Use the Right Editor for Your Book

Following every suggestion from the wrong editor leads to wrong results

Use the Right Editor for Your BookIn my work as a magazine publisher I learned early on that I needed an editor. After a couple of issues with embarrassing mistakes, I realized I would never catch all the errors myself. I hired someone to edit the articles before the printing press permanently immortalized them. For a while I dual-sourced this, but eventually I picked one; she has been working with me for about fifteen years. (By the way, we’ve never met; we do all our work via email.)

She does a combination of proofreading and copy-editing, with the overarching goal of producing a professional result. I’ve also had her work on a couple of books but not all of them. Sometimes I need help from someone with a different skill set, such as in making my dissertation comply with a complicated set of formatting requirements.

A few years ago I showed an agent a finished memoir. He liked the concept but said it needed more work. He referred me to a book doctor to advise me in adding more zing.

I liked the guy, but he was expensive. After an hour or so of interaction, I realized we would quickly grow frustrated with each other: him pushing me to make changes I didn’t feel right about and me resisting most of his recommendations. I suggested we not continue. He agreed.

The agent was surprised (perhaps frustrated) at my decision to fire his recommended editor, but he referred me to another fixer. Her rates were much less – about one fifth the price. I eagerly accepted some of her suggestions, but struggled mightily to implement others. Though her vision for the final product was different from mine, I pushed through to make every change possible. I assumed that once done, the agent would like the results and agree to represent me. Though he still affirmed the idea, the execution, he felt, fell short. He declined to take me on as a client.

I still hope to publish this book, but before I do, it needs more work. About half of the second editor’s suggestions improved my book, while the other half moved it away from my target audience. I will need to remove some of these things she pushed me to include before I can move forward.

Over the years I’ve worked with other editors on books and projects, but for various reasons we never clicked: the cost, the turnaround time, their mindset, the manner in which they present recommendations, or the value of the feedback provided.

When working with an editor we need to find the right one for our project, our audience, and us. We need to learn when to implement their recommendations and when to decline. And we must respect their opinions on things we don’t understand. Mostly we need someone we trust, just as I trust my magazine’s copy-editor.

What is your experience working with editors? What qualities do you look for? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.

Let’s Make the New Year Your Best Year Yet

Happy New Year!In The Book Blog we talk about writing books, producing books, and marketing books. Successful writers must do all three. Neglect one element and your book will fail to meet your expectations and reach its full potential.

Even if you find a traditional publisher they will only handle the second requirement: publishing your book. Unless you are an A-list author they will do little marketing for you and expect you to put forth most of the effort.

And if you self-publish you must master all three: write a great book, produce an excellent product, and sell it effectively. Few authors naturally excel at all three. These are learned skills.

What do you shine at? What do you struggle with? Look at your weak area and commit to improving it this year.

The first step is writing a great book. Without compelling words, the rest doesn’t matter. Not really.

However writing a great book is just the first step. Next is producing it. This includes careful editing by skilled editors and a professional cover by an experienced designer. I’ve seen otherwise good books fail because of sloppy editing or an amateur cover.

Last, and perhaps most critical, is telling others about your book. We call this marketing. And though some artists think of marketing as the dark side of their craft, it is essential if you want to make money from your book and put food on the table.

Marketing starts with a great website, an email list, and an engaged social media following. Then there are ads, promotions, and pricing strategies.

Whether it’s writing, producing, or marketing, look to round out your skill set for this year and make it your best year ever.

Where are you at in the book publishing process? What will you do this year to shore up your weak area? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.