Is Your Editor an Editor?

One of the biggest complaints authors have about their publisher is that “no one edits anymore. I turned in my manuscript and they published it pretty much as is.” Given the current state of business book publishing,  it is no wonder.  Remember that there are more than 10,000 business books published each year.  This means that the majority of business book editors are forced to sign (mean, commit authors to a contract) 20+ books per year. Even if these very busy editors had the requisite talent to edit every line of a manuscript, where would he or she get the time to do it? If they do find the time, these editors are forced to focus on just a few of the “biggest” books of the year.  

The concept of editors not editing, quite naturally, confuses authors. However, part of this can be cleared  up by clarifying our terms. The editors that business book authors work with are actually “acquisition editors.” The chief goal for an acquiring editors is to identify and sign a certain number of authors/books each year. It is in publishing houses that publish hundreds of business books per year that editors are the most taxed (acquire 20+ books each year).

In top tier publishing companies/imprints, the overall approach and publishing strategy of the house is opposite of those houses churning out hundreds of titles per year. At top tier houses editors usually are asked to publish about a dozen books per year (or one a month). That’s a world of difference than 20+ books because it allows editors at these houses to work closer with authors to develop, edit and help shape a manuscript. Speaking from experience, I have spent up to six weeks editing, line by line, word by word, a single key book. But all of the books we publish (and books published at other top tier houses) are edited in similar fashion. So we don’t just acquire, we also edit books to make sure they meet key standards and also have the chance to “break out” (they also receive top tier marketing, but I will leave that for a future posting). 

So if you are searching for a publisher, two great questions to ask your editor are these:

1. How many business books does your house publish each year?

2. How many books do you (meaning the editor) acquire each year?

If the first answer is in the hundreds, and the second more than twenty, then you may want to search for another publishing house where you can be assured that your book will get the attention it so richly deserves.      



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