Editor-Author Relationship: Part II
By Mick Spillane
I'm not just an editor, but a writer, too. It is difficult for me to not take into account that when I am an editor working with a writer, that they are human. I know what it is like when the roles are reversed. I remember that writers doubtless have an appetite for accolades, and relations are always improved with some honest praise. It works for me. When I query an author, it is best to do so with encouragement and adoration.
I was hired to write a book by a publishing house. My editor, whom I had a wonderful relationship with, and we are still friends, quit with fifty pages left to edit of manuscript. The publishing house did assign me a new editor, whom started at page one, not with the last fifty pages. She was young; I think her first editing project. Her queries to me were so vile, I would have to get up and walk away from my computer. Twice her manager sent me e-mails apologizing for her "overzealous behavior." If she had been working in-house in a Manhattan publishing house, she would have been fired after a week. That is not how you work with an editor. For example, a query to the author might be, "AU: Most of the readers will agree with you, but try this different approach." Being pleasant is not difficult.
It is annoying when someone points out your misspellings, syntax, horrible grammar, repetition, if you think about it, really does not make for a good relationship. Who wants to pay someone for that type of abuse? What a nudge that person is! It's a rare person who enjoys or even tolerates such criticisms. It's wonderful when the author says, "Hey, you're right ... What would I do without you!" On the other hand, you might find the author who thinks everything the editor corrects is wrong. Either way, these two scenarios do not offer ways for improvements. The editor-author relationship is 50-50, a two-way street, give and take. As an editor, my suggestions should ignite inspiration, leading to even better revisions. Sometimes during editing the author may come to trust you if efforts to advance the manuscript are to succeed. Again, honest praise always helps.
Many times I have been presented with a difficult manuscript—a manuscript where it is difficult as a copy editor to see the good in it. Sometimes a writer has no idea how to properly format a manuscript, it is sloppily prepared, absurd, or both. I then have to realize that the decision to publish is sound, and worthy of a careful copyedit. There must be something to praise in this manuscript.
I've learned that the time spent in assessing and discussing the good in a manuscript brings the following two benefits: 1) the hope of better relations with the author; and 2) the hope that when I approach a manuscript looking for the good in it, I will be able to complement that good with my editing.