Tuesday, August 3, 2010

What do Editors Really Do?

Author Dean Wesley Smith  has a very informative post about editors, "Editors are Evil Myth."  I'd like to pull one section out of his full post about what an editor really does.  You can read Dean's full post here.  He talks about how the myth that editors are evil lives on.  If you haven't read any of his posts, you really should start reading them today.  He has a wealth of knowledge and first hand experience as an author.  

Snippet of full post:

For those of you who have never seen the inside of a major editor’s office in New York, let me give you a quick tour.
Editors and senior editors’ offices are often small, not more than about four paces deep and two or three paces wide. Shelves on both sides and a desk and one chair. Assistant editors and associate editors often sit outside in the hall at a desk or in a nearby cubicle. Executive editors have larger offices, but not much, and publishers have larger offices. Books and art are stacked everywhere in the halls and offices, along with piles and piles and piles of paper, mostly manuscripts in one stage or another.
What is a senior editor’s job? Simply put, to produce every month a list of books. Senior editors are at least in charge of one imprint list. The list can be from three to six books per month. So each editor has between 36 and 72 books a year, plus a number of others on other lists that they also buy for. The editor is usually buying two years out, so double that number, and then don’t forget the books already published that are in some stage of promotion. A normal editor can handle 200 plus book titles a year when you add it all up, depending on the house and company and imprint.
An editor’s day is filled with dealing with the art department, with the sales department, with the managing editor, with cover copy, meetings with the publisher, answering mail and email, massive numbers of phone calls, and so much more. Editors seldom, if ever, have time to read in their office. They read at home or on the subway going home or to work. They read on weekends.
In other words, if your image of an editor was what you have seen from Hollywood, with the big offices, the clean desks, the one manuscript sitting on top of the desk waiting to be read, you are sadly lost in a bad myth. Editors’ offices and the area around them are beehives of activity among piles and piles of paper and books and art.
The editors I know who have lasted for years thrive in this corporate craziness. And they do it for the love of taking a book that they have found and helping it get to thousands of readers that they hope will love it as well.
Editors don’t get paid enough. They sit in far, far too many hours of meetings. But when one of their writers show up in town, they do get to use the corporate credit card for lunch, often the only time they can afford to go to a new or nice restaurant.
Editors love and hate working with writers at the same time. They love working with the writers who act professionally and are clear on the process of helping a book become a better book in the writer’s vision. They hate working with writers who haven’t bothered to learn any business, who are lost in egos, or who think that the editor works for them.
It’s working with that type of clueless writer that makes editors sometimes rather work with an agent. At least the agent will usually be professional and understand how the business works. But if you are a clear-thinking writer who knows the realities of the publishing business, the editors would much rather work with you directly than through a third party. Less chance of screw-ups that way.
Editors do their best to protect writers, sometimes too much so. They are deathly afraid of giving a writer bad news for some reason I have yet to figure out.