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Editor’s Advice

Who do you write your book for? That is actually a trickier question than you might at first realize.

Probably most writers think they are writing for readers. However, I believe the majority of us write for ourselves and that isn’t always a good idea.

Some of the people who read your material are going to be like you, they’d probably be your friends if you ever met up. You’d go to starbucks together, possibly the gym, you might introduce your offspring and have a wedding some day. You’d definitely split your sides at the same jokes. Yes that story you tell so well – you know the one about your Auntie Marge and the carpet sweeper. They’d love that.  It’s so good to have someone who is on the same wavelength as you so they’d definitely be on the same page.

However, now let’s think about the other 6 billion people on the planet. The ones who aren’t like you; who will simply cringe at that story and decide to put the book down. Were you thinking of writing the sequel? Well there’s that lady down the street who can’t stand that story of your Auntie Marge. So she’s one person at least who won’t be asking for book 1 or the sequel on their Christmas list. The likelihood of there being rather a lot of people just like her is quite high. Auntie Marge – agghh – why did you insist on starting your first chapter with that story…

That’s why self publishing is simply not a good idea and finding a good editor is.

Don’t get me wrong, writing for other people doesn’t mean that you’re removing yourself and your personality from the creative process. It just means that you are taking a different angle. You’re putting different bits of you into the final product and keeping some stuff back. That’s o.k.

It doesn’t mean that you’re writing for absolutely everybody either. You shouldn’t write for such a general audience that it’s not specific to anybody at all.

It is actually a good idea to pick someone that you know and envisage writing/telling the story just to them. That’s a good way to start. Then you should get a good editor. Someone who is going to tell you when something is wrong, or dull, or just plain weird. And here’s the editor’s advice for today – accept the editor’s advice. Feel free to question us sometimes but don’t go into this process thinking its a negotiation. ‘I’ll let you take out this if you let me keep that.’

I sometimes let this pass and there always is some going backwards and forwards with an author… but when it gets to be a habit… it gets to be a headache… and you’ve got to be careful. A good editor, even any editor at all, isn’t easy to find these days.

Your editor, if you’re fortunate enough to have one, wants the best for you and your book. And (this can be difficult to accept sometimes) it is often the editor and not the author who knows what is best and how to achieve it. They have the same desire as the author for an excellent manuscript, but perhaps more clarity about how this should actually come about. They have a different sort of emotional attachment to the material and certainly a different set of skills and knowledge.

Let’s think about two words that are rather vague but sum up a lot of what is vital to a book: ‘The Market’. An editor knows what has worked before and what hasn’t. They’ve been hauled up to the board room on more than one occasion to answer for that ‘dud’ of a book  they’d thought would sell and is now being remaindered right left and center. If they can see how your book is going to avoid the bargain dump – you want to listen to them. Believe me. Your future royalties depend on it.

As well as that an editor knows that a book like yours needs to be on the shelves at a certain time to catch key sales. They know that there are some big players out there and that the sales department are chasing some key retailers. Everybody wants your book in the window display not in a corner cupboard.  Now the fact that the editor met the manager of that book chain at a publishing event last spring means they get on the phone and arrange to meet up for a coffee. I can’t tell you the number of key publishing events that have taken place in a coffee queue. You shouldn’t ever kill for a contacts list – but you should be very thankful.

Then an editor’s knowledge of the process and timing involved in getting a book to print will mean that your book is publicized in advance with sales teams at home and abroad. It will ensure that your book is ready in time for several rounds of proofreading and then printed in the Far East in time for it to be shipped to that conference in the states. And by the way because it was sent some weeks in advance of the final deadline the book missed the Chinese New Year – that time when practically the whole of Asia shuts down for a fortnight. Your book gets printed and is then sent simultaneously to America, Australia and the United Kingdom. That’s when you, the author, should be glad you submitted a completed manuscript ten months earlier. Time wasn’t wasted in those vital final weeks inserting items you really had to have in chapter 8 but had forgotten.

Here’s another thing.. an editor has access to several key talents that will make your book not only readable but ‘gorgeous’. There’s the artist’s agency that has scores of talented illustrators. So that’s the cover sorted. The graphic designer is going to make that illustration simply pop off the page. The page designer is going to make the text look elegant and stunning. The production manager is going to choose a paper quality that feels so tactile you’ll be stroking it all day. The marketing team are going to come up with such a good deal customers will be snapping the books out of the retailers hand… then begging for a copy of the ebook when it comes out.

The editor is the one person in this process that links you, the author, to all those goodies.

Why wouldn’t you listen to them? And why would you ever consider self publishing?


About hurrah4books

I'm a writer and children's book editor based in Scotland.

One response »

  1. I still agree with what I wrote here but reading it again after some time reminds me it was written during a week that came after one of those months.


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