Thursday, September 8, 2011

Thirteen editors

(Note: This is rather a serious-type business-type post, so forgive me. I just can't compete with Biddy's cow story.)

I was having a Twitter conversation recently with some fellow writers who started out at about the same time I did, and they mentioned that they had both been with the same beloved editor since their very first book.

I was incredulous. I sold my first book seven years ago, and since then, with the three different publishers I've been with, I have had thirteen different editors.

Thirteen. Thir-fricking-teen. I had no idea how many editors I'd had, until I just counted them up right now.

I don't think it's my fault. My editors have stopped editing me, temporarily or permanently, because they've moved publishers, or switched to a different editorial office, or left to have a baby, or left the country, or decided not to be editors any more. Or, I've stopped writing for their list because I wanted to move on to something else. None of this, as far as I'm aware, is because it's been so horrible editing me. I don't think. I've stayed in touch with the majority of my editors, and count them as friends, so I don't think I've ruined their lives by writing for them.

I'm definitely not responsible for the babies.

Whenever your editor does leave, though, for whatever reason, it's always the occasion for mild-to-desperate panic. If you've had a good editor (and I can tell you, all of my thirteen editors have been very good indeed), you will of course be terrified that your next editor won't get your work, won't like you, won't be understanding, will demand insane revisions, or maybe even drop you from their list. These things do happen; I've heard enough about it.

Even if you don't fear for your book and your career, you do know that this very important professional relationship will inevitably change. And that's worrying. Maybe just a little bit, but it's worrying nevertheless.

However, it's also always an exciting opportunity. Every one of my editors has or had their own editing style, and a slightly different way of working. Which means that I've learned lots of different procedures for pitching stories, giving in manuscripts, doing revisions, looking at queries, handling proofs. Most importantly, every one of them who's had hands-on work with my manuscripts has taught me something about my own writing. Both my strengths and my weaknesses. And that's one of the most precious things that can happen to you in this business.

I'm lucky to have worked with thirteen amazing women so far.

(And PS: Congratulations to my current editor on the birth of her baby! Hurray!)


  1. Wow - I have one but then I've just started. You are amazing and gifted and wonderful so you have taken the best they had to give and made yourself a better am in awe.


  2. Or, alternatively, maybe I should take more baths.

  3. It is the lack of baths... ;-)

    I think it is amazing how you have grown and succeeded and taken what those editors have taught you to make you better.


  4. Respect! So if your current one just had a baby, does that mean you're now on number fourteen? :)

  5. No, number thirteen is maternity cover, though fortunately a lovely one whom I had met before. :-)