Everyone Needs an Editor. Yes, Even You. “There are two kinds of editors, those who correct your copy and those who say it’s wonderful,” wrote the eminent political historian, Theodore H. White. He was absolutely correct.

Everyone needs an editor. There’s not a writer alive who doesn’t. That means you, and it likewise means me, too. I will be the first to admit that editors make my work better. A good editor can make a good work a great one, and a decent one a good one. One prominent book editor summed up the role of the editor quite nicely. “I see my [editorial] role as helping the writer to realize he or her intention. I never want to impose any other goal on the writer, and I never want the book to be mine,” she wrote. A good editor can help you realize your vision even when you’ve reached the point where you just don’t see the problems with your manuscript any more. And I guarantee you that every writer reaches that point sooner or later. Likewise, a good editor’s work is transparent to anyone but you as the author–the reading public should never be able to tell where your work ends and the editor’s work begins.

In a perfect world, author and editor form a seamless team. Both share a common vision for the work, and both are dedicated to making it the best work possible. There has to be chemistry between the author and the editor, or the project will be in serious trouble. On one of my projects with Potomac Books, they assigned a copy editor that claimed to be knowledgeable about the Civil War, but proved not to be. I had to educate him, and we never developed a chemistry between us. Before long, I was responding to each of his inquiries with a surly, grouchy response. It was an awful experience, and I told the publisher that if this guy ever came near one of my projects again, I would pull the project from Potomac Books and take it elsewhere. And I was as serious as a heart attack when I said that. Fortunately, they realized that I was serious, and he came nowhere near the next book that I did with Potomac.

Here’s another tip. While the author has the ultimate say, the editor usually isn’t making suggestions about things just for their amusement or good health. Take those suggestions seriously; they’re offered for the betterment of your project. With the notable exception of the idiot referenced in the last paragraph, I rarely veto the suggestions of my editors for just that reason. I have found that they rarely steer you wrong.

However, as I said in the last post, you’ve got to set your ego aside when you deal with an editor. You cannot get offended by their constructive criticisms, and you likewise cannot allow your ego to cause you to dig your heels in and disregard a good suggestion of your editor just because you’ve got your boxers in a bunch over something that the editor said. You just can’t do that.

The editor’s role is crucial, and a good one can make or break your book. Keep that in mind when you deal with your editor, or be prepared to suffer the consequences.

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  1. Sam Elliott
    Sun 04th May 2008 at 6:16 pm

    Absolutely correct.

  2. dan
    Sun 04th May 2008 at 7:26 pm

    Editours can bee trublesum and dificlt at tymes. They maye meen whel but letz bee onhst, sertainlee havng en edetour iz opshunal.

  3. Brooks Simpson
    Mon 05th May 2008 at 12:50 am

    I’d edit your blog to include something about the Flyers.

  4. Scott
    Mon 05th May 2008 at 9:58 am

    I need an editor, and then I need a cocktail.

  5. Arthur B. Fox
    Mon 23rd Jun 2008 at 10:42 am

    SOO right you are. My first book, Pittsburgh During the American Civil War, 1860-1865 published in 2002 and 2004 did not require extensive editing by my publisher Mechling Bookbinding. But Marla Mechling tore up my 500+ page hardback, Our Honored Dead, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania in the American Civil War, (April 2008), I didn’t even want to speak to her for a while. BUT she was right it looks great!!
    Art Fox, Pittsburgh, PA

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