What's with Author X's editor, man?

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maybegenius
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What's with Author X's editor, man?

Post by maybegenius » April 7th, 2010, 5:35 pm

I've noticed a sort of phenomenon stemming from my non-writer friends, and I think I'm just now starting to really pay attention to it because I'm now actively involved in the writing/publishing community. When they read a novel that has, say, an overuse of ellipses, they seem to blame the editor. They say things along the lines of, "I don't know what Author X's editor was thinking. They need a better one."

These friends seem to be under the impression that the author just pumps out any ol' thing chock-full of errors, and then it's the editor's job to "fix" everything. Now, for issues such as grammar, homophone, punctuation, and spelling errors, I can see where one might turn a critical eye on ONE of the editors of a novel (because there are different types of editors, see). But now that I'm more involved in this process, I realize that it's really not like the author just drops a manuscript on a desk and then the editor polishes it up all shiny and nice. I know there's a lot of back and forth between editor and author, and that they may not always see eye to eye. Authors even have the power to straight-up refuse to change a passage the editor doesn't like. Granted, they might pay consequences for being stubborn, but they have the option to do it.

This is a very interesting concept for me to come across. I realize now that before I started teaching myself about publishing, I had it in my head that it was a lot like this. I may have even criticized the editing of a book or two. Now I know better. I admit, I didn't even realize there were different types of editors - copy editor, acquisitions editor, etc. I thought there was just one that read the whole thing over and over and fixed the mistakes.

What about you? Do you feel it's the editor's responsibility to clean up a messy manuscript, or does the author have some responsibility to make sure it's as clean as they can make it beforehand? If there are incidences of overused punctuation or continuity errors, is it more the fault of the author or the editor? Or both?

For the purposes of this post, I'm referring to in-house editors working with already acquired manuscripts, as opposed to freelance editors who are specifically hired to work on these issues.
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gonzo2802
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Re: What's with Author X's editor, man?

Post by gonzo2802 » April 7th, 2010, 5:41 pm

I have two different answers depending on which hat I'm wearing.

As a Writer - I don't believe it is ultimately my editor's responsibility to make sure my manuscript is as clean as possible. Hopefully, they will have someone in place to help me when I go a little crazy with the commas at times, but I don't expect them to teach me how to write proper sentences.

As a Consumer - Since the bulk of my money is going to the publishing company for putting this product out there, then yes, I DO expect them to take a closer look. I shouldn't be forced to get stuck with an inferior product, because they didn't have anyone tell their author the things that should have come out long before publication.

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Re: What's with Author X's editor, man?

Post by Margo » April 7th, 2010, 6:10 pm

Talking to editors, I suspect messy books are the result of several issues. First, editors have really heavy workloads (the ones I've spoken to anyway). Second, a few of their really popular authors refuse to be edited (less a typo issue and more the reason a book comes in at 800 crappy pages when it could have been 400 great pages). Third, several of their prize authors are habitually late on deadlines; by the time the ms finally arrives, there isn't the time to do a thorough edit.

Since overworked and understaffed editorial departments seem to be the norm, I would say the smart author should polish as much as possible. It's the author's name on the book, not the editor's.
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Re: What's with Author X's editor, man?

Post by mojo25 » April 7th, 2010, 7:13 pm

If you're talking about typos, grammar, etc, it is the publisher's responsibility to clean it up. After the editor has gone over it and has decided it's ready for production, it goes to a copy editor who is supposed to fix this stuff (the author gets to see what changes the copy editor has made and usually approves them or discusses alternative edits etc). Then in proofs, it will be checked by again by a proofreader (and the author, too, as a final check) to make sure all the edits were done and that there are no additional typos.

If you're talking about larger issues (bloated ms, etc), that's the editor's responsibility (or sometimes it's the author's if they have inflated egos and refuse to make suggested changes).

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marilyn peake
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Re: What's with Author X's editor, man?

Post by marilyn peake » April 7th, 2010, 8:28 pm

Ultimately, I feel it's the author's responsibility if a book is poorly written; but, when I see A LOT of typos, poor writing and glaring grammatical errors, I wonder how the editors and publisher ever went through with publishing a book that contains so many mistakes.
Marilyn Peake

Novels: THE FISHERMAN’S SON TRILOGY and GODS IN THE MACHINE. Numerous short stories. Contributor to BOOK: THE SEQUEL. Editor of several additional books. Awards include Silver Award, 2007 ForeWord Magazine Book of the Year Awards.

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Re: What's with Author X's editor, man?

Post by KellyWittmann » April 8th, 2010, 5:41 pm

I agree with Marilyn; it's the typos that drive me insane. I realize that editors just don't have the same kind of time they used to, but I'm talking about GLARING typos. As far as style, yes, many authors have just become extremely stubborn, and there's only so much an editor can do.

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Re: What's with Author X's editor, man?

Post by Avalon Ink » April 8th, 2010, 11:31 pm

This was something that truly surprised me when I started looking into the writing industry. I'd always assumed editors had a much heavier hand in the process regarding formatting, grammar, etc. Now that I'm writing though, I can't possibly see how it should be their responsibility. It's our job as authors to write the best novel we can, and that includes grammar, spelling and everything else. Which is too bad, cause I'm horrible at it. ha!

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Re: What's with Author X's editor, man?

Post by killALLyourdarlings » April 9th, 2010, 11:27 am

maybegenius wrote:Do you feel it's the editor's responsibility to clean up a messy manuscript, or does the author have some responsibility to make sure it's as clean as they can make it beforehand? If there are incidences of overused punctuation or continuity errors, is it more the fault of the author or the editor? Or both?
What? WHAAAT? Does the recording engineer tune the musician's instrument?

Answer to first part of first OP question: Not only no, but hell no.
Answer to second part of first OP question: some responsibility? As in "close enough for government work"?
Answer to second OP question: Both of 'em. No excuses. And no lame excuses.
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