Oh? Who was the editor?
You never hear this in conversation, do you? Your average fan never asks an author who his or her editor is. They ask things like Is this your first novel? or Where did the story idea come from? or What’s in the works next? or Who’s your favourite character?
And fair enough. After all, the author did put a heck of a lot of work into crafting that book. He/she should get the spotlight. The kudos. The pats on the back.
Unless of course, there are typos or plot holes or characters who disappear at random or inconsistencies in the timeline or eyes that were green on page 5 but are hazel on page 295 or…well, you get the idea.
THEN, all heads whip around to, you guessed it, the editor.
Who edited that anyway?
Didn’t this get read by an editor?
How could the editor not notice that?
Basically, my whole profession is based on the philosophy that if you remain invisible, you’re doing a bang-up job. Because, if people start talking about the editor…uh oh, something clearly went wrong.
Now, before too many eyebrows are raised, I’m talking about the general public here. Those of you involved in writers’ circles do, often, pay attention to which editor your fellow author is using. And authors themselves are quick to give Oscar-acceptance-speech worthy praise to their editor for helping them get to where they are. But the average person picking up the latest read at Indigo? They aren’t thinking about the editor. And fair enough, too, because editors’ names are usually hidden away in teeny tiny print on that complex copyright page nobody ever looks at (unless you are a student or an academic and are looking for the publishing info).
I’ve been moonlighting as a freelance editor since my mid-20s. Up until 7 years ago, I would combine this gig with my M-F, 9-5 office job (one of which actually was in a publishing house, but it was in academic publishing so no conflicts of interest folks—I checked!). Then, in 2010, I went full time with my Mann, and it’s been crossing those Ts and dotting those i’s ever since (ha! if only it were that simple…well, actually, no because then I’d be out of a job…).
Every writing task a client gives us gets looked over by my eyes. I’ve gone from having to wear glasses at work once in a while to not being able to read road signs without them after a day of editing.
It’s a pretty neat package we offer clients, actually: writer + editor all rolled up in one.
When authors come to me for help with their manuscript, I talk to them about their needs. The ideal process involves multiple passes (translation: read-throughs) for structural edits with time/budget left for thorough copyedits and proofing when it’s all said and done. If I’ve done my job correctly, the author’s work will still very much be his/hers but better. I’ll suggest ways to move the action along or improve a character. I may suggest playing with tense. Or moving around some things. Yes, I’ve suggested killing off characters. But I’ve also suggested bringing some into this world, and for that, I feel like I’ve been partly responsible for their birth.
But I only ever do just that: make suggestions. The work does not belong to me, after all. These ain’t my words (I have a whole other folder on my computer for that!). The author always has final say.
Most authors appreciate my suggestions and can see the long-term value of them. Does it mean more work for them? Oh, yes, sir. (Just ask Jaime Lee Mann, whose first novel in the Legend of Rhyme series, Elora of Stone went through, I believe, 11 passes). But is it worth it? YES! Jaime is getting RAVE reviews on her book. Kids love it. Parents love it. It’s an awesome middle-grade fairy tale. Would she be receiving the same praise had she published it without a thorough edit? Likely not. And that’s not me being big-headed—she’ll tell you the same thing.
Once upon a time, Jaime published a blog post about l’il ol’ moi. I was so touched. Again, few people ever ask about the editor unless the editor messes up. Pressure to be perfect (or darn close) without any recognition of a job well done.
We editors are used to not being noticed. And I’m honestly okay with that. My personality is not one that naturally strives for the limelight. Growing up, I took piano lessons for 10 years, but I never wanted to perform. I was in the choir and loved singing, but I never tried out for solo parts. Auditioning for a play was akin to torture, but I have produced and assistant stage managed them. I do write, but I absolutely love working with other people’s words.
I LIKE helping other people shine. I really do. It makes me smile seeing positive press about the books I have helped with. I know I had a hand in that book’s success. And the author knows it, too…even if nobody else does.
So, if you have a story you’d like some help with…a silent partner who will support you, critique where it needs critiquing, and step back to let your voice stand out, get in touch!