Friday, May 16, 2014
I have been witnessing lately, in a few discussion forums, some fairly bitter attacks on editors. Many writers have clearly had what they perceive to be bad experiences with editors. Obviously I cannot comment on the quality of those editors’ work. No doubt there are many editors out there who don’t do very good work, as is true in any profession.
I have read many books by self-published authors who thank the editor in their acknowledgements; but I can see no evidence that their work has been seriously or competently edited. Is this because the editor did a poor job? Or is it because the author did not accept the editor’s advice? It’s impossible to say. I have also been approached to edit books which the author has already paid another editor to edit. They are not happy with the result. Perhaps the editor did a poor job. Or perhaps the author simply didn’t like what the editor had to say. Again, who knows?
Sometimes authors do not like what editors suggest, or what they try to do to their work. Is the editor wrong, or is the author too emotionally involved in the work to accept any changes or criticisms? My first novel, Maybe they’ll remember me, which I self-published more than two years ago, has recently been accepted for publication with a small, independent publishing house. They will want to edit it, I’m sure. Because I wrote and published that book more than two years ago, I have no illusions about its quality. I think I am a better writer now than I was then, and I have no doubt that the book can be improved. Perhaps it takes this long, and several subsequently completed novels, to become sufficiently detached from my own work. On the other hand, if my most recent novel is accepted by a publisher, I accept it will need to be edited. I have no doubt there are elements that can be improved, and which I have overlooked. That’s not to say, of course, that I will automatically agree with everything the editor says. No one should!
The only reason I don’t have my own novels professionally edited (and as both an editor and a writer I know that I should) is that I can’t afford it. That is one of the great things about being published in the traditional way: I don’t have to pay for editing!
I know what it means as a struggling author to have to pay for cover design, editing, book promotion. With no guarantee of any financial return on my investment. I try to offer people an affordable editing service; but, even so, I know that some writers cannot afford it. I also realise that I cannot always make the author happy, particularly in the manuscript assessment/structural editing phase of the process. I cannot force people to accept my advice. And not even the very best editor can turn a sow’s ear into a silk purse.