The Ideal Author/Editor

I had the chance to attend several seminars over the weekend with science fiction, fantasy, and children’s authors as well as editors from Tor, Baen, and Locus Magazine, and now, I’d like to pass on their wisdom.

What do editors look for in an author? What should an author expect in an editor? What makes for a good match?

The ideal author . . .

  • Delivers promptly. And by “promptly” I mean early. An author who submits something at the last minute or, worse, after a deadline won’t benefit from the full range of an editor’s expertise, because there simply won’t be enough time. Plus, it just makes the editor twitchy.
  • Sees the editor as a partner who wants what’s best for the work instead of a necessary evil that must be faced or hoop through which to jump before success is possible. Antagonists should stay in the story and not sprout up in the editing process.
  • Understands the spirit of an editor’s critique. An author should be able to identify why a critique is given not only what it says. No one is expected to be a mind reader or hand over total control of a manuscript, but an author should be editable, open to being mentored and taught.
  • Is self-sufficient. Editors love authors who are aggressive in their self-promotion and have a solid social media platform. A magnificent story will still be unknown if it doesn’t sell. An editor loves an individual who will continue to advocate for the book after publication.

 The ideal editor . . .

  • Grasps the concept of the author’s work. While the editor should not shy away from pushing to make the writing better, author and editor should be simpatico as to the author’s intentions.
  • Discusses and compromises. Being on the same wave length is great but not likely 100% of the time. When an editor goes in a direction that isn’t okay for the author, the editor should be able to offer clear reasoning and alternatives to address the issue at hand.
  • Does not expect perfection from the beginning. An editor loves a beautifully crafted story that offers the chance to fine tune it into a masterpiece. However, if it was a masterpiece from the beginning, what need would there be for an editor?
  • Is communicative and professional. Just as an editor needs an author to be punctual, an author should expect the same in return. If comments don’t come back in a reasonable time, the work will suffer. If an editor is incapable of explaining trouble areas or plot holes the author missed, the work will suffer. If an editor is combative or missing in action, the editor’s client list will suffer.

Both parties are entering into a partnership that will grow and evolve over time. Just like any healthy relationship, it takes work and patience. Find the right fit for your personality and style. Does your work require someone with extensive experience and credentials or someone who is hungry for your book? When in doubt, the key to finding your ideal editor might be striving to be an ideal author (and vice versa).

Also, one editor mentioned that all the best authors provide high-quality scotch or chocolate. No, really, he did! I swear!

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