Friday, March 25, 2011

The Life of an Editor

Today I have Karen Gowen a fellow blogger on Unedited to share with you what it's like to be an editor at a small publishing house.

Jen asked me to tell you what it’s like being an editor for a small publishing company. Three words? IT IS FUN!!!

It’s fun to assist authors in polishing their work and getting it ready for publication. Okay, sometimes it can be rough, like when the editor and the author have different viewpoints about what direction the manuscript should go. In these cases, compromise is king. Although the editor has greater objectivity and also must maintain the marketability of the finished product, the writer often has insights about his work and audience. The editor must respect that, just as the writer must respect the editor’s experience and professionalism.

Recently, WiDo finished work on a regional Southern novel, MISSISSIPPI COTTON by Paul H. Yarbrough. The editors (all Northerners) took issue with some of the references in Paul’s manuscript. Paul (a Southerner) insisted that his Southern audience would “get it.” The editor admitted that he was probably right. He knew his demographic better than anyone and therefore she let him have the kind of creative control that this book needed in order to be a hit with his Southern audience. Judging from the enthusiastic advance reviews for MISSISSIPPI COTTON, this was the right decision.

But sometimes an editor must stand firm or compromise the quality and/or marketability of the finished product. A level of trust must exist on both sides to make this relationship work. When it does, a wonderful book is the end result. When it doesn’t, well, sometimes a contract might be cancelled but we won’t go there because Jen’s blog is a happy place.

As difficult as it is to “let go,” sometimes an author must do just that. Get rid of the favorite parts. Rewrite entire scenes. Take out extra characters. Change names. Change the title. It’s called “the editing process,” and sometimes it hurts. But then so does childbirth.

Besides working with creative geniuses otherwise called authors, I get to work with other editors and miscellaneous brilliant people who are passionate about publishing books. One of my favorite parts of editing is helping to review new submissions, because it is so EXCITING to find something with that special spark of originality. Then there’s the final edit, when it all comes together, and you can’t wait until the book is released. Maybe not quite as excited as the author but almost!

So if you'd like to submit to WiDo publishing check out their website and don't forget to stop by and say hello to Karen Gowen over at her blog!

47 comments:

Karen Amanda Hooper said...

I like her already. She's got a great name and she works with books. :)

Thanks for sharing, Karen!

And great post, Jen.

Melissa said...

It was great to learn more about small publishing houses! Very interesting. I like what she said about trust and compromise between authors and their editors.

Good stuff!

Laura Pauling said...

Thanks for the great interview! I can imagine it must be fun and tough but overall exciting!

salarsenッ said...

Jen, thank you so much for having Karen here. I not only learned something new, I heard her 'editor's' voice. She's confident, intelligent, but not scary at all. LOL

Thanks Karen for sharing yourself and your work. Hopping over to your blog now!

Jess said...

Thanks for posting the interview! I agree with slarsen (above)- it was fun to hear Karen's 'editor' voice :) Have a great weekend!

KarenG said...

Jen, thank you for hosting me today! I'll check back over the weekend and answer any questions anyone might want to throw out in their comments.

KarenG said...

And I notice the website link to WiDo's site at the end of this post isn't a hot link. But if you go to widopublishing.com and click on the Submission page at the sidebar you can find the submission requirements.

Katie Mills said...

awesome post! Thanks Karen for sharing some insight into what goes on between author and editors. I agree compromise is key- it sounds like a dream job!

Summer Ross said...

This has lovely insight- specially since editing is the field I want to go into. Thanks so much for posting Jen

J A C Q U E L I N E said...

Here from the A to Z challenge! Looking forward to hearing from you.

Ella said...

Thanks for sharing the process and what your job entails. It seems whatever creative endeavor we chose, it does involve work n' pain to arrive to that special day!

I enjoyed reading your view~

Ella said...

Thanks for sharing the process and what your job entails. It seems whatever creative endeavor we chose, it does involve work n' pain to arrive to that special day!

I enjoyed reading your view~

LTM said...

Great post, Karen! And you're right about letting the author guide you and the writer trusting your professional knowledge.

Once I edited a history professor's MS and throughout I'd changed Native American to American Indian. (Or maybe it was the reverse.) In any event, he came back and told me in this case my political correctness was misplaced and the Native Americans preferred that title based on some Tribal Council #such n such dated so in so.

It was all very nice, and I went with his expertise in his field.

So it's fun, and you learn loads of Jeapordy answers (questions?) as an editor! ;p <3

LTM said...

Hey... like how I spelled Jeopardy? ;p

Carolyn V. said...

Karen's just awesome.

Great interview guys! Very honest and true (the whole editing thing...ouch). Have a great weekend!

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I'm willing to let go!!

Clarissa Draper said...

