Sunday, November 12, 2006

Working with Editors

I get the impression that many writers fear editors. To some extent, this is understandable, from the standpoint that an editor has the power to reject your work (and to many, this translates into a rejection of self, because we pour our heart and souls into our work). However, in my admittedly limited experience in having the pleasure to work with one editor for several years, and meet and listen to several others, I’ve discovered that editors are generally nice people. They aren't out to make your day miserable, and when they do say "yes," their part of the equation can mean a much improved final product.

Keep in mind that editors rarely get their names on the books, and they work hard—very hard!—behind the scenes. I owe a great deal to my editor, and I know it. She's been incredibly gracious with me, and she's definitely improved the work. We’ve developed an enjoyable professional relationship over the years, which has greatly added to the writing process, in both the actual development of the books and the quality of the final products. I've yet to meet her in person, but I hope that I might have the opportunity to do so some day.

There’s nothing like finding the “right” editor for your work. Just as writers do, editors also have their preferences about writing, and each has his or her own approach to working with writers and manuscripts. Some are very hands-on, while others are not. When working with editors, remember that this is a business relationship. It’s their job to ensure that any manuscript they accept is as good as it can be. This helps promote sales, which ultimately, is the bottom line for you, the editor, and the publisher. This is, after all, a business.

When sending your work to editors, keep in mind that they have busy, and at times, difficult jobs. Include a professionally written cover letter with your work, and if requested, a SASE for a response. Inform the editor if the manuscript is a simultaneous (or multiple, to use another term) submission. Allow enough time for the editor to respond to you, and resist the temptation to call. Also resist the temptation to send gifts with your manuscript or to use fancy packaging. The manuscript has to stand on its own. These “extras” will not make your writing any better, but they will make you look less professional. Follow the publisher’s guidelines, and wait the appropriate amount of time before sending a follow-up inquiry.

Finally, remember that editors are human, and if you have the good fortune to work with one, you'll quickly realize this. They aren't evil overlords trying to make your life miserable. But perhaps most importantly, remember that a good editor can help make a good manuscript great.

Maurene J. Hinds is a children's author with five published books and two forthcoming. She is an experienced teacher who has taught creative and technical writing and literature at the high school and college levels, and teaches online writing workshops and offers manuscript critiques through her website. She holds a Master of Fine Arts in Writing for Children and Teenagers from Vermont College. She is completing a young adult novel, "Bruised," under the name Maurene Janiece. Visit her website at
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