For a long time I’ve wanted to write about the author/editor relationship and today is the day. What has prompted this desire is my awareness of another instance where a good novelist has unwisely chosen to ignore advice from a good editor. (Not me, by the way).
Let me start by saying that good author/editor relationships are very, very important. Woe to either the author or the editor who must work with someone with whom they do not trust or respect. For an editor, editing a writer you love makes the job so easy and fun. And for the writer, having an editor who “gets” what you’re trying to do also makes life so much easier.
And when that happens, both author and editor should listen closely to what the other is saying. In the case I’m talking about, an author had an editor who LOVED the author’s previous work with another publisher, and, in fact, had read the multiple books by this author more than once. The editor, naturally, was delighted to be able to work this successful author.
But then when the manuscript was delivered, the editor noticed that not only was the content of the manuscript completely a surprise, but it was also likely to be harmful to the author’s career if published. It was a total departure from what the author had written previously. It was simply not a good move on the author’s part.
What was the author’s response to this editor’s valid concerns? The author essentially said (angrily and in a huff), “But God told me to write this book!” Yes, the author got mad at an editor who LOVED this author’s work and who was trying to save the author from disaster.
I couldn’t help but wonder if that author might just pause a moment and consider that in Christian publishing, God often chooses to speak to authors through their wise editors. To be honest, I doubt this author ever even considered such a thing. After all, “God told me to write this book!”
That’s hard to argue with, I suppose. But given the histrionics that accompanied this declaration, it’s hard to imagine the author heard from God at all. I’d like to refer that author to Galatians 5, but that would not likely stand against the “God told me to write this book!” argument.
So the author is now off to find a new editor. One who will rubber stamp the author’s insistence that this book is from God. What a sad mistake.
Another recent case almost makes me want to laugh. This example involved an author who insisted to the editor that he be shown every single edit made in the manuscript, including every comma added or deleted. I do not predict long-term success for that author.
This sort of author/editor breakdown happens every so often. It’s too bad when it happens. Editors have a purpose in the life of the author….and it’s not always just to insert or delete commas. Sometimes we editors can see from a different vantage point than the too-close author.
Happily, I can also report that these breakdowns are rare and that they are outweighed by the many times authors and editors sail along in a happy marriage, each respecting the other’s place in their life. Each allowing God to speak through the other.
If you’re an established author, my word to you is be very careful before you dismiss your editor’s advice or warning. If you’re a new author, I hope you find an editor who understands your mission as a writer and can help you get where to you want to go.
Life will be sweet then. God told me so.