Thursday, November 20, 2014

Editors Are People Too

When I first took a job in a publishing house, I was in awe of the staff editors. Oh my gosh, they make books! They work with authors! They know authors! And I’ve never lost that admiration, particularly for editors who have been in the publishing industry for many years. But after a while, my hero worship morphed into a more substantial respect . . . and a realization that editors are people too. 

In my eventual role as a managing editor, I sat with editors on a regular basis to help resolve any barriers to their completing all the necessary editorial stages. Challenges abounded, and Plan A often shifted into Plan B, Plan C, and beyond. Both acquisition and production editors faced unglamorous obstacles, everything from late manuscripts, to poorly written manuscripts, to times when there were more expectations to fulfill than seemed humanly possible. On top of all that, I know sometimes they felt less than appreciated. I hate to think that in my busyness I often failed to show appreciation, but I have to admit that was probably the case.

Though demands on me as a freelancer are not as heavy as for those editors who hold in-house positions, now I understand some of their challenges even better. How tricky it is to edit an author for the first time, the finesse it takes to find the right dance steps that honor their writing style and make the most of your editing style. That sinking feeling when an author does not like your suggestions (though they sometimes later decide most of them work after all!). And, I have to admit, what it's like to feel as though your contribution to the excellence of a book might be undervalued (at which point you must swallow a grown-up pill and move on). 

This is not about the “care and feeding” of editors; they can take care of themselves. But they do appreciate working in an authentic "we all make a difference" environment and acknowledgment and simple thanks when their work has value. Editors as a group aren't complaining. I'm not complaining. But in case you know one or two of them, it's good to remember that editors are people too.

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