I agree with Karen. Often the editor will think about what will sell, however, the writer should know (have done their research) on the market. I write mysteries and I know what the readers of my type of mysteries will be looking for. I know how to push my readers, push their limits. I like it when the editor respects my decision.

Shannon O'Donnell said...

This was so interesting!! Thanks Jen and Karen. :-)

Teenage Bride said...

"so does childbirth"

HAHAHAHAHA too funny.

have a great weekend Jen

Joanna St. James said...

this was a really cool interview, thanx for the insight Karen and Jen. Karen have u ever received submissions where you just want to beg the writer not to quit their day job? or do you think there is some sort of writing talent in everyone?

Tracey Neithercott said...

Thanks for the interview, Jen. It was really great to get Karen's view of the relationship between editor and author.

Arlee Bird said...

Excellent insider view of the industry so many of us hold dear. I haven't had any direct experience in dealing with an editor, but I look forward to when that time comes.

Thanks, Karen and Jen, for some useful information.

Lee
Tossing It Out
Twitter hashtag: #atozchallenge

Shirley Wells said...

"A level of trust must exist on both sides..." So, so true. When that trust is there, the process of making a book shine is one of the most exciting things ever.

Great post!

Canyon Girl said...

I'm sure it is not an easy job. I'm visiting here from Karen's blog. This looks like another place where I can learn a lot, so I will be back.--Inger

Witless Exposition said...

These are great!

KarenG said...

To answer Joanna's question, sadly yes there are some submissions that come in that are so bad as to be painful to read. And you wonder why oh why is this person so deluded? I know it sounds harsh but really? When someone submits a ms. that is unreadable, what are they thinking? Or one that is intended to "change the world" illuminate the "secret of the universe" and such things. It's not just don't quit your day job, in some cases it's I hope this person even has a day job because they don't seem normal or in touch with reality. Those are on the low spectrum of submissions. Most of the submissions WiDo gets are not that bad, just not quite ready yet. Our submissions editor asks for fulls on probably 5% of the submissions, and will offer a contract on about 1%.

Bekah Snow said...

That sounds fun and stressful

Julie Musil said...

Karen, thanks for the glimpse into the other side of book publishing.

Jennifer Lane said...

Karen, I didn't know you were an editor! Sounds like it's tough to strike that fine balance between going with the author's gut and the editor's gut on what will work best.

Amy Saia said...

Great piece here with lots of insight. Karen, like you Jen, is a talented, hard-working person with a BIG heart. It's great to get a glimpse of her editing process here.

Jennifer Hillier said...

This post was both educational and funny! I learned a lot. Thanks for the glimpse inside the publishing world!

Lynda R Young said...

I love editors!! They make me look good ;)

Myne Whitman said...

This was a great and eye-opening post for me. Thanks for sharing.

Jemi Fraser said...

Karen is terrific! Thanks for all of the insights! :)

maryschiller said...

Enjoyed reading your post. Especially liked the way you compared the writing process to childbirth! Ain't it the truth!
Also am happy to see that Jen's blog is a happy place. This world needs more happy places!

... Paige said...

Thanks for the intro :-}

Medeia Sharif said...

Sounds stressful, exciting, and rewarding on both the editor and writer's part.

Great post.

Have an awesome weekend.

Jacqueline Howett said...

I enjoyed the interview- thanks for the insights.

A Joyful Chaos said...

Enjoyed this post very much. After being asked to change several names I have wondered why and if it really makes that much of a difference in being able to market the book.

Ruth Teal said...

I like your blog.
I'm on the A-Z Challenge too. RuthieTootieWishes

Kerri Cuev said...

Great post and fun insight! Thanks for the fun interview Jen.

Just found your blog so nice to meet you.

Kathryn Magendie said...

I adore my editor at Bellebooks! ANd even though she's southern, she sometimes asks "what does this mean?" laughing - because my stuff is in WVA and So Louisiana and she's a Georgia girl.

I'm an editor, too - for an online journal, so I know what you mean about finding those wonderful nuggets out there *smiling*

Lisa of In Pencil said...

What great insight into an editor's side of things!

Ann Best said...

WiDo is my publishing. I can attest to their expert editing! Way to go, Karen!!

Alison Miller said...

Hey, Jen - thanks for stopping by. I just finished posting about the A-Z challenge - I debated on it for a while - wondering if I could do that many posts - but I'm sure going to try!

Nice to meet you!

Pen Name: Imogen Rayne said...

Hi Jen,

It is an honor to meet you and thanks for stopping by my blog. Personally, I have two novels I am working on, but I love to blog. I hope to stay in touch! I love your blog and would love to meet your editor friend, because I need one....lol! Hugs!

Respectfully yours,
Crystal K.

Liz Fichera said...

I've been so fortunate to work with an editor who I trust completely. I think you also have to realize that your editor has the best intentions in mind too. Like you, they want your book to be successful and sell.