off to editors. Their work is amazing; a great editor understands an author’s vision and works to help him or her realize that vision by asking the right questions at the right time and making suggestions that spark a creative response. Great editors have enough distance from a project to consider it, if not objectively, then with a particular kind of outside perspective that can be enormously helpful. They are not only the stand-ins for future readers, noting where a passage is muddy or out of place and likely to confound an audience, but they attend to both minute details—suspect grammar, awkward word choice—as well as overarching concerns of theme, structure, arc, etc. They navigate tricky waters, rowing away from what might be personal preference to shape a manuscript in a certain direction, and toward professional support of an author’s intention. Editors are also a project’s most resilient cheerleader. And they do all of this with very little external acknowledgment; the public rarely knows whose skilled and thoughtful analysis has guided a manuscript to its best form.
Much of this work happens on an editor’s own time. Gone are the days when editors could spend a significant portion of the work day absorbed in manuscripts; now, those days are jam-packed with production and scheduling meetings, sales conferences, rights discussions, wrangling endless mountains of emails, communicating with agents, authors, and department colleagues. Actual editing often has to happen outside of work, wherever an editor can find some quiet time to read, reflect, question and comment.
Thanks to all of you hard-working, brilliant editors who pour your passion and expertise into so many beautiful projects, many of which never bear or mention your names. Please know that you are greatly appreciated by anyone who knows anything about the making of books!
We’d love to hear from some of our author readers: What is the best question or piece of advice your editor has ever offered?
And now, as a silly end note, I offer up British comedic duo Mitchell & Webb‘s short sketch of an author-editor meeting, “Write This … Or That:”