Ask the Editor: Your First Reviewers

This is the last post of Ask an Editor week with Kimberly Blythe, head editor at Omnific Publishing. Your response to her thoughtful answers has been wonderful---sooooooo we'll do it again! A couple of the questions I received were more appropriately suited to an acquisitions editor, so guess what I did...yep, I lined up an acquisitions editor to answer them. At the May Insecure Writers Support Group, I'll solicit even more questions. Sorry for the delay, but March & April sort of filled up.

And while I'm in apology mode, sorry I'm behind in repaying many of your visits. I've had some shite go down this week that's kept me away from the social networks. But I'll be around, and I look forward to it.

If you missed Kim's earlier answers, you can find them here:

Today we have from Kim one last piece of advice: Your editors are your first reviewers. It may seem like we delight in crushing your dreams, or undoing your hard work. I'm often reminded of a quote from the movie Anne of Avonlea, when Anne is discussing the sale of her work for commercial use by the Rollings Reliable Baking Powder Company. "How do you think a mother would feel if she found her child tattooed all over with a baking powder advertisement? I love my story, and I wrote it out of the best that was in me."

A good editor is your first and most constructive reviewer. Yes, we can be blunt and often aggressively push for changes that you never anticipated. Yes, we will often be demanding that you "kill your darlings" or that a beloved minor character be deleted or disagreeing with your decision to forego contractions in dialogue. But please be assured that if we don't tell you to fix these things during the editing process, a reviewer is sure to tell you that they should have been changed. And they aren't going to be paid to it diplomatically.

Unfortunately, belittling an author has become a sort of sport on social media these days. I can't tell you how many times I've given in to an author's plea to leave something unchanged only to see that very same thing pointed out as a flaw in review after review. Those reviews are often full of comments like, "where was the editor???" which makes me groan. I was there, trying to put these changes into place, but was ignored.

Being edited takes a thick skin and a lot of trust. It can be especially difficult if you've had pre-readers who are amazing cheerleaders for you, but have been decidedly quiet about changes you should be making. They've served an excellent role in keeping you writing and getting you to the point that you're willing to submit your work. But once you submit for publication, it's time to listen to your editors and take most of their advice. Because once your book goes to print, your reviews are permanent.

Find Kim at Tumblr, Goodreads, and Twitter.

Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU Kim for taking the time to answer our questions and then some. 


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

She is so right! I'd rather my editor told me than a reviewer. I like my publisher's editor and make almost every change she suggests without question.

Liz Blocker said...

Fantastic advice, and really helpful for writers to remember as we grit our teeth and kill our darlings :)

Thank you again, Kimberly and Nicki, for such an awesome series!

Nicki, I LOVE that you're doing this again. THANK YOU! And I really hope everything is OK. I'll be thinking of you this week.

Maurice Mitchell said...

Editors have to be tough because if they don't do it, the readers will. A great perspective for writers.

geophf said...

Yes, editing, and editing well, can be hard work. And then being savaged for it can make it harder. Well, from the writer's perspective ... bleh, I went over 4k chars, so I just wrote a blog entry about it. Yes, dear editor, we love you, and yes, it is our baby, and yes, maybe we both need to grow and do better.


cheers, geophf

Steven said...

A good editor is worth her weight in gold because of this. I remember the first time I received feedback from an editor, who was pretty abrupt about it, and I flew off the handle. Several years later I've learned that most editors really do want to help you create your best writing possible, even if it hurts.

Susan Flett Swiderski said...

Wow, so much information here! I'll have to come back later when I have more time to read it all. (I can practically hear my husband's stomach growing from here, so I'd better get out in that kitchen and rattle some pots and pans!)

Happy weekend!

geophf said...

HTH LiLa! "What's happenin', hot stuff?" Really, Nicki? Really?

re: your query as to why your blog entries generate blog (counter?-)entries. My answer?

I suppose I should bow to men greater than myself to express it properly: "My mind is a raging torrent, flooded with rivulets of thought cascading into a waterfall of creative alternatives." Hedley Lamarr in Blazing Saddles.

After all, writing (loquaciously, at that) is the occupational hazard of those who practice the writerly-craft. That's just an FYI for ya, just in case you didn't know.

Or, I could be succinct, like Taggart and leave you the one-word response of "Ditto!"

But if I did that, I think you just might keel over: 'geophf? left me a one-world response? Must be Ragnarok today. Goodbye, cruel world!' Nicki keels over, grasping her heart, dramatically, of course.

And we can't have that, now, can we?


Unknown said...

I have a bunch of great CPs and they know I want the full truth, not a watered down version. This has helped me a lot. Sometimes they're slow to take my advice, but agents or their book contract editors very often ask for the same changes I have. I've decided not to crit outside my group from now on after less than enthused responses to my opinions. One has to really want their work to be the best to listen to advice to "kill their darlings" or even just wound them a little! :)

Suze said...

Babe, this interview series has been really strong. Thank you for it.

I'm feeling worried about what went down this week, though ...

CarolOates said...

Did someone say contractions? lol That was one of the many conversations I had with my editor recently.

I would rather hear the hard stuff before my work is finalized so I can fix it. Occasionally it's something I feel strongly about and I feel it's important to speak up in those cases. But that also an editor isn't the enemy. They are there to make a book better. Period. So it's important to take the advice and consider it very carefully before making that final decision. Never just dismiss an editor's advice out of hand.

Jennifer Lane said...

Suggesting a change that the author doesn't take and then multiple reviewers ask "Where was the editor?" LOL. That would indeed be difficult.

I find that I might have a negative reaction to an editing change at first, but eventually I get on board (for the most part).

Nicole Zoltack said...

It's so important for an author to not be so in love with their work that they don't make the changes it needs to really shine.