Whether you’re looking to break into the editing field, or just learn more about the so-called gatekeepers of the traditional publishing world, it’s always good to know more about what happens behind the scenes.
As a reminder, acquiring editors work for the publishing houses and are the ones who actually make those large-figured book deals — in addition to revising and editing manuscripts.
At WorldCon 2019’s “Editors’ panel: Challenges and Anecdotes”, I got to hear industry veterans Michael Rowley, Eleanor Teasdale, Ginjer Buchanan, John R. Douglas, and David Thomas Moor talk about their experiences.
The Strangest Part of the Job
- When you’re doing it right, they pay you. – John R. Douglas
- The need to cheerleader in-house to sell the book you’re working. – Ginjer Buchanan
- The job is to find joy and passion and beauty and personality. And edit it out. Then, digest the book down to a single line. – David Thomas Moor.
The Biggest Challenges
- Authors who don’t want to take edits
- Usually – they don’t want to
- Occasionally – they try to counter-argue the grammar or the rhythm, etc.
- When you give your heart and soul and rah-rah to a book and it just didn’t work out. (Thanks to timing, a bad cover, or just fate).
- The book(s) you didn’t get — that end up best sellers.
- Other divisions of the same company over-bidding you
- Get told ‘no’ at the publisher’s meeting (by Marketing/Sales/etc)
- Ones you passed on
- Getting the right cover
- John Douglas tried to win the Game of Thrones proposed series at auction, but George RR Martin accepted the deal that offered $75k in marketing, over the book deal with more upfront money.
Favorite Book They’ve Worked On
Several of the editors refused to “pick between their children”. But, we got a few answers.
- Maybe Mike Brooks’s Dead Sky – Michael Rowley
- John M. Ford’s The Dragon Waiting – John R. Douglas
- Charlie Stross’s Halting State duology. Also, media tie in novels for Quantum Leap. She read fanzines and hired the best writers. Asked them to pitch her — the writers loved the source material and it showed. Working on that was ‘nothing but fun.’ – Ginjer Buchanan
Practical Advice On Breaking In As An Editor
- Move to London or New York
- Get any job at a publishing house and work your way up
- Private assistant
- Take a job at a small press to build your resume
- Get a degree in English/editing
- Earn the “Society of Editors and Proofreaders” certificate [UK]
- Network (conventions/etc)
- Look on bookseller websites for jobs or [UK] the IPG
As with everything book or writing related, hard work and luck seems to be a large part of it.
Thanks for tuning in. I’ll be back again soon with more writing tips and writerly musings.