Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Wordy Wednesday - Reflections from the Editor's Desk

Writers toil over getting their prose just right, but then it hits the editor's desk and a whole new game begins. The rule of thumb is that your prose should be as perfect as possible before you submit anything for publication. So what's the point of editing, if you can get it perfect by yourself?

That's the catch. You can't. You need another eye; you need an editor's eye. Sometimes you might have your manuscript pass through beta readers, or even an independent editor, before submission. This is good, and it helps, but it does not mean the editor at destination's end will be twiddling his or her thumbs through the publication process.

A book is a product. You, the author, write the manuscript - the design. Even though, as the writer, you are the designer and the artist behind the product, that is only the starting point. The publisher is the manufacturer, and the final product - the book you sell and promote as the author - is a team endeavor.

Ultimately, and most importantly: the book that has your name on it is the publisher's product, not your own.

If this is the case, then, how can a writer feel secure? After all that time you spend laboring over your words, getting the story just right, how can you be sure that wonderful vision you painstakingly captured isn't going to be something alien to you with your name stamped on the front cover?

This brings me to one of the most important things about an editor's role. Being in such a position, he or she is bound by an agreement to honor and respect the author's voice. The publishing team, during the acquisition process, base their decision on whether or not the voice - the story as it is - is suitable. The editor then has the job of taking the author's manuscript and turning it into a book. It's a bit like taking a knife and making it sharp, shiny, and ready for display. If you want to extend the metaphor, publishers are knife sharpeners, not knife-makers, so picking the right manuscript is akin to picking the knife that looks like it's going to do the job.

Editing, when it is most effective, places the true work on the author. It's a game of devil's advocate. "Are you sure you want to do this?" "Check out this website, it's got lots of good examples of passive vs. active voice and why the active voice is stronger in fiction." "Look for where you've used the word 'was' and see if you can use stronger verbs instead." True, the editor makes in-line changes, points out cliches or confusing passages, but all along, the author is in control, and it's the editor's job to point him or her toward the product the publisher expects. The editor's goal is to bring out the most in the writer, and that comes from a belief, from the beginning, that the author has the talent to turn manuscript into book.

At Champagne Books, during my short time working with the great team of editors we have here, what I have found most remarkable is how far we go to ensure the author's voice is respected. It means authors who submit their story can be rest assured that when their book hits the shelves, they can feel their name on the front cover is the centerpiece, the way it should be, while the hard work of the editing and production team can proudly stand behind them in the logo.

Junior Editor


  1. Well said, Graeme. Anyone who thinks they can self-edit is dead WRONG. Champagne, on the other hand, has considerate editors and stafff who really know their business. R

  2. Make that "Anyone who thinks he/she can edit" See what I mean about editing. R

  3. Rita,
    I'm right there with you Rita! I had this post pass through an editor's eye, and boy oh boy, was I ever glad!

    Even after three read-through, somehow I missed "do do the job".