Wednesday, February 01, 2012
Interpreting editorial letters
As an author, I get editorial letters; as an editor, I write them.
How do you handle them when you're the author? How do you want the author to handle them if you're the editor?
As the author, I usually ask for clarification if I don't understand something. If an editor suggests a change, I feel that I have to do something -- that I can't just leave whatever it was as it is. But even if the editor has made a suggestion, I usually feel that I can solve the problem my own way. If I really like the editor's solution, I'll use it; if I don't, I'll think of my own. I always do something.
But I've heard of authors who just leave things as they are!
As an editor, do you think the author has to fix what you've commented on, or is that optional? And what about how the author fixes it? Are you annoyed if she doesn't do what you suggest, but solves the problem her own way? And what would you do if an author (this happens to me as an editor sometimes) interpreted everything you said as praise and didn't want to change anything?
Not to be sexist, but this does happen to me more with male authors: I'll send a letter saying what I liked, and then suggesting changes, and the author responds,
"Oh, you liked it! Great!"
When I'm the editor, I'm in a different situation from most people reading these pages, I think -- I'm being paid by the author to get the ms. into publishable condition. So what I do in that case ("that case" being when I've sent a long letter and the author responds only to the praise) is get blunter -- painfully blunt, sometimes.
So you'd think I'd be good at reading editorial letters, but not always! When I'm the author, letters from an editor I don't know can be really hard to interpret, and I've gotten it wrong more than once. So, anything anyone has to say would be helpful....
Lastly, I'm talking here about books that are under contract. Alvina's post (was it called Rejection Letters 101) on submissions was hugely helpful. It's easy to misinterpret those letters, too.