Editor-Author Relationship: Part I


By Mick Spillane


I started working in publishing as a summer job. I then got a more serious job as an international marketing assistant at Scholastic, Inc. Marketing was not really where I wanted to be in publishing. I then found a real job in publishing: the coveted "assistant editor" position while I was in graduate school. It was SIGS Books and Multimedia/Cambridge University Press. It was here that I learned to be an editor. I learned from my boss Lothlórien—yes named after fairiest forest realm in The Lord of the Rings. I learned that the author comes first; to respect the author no matter what.


It is here that I began to understand that being a great editor could come down to one thing: personal relations. Yes, something that simple—the relationship between the editor and the author. To do a great editing job on a manuscript, you need to have a great working relationship with the author—even if that is at a great distance.


An editor is not just dealing with words on paper. The editor deals with many human factors: the author is a real person revealing, perhaps, a very personal part of himself or herself. Not just to the editor, but to the public.


A manuscript is not usually written in a day. It may take the author years to complete writing their manuscript. The author probably sacrificed a lot for their writing; their family might have endured sacrifices for the writing of the manuscript. It required physical and mental effort; there may even be a professional reputation at stake.


There is not a section in the Chicago Manual of Style on how an Editor-Author relationship will be successful. You may find yourself working with an author who is confident, stubborn, worried, argumentative, confrontational, nervous, or a combination of all these. Whether the author is composed or nervous, the best approach is to be kind—and to find the good in the manuscript.


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