Tag Archives: choose carefully

#SaystheEditor Don’t Pick Favorites

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Favorites. We’ve all got ’em. And by and large, favorites are an okay thing to have — on a personal level.

But on a professional level?

Not so much, I’d say. At least, not that I’d admit to publicly.

But another editor did, loudly proclaiming on Twitter the number of books she’s edited this year and that of them all, THIS was her favorite.

Can you imagine being one of those other authors? Can you imagine that you’ve chosen to partner with someone, you’ve worked with them to produce the best book possible, and they… announce to the world that your book wasn’t their favorite?

Talk about being gut-punched. Or having the rug pulled out from under your feet. Or any other familiar cliche/saying that pretty much encompasses the way you feel when you’ve been betrayed.

Because if that were MY editor, coming out and saying that someone else’s book was her favorite? I’d be looking for a new editor real fast.

Because if that were MY editor, I’d rethink my belief that she had my back and supported me at all times, even if it’s true that my book wasn’t her favorite or that she has a client who’s better than me. (In fact, I’m quite sure the people I work with have clients who are better than me — because better is entirely subjective.) After all, writers are inherently insecure.

Think about it: you hire an editor to help you make the best book possible. You hire someone to help you produce something that helps overcome that inherent insecurity, a book you can be proud of and that you are confident is the best you can produce.

You don’t hire someone expecting them to hold up someone else’s work as better than yours. Which is exactly what this other woman did.

Just… I can’t get over this. I’m angry on behalf of those other authors. Every single one of them deserves better. Every single one of them deserves to think their editor is proud of the work done by the author and the editor, both separately and as a team. Every single one of them deserves to think their book is as good as everything else that crosses that editor’s desk — because, in my view, every book is. Yes, some have prettier writing than others. Yes, some have more unique storylines, more engaging characters…

Every book has at least one element that is better than the one beside it. And every book has at least one element that’s not as good. When you look at it that way, how can you pick favorites? Every book that crosses my desk has elements that are unique and worthy of being celebrated. I’d like to think that every book that gets returned to its author has been improved, that the possibility for greatness is that much closer. Heck, I wouldn’t like to think — I know.

But that doesn’t mean I can pick a favorite of the multitude I have worked on over my career. And even if I could, I wouldn’t. Doing so undermines the value I put into every single one of my clients. The time I spend talking to them about non-editing things. The referrals to formatters and cover artists and help with promotion. The way my clients love to send me good news about a sales goal achieved, a word count achieved, a panel they’ve been asked to sit on, a proposal to teach a class that’s been accepted.

So as you vet editors, take a minute and look at their social media presence. (For one, do they spend more time on it than editing? Interestingly, I have felt that way about the editor who picked favorites.) Don’t choose your editor because you hope she’ll say those things about you. Choose your editor because he or she believes in you and because s/he will have your back at all times — even when asked to pick a favorite.

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Some off-the-cuff thoughts #saystheeditor

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This has been bugging me for some time now, but it’s getting worse of late.

I met a fellow editor about a year ago when we did a joint blog appearance. We didn’t interact; we just both answered a set of interview questions. No biggie, right? Always good to meet a fellow editor.

Lately, she’s been soliciting help for certain questions of grammar. Basic questions. Things that any editor ought to know in her sleep. Things that ought to be second nature. That were covered in fourth grade, for crying out loud.

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I have probably taken to seeing it once a week over the past couple of months. Someone new hanging out their editor shingle. Glad to have you on board; the world needs good editors. Let’s chat and work together. We’re all in this together and while I’d love to try, I simply can’t edit for every writer out there. (nor should I; finding a good editor is like finding a good pair of jeans. You gotta try a bunch on first.)

But…

Saying, “I had to learn how to write academic papers in algebra 1 and my prof insisted we know how to self-edit” doesn’t make you an editor, folks.

Saying, “I have a degree in English” doesn’t make you an editor, folks.

Not knowing grammar conventions doesn’t make you an editor, folks.

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Authors, when you are looking for an editor, please vet them carefully. One of the other trends I’m seeing of late is really really cheap prices (lack of comma intentional). A complete novel edited for $50? Seriously? Up to 90,000 words — something that would take me ten days to do properly, at a cost of anywhere from $450 (for a proofread) to $990 for a full content edit, is a job you’re willing to do for less than $100?

Do you not have a mortgage to pay?

Sadly, I do. And groceries to pick up, and utilities to maintain. Clothes to buy for growing kids, not to mention to replace my own wardrobe, most of which has holes in it. (Yes, check that sentence… has holes in it. While we’re talking in general about clothes, the phrase refers back to the word wardrobe, which, as a collective noun, requires the singular. Does an editor who learned language in med school know that? If they do, can they explain it to you?)

Authors, keep this in mind: you often get what you pay for. And while I’m still on the inexpensive end for an editor of my caliber, my rates are competitive. With me, and with other editors I know out there, you get more than what you pay for.

That’s the editor you’re looking for.

Spend your money wisely. Vet your editor. Send him/her a sample of your work. Any editor worth your project will happily do a sample for you.

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So what DOES make a good editor? Check out this post by my mentor, Theresa Stevens. She blogs at Edittorent, one of those blogs that all writers should read, especially the archives.

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In the meantime, I’m done answering that other editor’s questions on Facebook. I’ve got a backlog right now and clients waiting on me, and while I’d love to be your teacher and mentor, I simply don’t have time. If you don’t know these basic things, you have no business calling yourself an editor and maybe you should look for other work.

It’s harsh, yes, but it’s better than getting yet another e-mail from an author that starts off with, “I hope you can help me. I’ve paid over a thousand dollars for editing and the editor…” — invariably, the editor wasn’t very good and the author, at their own expense, has to start the process over.

While these authors — and I’ve heard this from numerous clients now — aren’t buying into the cheap brigade, they’re still heartbroken. And worst of all, they begin to doubt the value of an edit. Maybe, they think, they should pay Kirkus that same money for a review. A review which will probably include the phrase “better editing would have made this a better book.”

Think about it.

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