It’s Just Business Tuesday

June 10, 2008 | Karin's Blog | 13 comments

Regarding editors: would you say it’s best to utilize the same rules as pertains to agents? Example: I worked with an editor recently; she made suggestions, suggestions in the context of, “This is how I want the book written.” When I wanted to discuss and comprise on some of her suggestions I was told, “No.”

Well, that response seems a bit extreme to me. But, I will say this up front and elaborate a bit: Editors, good editors know their shit. Some editors edit, some don’t, and then there is everything in between. I am very fortunate that my Pocket editor is probably one of the best in the biz. As many of you may remember, she didn’t have revisions for MASTER OF SURRENDER she tossed the entire book and made me completely rewrite it! She doesn’t just say, “I hate it,” then skip off. No, we have many long conversations about why and how to fix. Sometimes, as in that case, a completely new story was in order. There was nothing much to salvage of the original. Don’t get me wrong, there have been a few battles, but my editor will say, “Convince me.” And I do my damnest. I haven’t won very battle, and in the end my editor was right. But, I am learning, and I also know everything is negotiable, to a point.

Now, does that mean good editors have the final say? Well, I happen to trust my editor and I would have to say I would more than likely acquiesce to her experience and intuition then fight for something she is adamantly opposed to.

I think to work successfully with an editor there has to be simpatico, and harmony. The editor, as your agent, should love your voice and your stories. Your editor is your advocate in the publishing house, and if she is excited about her author then she will garner excitement from within, and that is a very good thing.

Look, I’ve heard the horror stories about how some editors are unbending, and while I believe it, I wonder if the author may be as unwilling to compromise, which brings us to an impasse. If you get a label as difficult, especially if you are staring out, you may just kill a good thing in the making.

Now, as far as acquiring an editor, it isn’t the same as agent shopping. When you sell to a certain house, you sell to that particular editor. But, let’s say you have a Cracker Jack agent and she says, “I know so and so at such and such publisher will snatch this up,” and you cringe because for whatever reason there has been no love lost between you and this particular editor. My advice? Let your agent know right up front what happened, and with her experience she will decide what is best to do.

There are lots of bad author editor fits, and again, a good agent will know best how to deal with this situation.

Hope that answered your question. Anyone else?



  1. Edie

    Maybe there could be something wrong, but another way to fix it. As long as the problem is fixed, that’s the important thing. I wonder if the editor would accept that and admire your solution. I think Allison mentioned in AskAnAuthorAll that she did something like that.

    Has something like that happened to you, Karin?

  2. Karin

    do you mean has an editor said, “this way or the highway?”
    answer: yes, that is why I had to completely rewrite SURRENDER 🙂
    and as I said, my editor will always say to me when we disagree on a change, “Convince me why we should keep this.” and in most cases I have, but not all. it’s a give and take process.
    as an addendum to that, in most cases when there has been a change requested it’s because I didn’t do my job as a writer to make the reader, in this case my editor, understand where the character was coming from. once I do I usually get to keep the scene or the arc.

  3. Kath Calarco

    Great insight, Karin. I think that when the editor is reading your ms cold, then it’s also fresh eyes, and they’re gonna see all kinds of stuff, such as not understanding where the character was coming from.

    But what about stuff that isn’t really pertinent to the story? I mean, sure, the stuff that keeps the story interesting and moving forward is really important, but what if you have a situation wherein you described the interior of a room, for instance, “There was a certain warmth to the room, and then she noticed the couch and drapes were on fire.” Editor writes in the margin, “What kind of couch? Is it a Chippendale, French Provincial, Art Deco? And were the drapes sheers or something a little more heavy?”

    Believe it or not, I went toe to toe with an agent on something similar over a damn driveway (and I did my research first, too).

    I’d be interested to hear what you consider negotiable.

  4. Kath Calarco

    By the way, I forgot to say, thanks for keeping it real. What happened to you over Surrender had to have been a WTF moment, but sharing that with the rest of us is a reminder that the publishing business is for those willing to wear the “big girl panties.” I think many don’t realize that when we’ve signed a contract we no longer own the story, that it’s time to let it go. (I’m just guessing since, you know, I’m not a pubbed author, YET.)

  5. Karin

    Description is easy to fix. Some editors are more bent toward getting the entire picture so to speak. As to your example, for me it would have been a no brainer. I would not have thought twice about the editor’s questions and taken care of them in the revision process. I’m a firm believer in picking your battles.

    As far as your comment with regard to; once we sign the contract we no loner own the story, that may be true for some but not me. At the beginning, middle, and end of each writing day that story belongs to me. My editor’s job is to make it better. If I write a crappy story and she points out all of the reasons why it’s crappy and I agree, then it’s onward and upward. If I disagree, then she wants me to convince her why and we usually meet in the middle. My editor is there to improve and enhance, and truly, in hindsight the first version of SURRENDER was just okay, but my editor would not accept just okay, and it wasn’t what I was capable of. I realized what I was trying to do in making it a bigger book, was making it convoluted. My editor made me dig much deeper, and we both love the result. Personally, I like a hands on, get your hands dirty editor.

  6. Holly D

    If I get to the point in my writing that I have an editor, I hope I’m lucky enough to have one like yours.

  7. Karin

    Holly, no ifs aboutit, you will have an editor!

  8. Lynn Raye Harris

    I’m new to working with an editor, but I have to say I love the experience. My editor sends me notes on my chapters like “the way you did this is great, but could we perhaps see a little more of the way this makes Heroine feel?” And, “On page 40, following from that, how does this affect Hero? What’s he thinking?” She also says things like “tell me your thoughts about this.” She’ll suggest things, but tell me I can go my own way so long as I address the issue.

    I love it. I can totally see where her edits will make this a better book. Now, I need to finish it and hope they buy it! (Yeah, odd situation, I know — but winning the Presents contest came with an editor for a year.)

  9. B.E. Sanderson

    Thanks for the insights into the editing world, Karin. They’ll come in useful when I finally ever sell and have an editor of my very own. =o)

  10. Kath Calarco

    Again, Karin, thanks for clearing up the “no longer own the story.” When I get an editor (I was gonna say “if” but I’m trying to stay positive), I hope he/she is like yours and Lynne Raye Harris’s.

  11. Karin

    Lynn sounds to me like you’ve got a keeper.

    Beth, not ever sell, when you sell.

    Anytime, Kath, I really enjoy sharing my experiences, which have been very positive.

  12. J. Carson Black

    I liked one editor so much that long after we (had to) split up, I found out where she was and asked her if she wanted to see my new book. It was wonderful because she was able to come out to Arizona two years in a row, and we showed her around and got to know her better.

    She didn’t go overboard in her problems with any manuscript, but she always found the weak spots; the places I’d glossed over. She had a sixth sense for that, which I think makes her a brilliant editor.

    She always made my books better.

  13. carole

    I just found your website and really want to read your new book Jaded, and all the others. I can’t wait to go out and buy them.

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