Blogger: Janet Kobobel Grant
Location: Books & Such main office, Santa Rosa, Calif.
The final aspect of what an in-house editor brings to the table is…
–Understanding the interplay between the publisher, the author, the agent.
This is a delicate dance that other departments don’t “get” because they aren’t standing in the crossroads the way an editor is. That’s why Carol Johnson describes an editor as not only an ambassador to the publishing house on the author’s behalf but also as an ambassador to the author on the publisher’s behalf.
If the author isn’t happy with a cover design, title, ad copy or the edited manuscript, it’s the editor the author is most likely to communicate that to–if the author doesn’t have an agent. If the lucky author has an agent, communication to the publishing house of this sort goes through the agent.
Who is the agent most likely to contact first? The editor. That’s because agents know that, if anyone at the publishing house has a firm grasp on the essence of the book, it’s the editor. The editor acquired the project, oversaw each part of the book’s production, and was the person who presented the vision for the book to the rest of the publishing staff.
Conversations of this sort usually go something like this (note: this is a truncated version of a much longer conversation):
Agent: “I just saw the cover design for Jerry’s book. I have to say that I think you all missed the mark. It looks as though the audience is a 50-year-old woman rather than a 20-year-old. The model is too old. Not to mention that the title is lost on the light background. I’ve talked it over with Jerry, and he agrees.”
Editor: “We really liked the cover. We thought it conveyed the inspirational angle of the book.”
Agent: “Well, I’m not seeing that. I think it conveys more of a dark tone rather than a hopeful look. I have to say that the cover is all wrong. Can we make another pass at a design?”
Editor: “You know we want the author to like the cover and to think it’s the right one for his book. I’ll talk to design.”
Now, if the agent had called the designer directly, the conversation would have gone very differently. But you can see how an agent can approach an editor and talk about who the reader is, whether the cover conveys what the book is about, and toss in suggestions about what needs to be changed.
Editors get it. They’re the troubleshooters for your book. If bad news must be delivered to either the author or to publishing staff–such as a manuscript that disappointed when it was sent in–the editor becomes the messenger.
If something goes awry in the publishing process, such as realizing that too many novels are releasing in a single season and yours is being bumped back, the editor delivers the news.
And the editor rejoices with the author as no one else in the publishing house can when a writing award is won. Because the editor helped you to get that award like no one else.
Now we come back to the question of what happens should a publishing house dismiss all in-house editors. The person who was the author’s and the agent’s touchstone to the publishing house is gone. Who will assume this role, a role that benefits both publisher and author? No one holds the same qualifications because no one else has to be the overseer of not only the project but also of all the relationships inherent in producing the book.
Tomorrow I’ll write about how free-lance editors fit into the scheme of things and also address what to look for in an editor you hire to help you with your manuscript.
In the meantime…
…When did an editor step in to negotiate on your behalf?
…Read acknowledgments in whatever books you have at hand. What descriptions of editors provide insights into what an editor does? Were some worded especially eloquently?