Last week I included in my blog my opinion about the importance of a good, professionally trained, experienced, NYC publishing house, acquisitions editor. There were a lot of comments and questions, including this one by Atsiko:
>>I’m curious, though, as to what qualifies an editor to be an expert. There are editors who are writers, and writers who are editors, and there are editors and writers who are *only* editors and writers. So where do editors gain this talent for improving on the work of writers? Is it just practice critiquing?
First, off, there is a major difference between an edit and a critique.
A through edit addresses pacing, plot progression, character development, plot and story arcs, the very structure and heart and soul of a novel or story. It breaks down a story into its component parts and rebuilds it with more flesh, bigger muscle, and a tightness to the composition that is often staggering. This doesn’t count the copy edit, line edit, etc. which are usually done by others, not a book’s actual editor.
Second, I know of *very* few NYC editors who write. Okay, let’s be honest. I know of none. Not one. There was one some years back who left the biz to become a writer, then later stopped writing. But I know of no editors who have the time or energy to work 60 plus hours a week and then write too.
Third, there is a lot more to a good editor than talent. A *LOT*! I’ve had quite a few of them over the last is 20 years. (I sold my first book in 1989.) For the purposes of this post I will use the universal *he*, though most NYC editors are female and in their mid to last 20s.
- Most NYC editors have a degree in literary arts, often a masters.
- My idea editor has at least 5 years working under a senior editor in my genre. If I am a bestseller, then I want the senior editor, but I’m not, so I’m not pushing it.
- He practically knows (by heart) the Chicago Manual of Style.
- He has studied his particular genre back and forth and can quote sales numbers, genre trends, new promo methods, and give me the latest NYC gossip because he is plugged into the scene.
- His best friend is the buyer for my genre at B&N, and he dates the buyer for my genre at BAM, and his mother is the buyer for Borders, and he gets along famously with all of them. (None of number 5 is likely, but I can hope.)
- He knows agents and editors in his field and in other fields. They like him enough to buy him drinks at cons, and to steer clients his way when they discover a gem-of-an-author who is not right for their house. Yes, I’ve known that to happen.
- He returns my emails within 24 hours (except weekends and when he is out of town.)
- He returns my phone calls within 24 hours (except weekends and when he is out of town.)
- He has no fear when it comes to fighting for good slots (this is a place for my books in the publishing lineup for the coming year) good promo money and the very best PR person in the company’s PR department.
- He likes me. And if he doesn’t like me, (because we simply don’t connect in that special way. I mean, what’s not to like?) he still works with me as if he is my pal.
- He likes my work. Really, this should be number one. An editor who likes my work is a gift from heaven. That editor will (see number 9) fight for promo money and for a better slot in pub dates. In addition, he will fight for expanded attention from the buyers of the chains, and will coo about my work to other editors from other houses, thus expanding my name recognition in the business, and my likelihood of being asked to do more work.
- I am sure there are more. Feel free to add thoughts about the job and value of a good editor.
A good editor is worth his weight in gold. They make writers better writers.