Maybe I was too hard on editors…

In the last post I talked about how most business book editors don’t edit books anymore. After reflection I think I was too hard on my colleagues.  After all, for more than two decades, I was one of those over-worked editors I described, turning out some 25 books a year for a large publishing company/imprint. 

While it is true that there wasn’t much time for editing (I was too busy searching for viable authors and book projects), I always managed to find time for those books that really got my juices flowing. Whether it was in five a.m. sessions or on weekends, I line edited the books that had the most potential and needed the most work (in that order).

I remember, for example, seven consecutive weekends one winter, donning a winter coat in unheated publishing offices to rewrite a book on Jack Welch that was badly in need of an overhaul (it was worth it–it ultimately sold 175,000 copies).  The point is that if I could find time to edit, so could dozens of other over-worked business book editors who are no less dedicated to their craft than I am. I certainly have no monpoly on hard work or dilligence, but when I worked for those companies—the ones turning out books by the boatload—the demands of the job did force me to pick and choose which books I would spend the most time on. 

I guess when push comes to shove, you need to sit down with your editor—or prospective editor—and have a candid, one-on-one talk about what he or she is willing to bring to the book from an editorial perspective. Perhaps you need to think of it like marriage. You know how they say when you marry a person you marry his or her whole family? The same is true in publishing. When you “marry” an editor, you marry the whole family, so make sure you are comfortable with the other people in the organization, and not only in editorial, but in marketing and publicity as well. This entails requesting a meeting with these key folks before you sign the publishing contract. If, for any reason, your editor, cannot or will not set up a meeting with key individuals in other departments that’s not a good sign. The best publishing organizations are only too happy to open its doors and set up a meeting with key members of editorial, publicity and marketing. If your publisher won’t be as open you may opt to select another publisher.      

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