Reading you under the table since 2012

After the editorial letter: The editor’s perspective

by

Jordan Hamessley London

Authors: I’m going to let you in on a little secret.

You know how nervous you are when you receive the email with your editorial letter attached? Your editor is nervous, too!

When I sign up a book or series, it’s because I love it. It may need work, but I believe the book should exist in the world. Of course, I’ll usually have notes and comments on things that can make the book even better. That’s where the edit letter comes in.

When a first draft comes in, I read the manuscript at least twice before sending my edit letter. My first read is cold. I only comment if something seems particularly hard to follow or confusing. My second read is when I take what I know of the manuscript and get deep into any issues that need to be addressed.

Then, as I begin to write my edit letter, the draft essentially gets a third read as I go through and make sure that I cover everything, so the author is fully prepared for their revision. Writing up an edit letter takes time and I carefully chose my words when describing any problem areas or comments that I think the author might have issue with. In the end, even if I write a very long edit letter, I want the author to know that I still love their book.

So what’s so scary about hitting the send button?

I know how dear manuscripts are to authors. Chances are by the time you’re receiving an edit letter from an editor, you’ve revised several times before signing with an agent and then gone through a round or two with them before the manuscript was bought. The thought of more revisions or being told that one of your favorite parts of your book isn’t working isn’t that appealing. Editors know that, but please know that we are helping you make your book great.

Here’s my one request to all authors out there. When that email comes, take your time. Read it. Think it over. Look at all the notes and let it settle before you pick up the phone. I know your instinct might be to immediately call your editor and defend everything she’s asked you to change or cut, but take the time to let it sink in. If there are any issues that you are truly concerned about, talk to your agent. See what they think.

I have a tendency to send my edit letters at the end of the day or on a Friday to give the author time to think. I’m always happy to have a phone call to talk through the letter and any changes that might be difficult, but it’s good to let both of us breathe before diving right back in. Often, some of the best fixes come from the calls I’ve had with my authors post-edit letter.

So authors, as nervous as you may feel opening that email, know that your editor is on the other side nervously awaiting your reaction. In the end, you both want what’s best for your book.

 —

Jordan Hamessley London is an assistant editor at Grosset and Dunlap, an imprint of Penguin Young Readers where she edits middle grade and chapter book science fiction, fantasy, and horror. When not editing, Jordan can be  found on twitter talking about books, scary movies, and musical theater.

 

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8 Comments

  1. Posted November 13, 2012 at 7:19 am | Permalink

    Every editor I’ve worked with had useful and important things to say, and each one helped me improve my books. Each one sees different things to work on, too.

  2. Posted November 13, 2012 at 1:53 pm | Permalink

    I can’t imagine how difficult/nerve-wracking it can also be for editors to approach the manuscripts their writers pass on to them. I’m glad you shared a little bit in this post, because it helps remind everyone that editors and authors and agents are all meant to work together to make a book the best it can be!

  3. Posted November 13, 2012 at 2:01 pm | Permalink

    Awesome post. I’m sure I’m not the only author who is dying to know what’s happening in my editor’s head. ;) But I guess it’s sort of like CP-ing–I’m always terrified to send my CP notes about her manuscript because I don’t want to crush her soul… I’m probably more nervous about giving a critique than receiving one, but I never thought about editors feeling the same!!

  4. Posted November 13, 2012 at 2:05 pm | Permalink

    LOVE this post, Jordan!

  5. Posted November 13, 2012 at 2:12 pm | Permalink

    There’s usually a little ranting and raving and stomping around on my part when I first go through my editor’s letter. Then I just buckle down and do the work. My editor’s got very good instincts, and by reading the manuscript fresh, she’s able to see things I’ve become blind to. I only contact her for the comments that puzzle me. I certainly appreciate all the work that she puts in.

  6. Posted November 13, 2012 at 5:30 pm | Permalink

    Thanks so much for this post – I’ve never thought about what the experience is like for an editor – I just know that it’s torturous for me!

  7. Posted November 13, 2012 at 6:24 pm | Permalink

    Jordan, thanks so much for sharing the editor’s POV. I was amazed at my editor’s insight and how invested she was in my book. It’s a very tough job you all do, and not one that I’d be very good at. Thanks, editors, for loving our babies!

  8. Posted November 13, 2012 at 7:10 pm | Permalink

    This is a great post. I’ve never thought about it from the editor’s pov. I always sit on my edits for a few days–up to a week–before I even touch the manuscript. My current editor is amazing because she calls me before the edit letter. That way I know what to expect.

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