I’ve been fortunate to have worked with some really excellent editors. After the last round of edits I went through, I started to wonder what’s it’s like for them to work with us. What makes a writer someone they enjoy working with, and what are their pet peeves? So I asked three of my editors for their input and they graciously replied.
Jude Glad is an editor with Uncial Press and has edited three of my books. Sarah Hanson edits the Faery Rose line for The Wild Rose Press, and Nan Swanson edits the Vintage Line, also with The Wild Rose Press. All three have helped bring out the best writer in me. I started out by asking them a few questions:
Jana: Talk about the ideal author to work with. What sort of qualities would he/she have?
Jude Glad: First of all, a great story teller. Small writing problems can be fixed, but if a story isn't a grabber, there's not much you can do about it. Someone with a good handle on the language (it would be nice if she knew what a past participle is, for instance), and a large vocabulary (there are lots of better words than 'looked'). A nitpicker, who catches inconsistencies before she sends in her manuscript. And finally, someone who thinks we are the best publisher in the world.
Sara Hanson: I prefer an open relationship with an author. I like to keep the line of communication open. Be willing to ask questions and make comments. I don't bite, really! Every author has their quirks, but it is nice when they are willing to compromise and keep their sense of humor.
Nan Swanson: LOL. The ideal author would submit a perfectly crafted, spell-checked, grammatically correct manuscript, of course! Aside from that, he/she would pleasantly agree to whatever changes or corrections the editor, the copy editor, or the publishing company would require, happily accept the cover provided, and refrain from asking to have the release date set at a certain time in order to meet requirements for a contest or award. Naturally, all the authors I’ve worked with have had these qualities, you understand.
Jana: Have you ever turned down an author because they were too difficult to work with? Has an author ever refused to do requested revisions?
Jude Glad: So far we've not encountered anyone too difficult to work with (knock wood).
We've been extraordinarily fortunate in our authors, who are all wonderful.
I've heard horror stories... Yes, one author did refuse to make revisions, and we released her from her contract.
Sarah Hanson: Not solely on the basis of being too difficult. Certainly, it makes me think twice. The manuscript had better be darn near perfect, because I would rather not deal with tantrums. I get enough of that at home! As for refusing to do requested revisions, not after contract. If there are major revisions, I usually make myself clear and ask for those prior to contracting. It's a way to see how willing that author will be to work with me and help me perfect their product. I have made suggested revisions prior to contract and had them refuse. And that's okay, hopefully someone else's vision will match theirs.
Nan Swanson: Whether an author is difficult to work with is (a) not immediately apparent, and (b) not a criteria in evaluating his/her manuscript. I’ve never had an author refuse to do requested revisions, but some don’t seem to read my comments and suggestions thoroughly and do only a partial job, or they will apply what I’ve said to only the first part of the manuscript and leave the last half full of the same errors as before. However, an author is free to use my suggestions or improve upon them, or to keep their writing as it was originally—the work is the author’s and my job is simply to help polish, to point out possible ways to better the writing and make the story ready to hit the reader as the best she’s ever experienced.
Jana: What's your biggest pet peeve about authors?
Jude Glad: Pretty much my biggest pet peeve about anyone who emails me with silly questions instead of looking the answers up herself.
Sarah Hanson: Not listening or making an attempt to understand. I spend a lot of time explaining and showing what needs to be done, and if you send me something back that doesn't reflect that, it makes me feel as if you are wasting everyone's time. As I said earlier: if you don't get it, ask. I am always willing to explain further. Talk to me!
Nan Swanson: My biggest pet peeve about authors? Hmm. That they are so doggone likable it’s hard to tell them we are not able to accept their manuscripts for whatever reasons! About their work, probably it’s misuse of words and language, whether malaprops or homonyms or current slang given to characters of a hundred years ago.
Jana: If you had one piece of advice for authors on how to successfully work with their editor, what would it be?
Jude Glad: Meet deadlines. Ours do (knocking wood again), but I worked for another publisher a few years ago. There was this author who not only didn't meet her deadlines, she would go for weeks without checking her email. I'm a finisher-ahead-of-time, so people who put off until the last minute and apologize for being late make me crazy.
Sarah Hanson: Be flexible. Sometimes what you want won't work, and sometimes what I want won't either, but together we may craft a solution that is even better.
Nan Swanson: Consider every suggestion and every correction, even when you disagree with it, as something done to help you have a better manuscript, as a gift toward polishing your work to perfection.
Jana: Anything else you’d like to add?
Jude Glad: One more thing. Each house has certain styles, and sometimes ours will not agree with what an author learned elsewhere. We are fairly strict about certain things, but open to discussion about pretty much everything else. When an author disagrees with me, I ask her to tell me why, because it's her story, not mine. "I wrote it that way and I like it that way" isn't a good enough reason, but "I want to create a certain mood, and using those words will help" is.
Jana: Thanks ladies! I appreciate you stopping by and telling us a little about what’s it’s like to be an editor.The editors promised to stop by and answer any questions you may have so ask away.