Blogger: Rachelle Gardner
A couple of weeks ago I told you what the editorial process typically looks like inside a publishing house. Sometimes the editing is smooth and wonderful, but not always. Today I wanted to talk about what to do when it gets rocky.
As a writer, you care deeply about your words and you’ve tried to get them just right. Hence your first encounter with an editor might be a little daunting. When they send you pages and pages of notes for revisions, you might be overwhelmed, depressed, and demoralized. Take heart… this is normal!
I recommend you enter the editorial process with a humble and teachable spirit. The editing process is a terrific opportunity to learn how to improve your writing.
But what if your editor requests changes with which you disagree? How you handle it may depend on who you are—a bestselling author versus a first-timer. (Guess who has more leverage?)
My advice, in a situation where you don’t understand the editorial request or you disagree with it:
- Ask a lot of questions of your editor. Try to get their perspective.
- Get them to explain their reasoning, and keep your mind open, considering the possibility that they may be right.
- If you feel the need, gently explain your side. But realize you may not understand what they’re saying until you actually try doing what they’ve suggested. Most times, authors end up agreeing that the changes improved the book.
- Be courteous in your disagreement and try to negotiate a win-win with your editor.
- The key is communication.
You are always going to hear stories from authors who feel an editor ruined their book, totally didn’t get it, or tried to change their voice. That scenario is not the norm, but sometimes an author deeply, seriously disagrees with certain changes an editor requests. And sometimes, the editor has strong reasons for their suggestions, and won’t back down. This is a situation in which it’s helpful to bring your agent in to help. If you and your agent are unable to negotiate a compromise, you have to decide if this is a hill you want to die on.
In the last several years, I’ve been involved in two cases where the author so strenuously disagreed with the editorial changes that the author and publisher agreed to cancel the contract. And yes, the author paid back the advance. (These were editorial disagreements about the content, not about grammar, punctuation or author voice.) I’ve been involved in a few others where the disagreement was significant, but eventually the two sides came to a decision everyone could live with.
Consider how important it is that you get your way in the editorial process. Are you willing to give up the contract for it?
Remember that everyone has the same goal in mind: The very best book possible. You just might not agree on how to get there.
In the end, most publishers respect the author and the fact that it’s your name on the cover. They’ll work hard to allow you to have the book you intended to write.
Can you think of an editorial situation in which you’d be willing to lose the contract over it?
How to handle disagreements with your editor. Click to Tweet.
Editorial disagreements, and choosing the hill on which you’re willing to die. Click to Tweet.