Thursday, March 24, 2011

Questions About the Roles of an Editor

This post was written by forensic scientist Chad L., whose interest in writing began after he took multiple writing courses online.

1. Do you get many unsolicited enquires? And do you respond to them?

We receive many, many unsolicited inquiries every day. Our interns go through the mail and at least skim over anything we get, though if no SASE was included, they've been instructed not to even look at it. The interns send form rejection letters back to the vast majority of submitters unless they see anything of note, and then they direct to me or my staff.

2. Do you have busier months than others?

It's usually a pretty steady stream of work, though for whatever reason we may have busier months than others, usually around the times of certain projects coming to fruition or being published. It can get overwhelming, but it never hits a snail's pace.

3. When publishing houses say their “lists are full” what exactly does that mean?

Literally: we're not taking on any more works, authors, projects, etc. But really, we're just not going to add your work to the list.

4. What is a closed house?

A publishing house that only works with certain writers and is not currently looking to taking on more writers; one whose lists are actually, truly full.

5. How close do you work with writers?

Depends on the project but usually fairly closely, but only until after they've written a rough draft. Then it comes time to put in the real work and make some cuts and changes, which can lead to some tension. It's my job to make their work the best it can be but also the most accessible and engaging that it can be.

6. Who gets the final word in what goes in the novel (in editing terms) the editor or the writer?

Almost always the editor and the publisher. We're the ones putting up the money to get it published!

7. How do you get to become an editor? Any formal qualifications?

You have to be a very skilled writer and put in your work to know the publishing industry inside-out, and that only comes with time and experience.

8. How do you deal with overly-sensitive writers who question every edit you make, even when your edits are clearly within the specified corporate style?

Every writer is sensitive about changes being made to their works, some more so than others. Usually if you explain the reasoning behind their edits they'll understand and at the very least grudgingly accept your call. Otherwise, you deal with it if they're worth the time i.e. if their writing is that good. Otherwise, you don't work with them in the future.

9. Is the editor used to being the decision maker or used to deferring to the author's decision?

You have to be a decision maker; it's your job. To make the right calls for who you represent and to optimize the work presented by the writer to reach the widest audience and earn the most interest. That's the whole idea here.

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