And I have another, different question I've been wanting to ask you (and asking myself for some time now.) How do YOU know when you are a good editor? I mean the actual craft of editing a manuscript. Do you already know that you are a good editor, and what makes you think that? Or are you still becoming a good editor, and what will it take for you to decide that you are? I'm not questioning your talents, because I know you are fabulous! And I don't mean the question to cut off the possibility (probability/sure thing) of you getting lots better as time goes on. But I want to know when/how/what you have decided about that for yourself.
Tough question! And the short answer is: I don't know.
I don't know if I actually think that I'm a good editor. I hope that I am, of course, and most of the time I'm fairly confident of my abilities--I know when I'm reading a manuscript that I can make it better, or "take it to the next level" as I like to say. But how do I know?
This kind of ties in with what's been going on right now at work--it's annual performance review time, and so I've been evaluating my own performance (and also that of my assistant's) over the past year. We have a formal written form, and one of the sections asks us to outline our key accomplishments, and part of how I've been doing that is by looking at the books I've acquired/edited and how they have performed, both in terms of reviews and other acclaim, and sales. So I'm able to say, "Look, these books all received at least one starred review, this one was taken by Scholastic, this one won this award, these books were chosen for these end-of-year lists, this one has sold really well, etc. etc. That's one way I've become more confident in my abilities--the books I edit tend to get starred reviews and good acclaim, which I think is a good sign. The books I edit also tend to exceed the sales expectations placed on them, also a good sign.
I think most agents and authors and illustrators say good things about me and refer people to me, another good sign. I've had agents call my editorial letters "brilliant" and authors praise my comments. Then again, I'm never sure if they're being honest or just polite.
I do think I'm good at my job overall, in part because I'm just so in love with it, and am constantly trying to improve. I think the fact that I've been at the same company and able to advance is a sign that my supervisors think I'm doing a good job--I tend to get glowing performance reviews, too--more evidence. But the truth is, just as authors have doubts, despair that they are horrible writers, will never write another great book, I have those same doubts about my professional abilities. Sometimes I feel like a fraud, like I don't deserve to be in the position I'm in. I know I'm still learning, I'm still honing my skills. With every manuscript I edit, every conference I attend, every review I read, every book I read, I'm learning and getting better.
I don't know if I'll EVER feel like I'm a fantastic editor. But as long as I am given the opportunity to do the job that I love, I'll take it.
For you other editors out there, how would you answer this question? And for you authors and illustrators, librarians, teachers, parents, etc., how do you know that you're doing a good job?