Blogs by John Howard Reid
What Do Editors Do?
12/6/2009 10:03:31 PM
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If you're not quite sure exactly what editors do, you're not alone. I could count on three or four hands the number of well-known authors who've complained to me at book launches that his or her bestseller was a far superior offering when it originally left their hands. "The editor mucked it up!"
And I can still see Pastor Joye with his hands over his ears, when I tried to explain to him how editors handle the Bible. "Stop! Stop!" he cried. "You'll destroy my faith!"
Most people don't know the function of editors and some people don't want to know. Those few who've given any thought to the matter imagine that editors are on the look-out for spelling mistakes and grammatical errors. No! That's handled by the proof readers. What the editor looks at is the book as a whole. Does it accomplish its purpose? If so, how can it be improved? If not, it is possible the book (or at least sections of it) can be salvaged?
Either way, the author is in for a good deal of re-writing. And this, of course, is where they all become upset. Very upset! I've never yet met an author who didn't heartily oppose the idea of making any changes at all, either drastic or slight. Invariably, they passionately loved their manuscripts as first written.
Four or five versions later, the editor is still not satisfied. At this point, the author digs his heels in and refuses to re-write another line. The editor is forced to take over.
Right up to the book launch, the author is still telling everyone who'll listen that the ****** editor ruined his book!
Then the reviews start to appear and the author suddenly changes tack. "Yes," he readily agrees with TV and radio hosts, "it's my best book yet!"
Fortunately, my 30 years editorial experience came in mighty useful when I prepared "Love & City Dreaming: Poems by Margaret Havill Reid" for publication.
I think even Margaret would agree that I did a good job!
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