Tag Archives: book editing

Why “Editor of New York Times Bestseller” Doesn’t Mean What You Think #editing #amwriting #indieauthor

So often I see ads from book editors that proclaim “Editor of (fill in a number) New York Times bestsellers!” Here’s why most of the time, that’s just hype.
Book editors at publishing houses are mostly in acquisitions. That means they acquire books by finding stuff in the slush pile then bringing it forward for consideration among other acquisitions editors, the marketing department, etc. etc. They’re good at finding quality.
Note that: finding quality. Not making quality.
If a project is too rough or just isn’t to their taste, they pass. And they pass a lot.
What they do select out of the submissions pile tend to be already fairly strong. The editing they might do usually is pretty nominal…tweak a personality trait here, change the order of events there.
They don’t do a lot because they don’t have time to do a lot. It’s fairly rare these days for publisher’s editors, who are skilled in acquisition, to do much actual editing.
There are exceptions, of course, but that also isn’t common.
So, “editor of X NYT bestsellers” might mean they said, “Hey, author, chapter one drags too much. Please rewrite it.”
Or, “Hey, author, so-and-so’s dialogue is stilted. Please adjust.”
Or, “Hey, author, I’m (or more likely, my freelance copyeditor is) going to do a little polishing on your project to make everything pretty.”
So beware too much of that NYT bestseller hype. Most of the time, it doesn’t mean what you think it means.

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Writing Tip

Writer’s Digest recently had this up as a recommendation for rewriting that first draft:

Pare down or eliminate scenes that don’t further the story. Examine plot points, characters, description, dialogue and exposition, until you have precisely what you need to tell your story, and not a character or subplot more. Then apply this same philosophy to your work at the sentence level, killing your darlings and eliminating excessive adjectives and adverbs, along with verbose descriptions. Bring out the flavor of both your story and your style, but stop short of overseasoning.

Many projects I work on have to be trimmed in some way. A close line edit can, word by carefully selected word, trim away as much as 15% of a manuscript’s word count. Books that need higher level work with plot points, dialog and the like, can be reduced further.

The result: Faster pacing, higher suspense, greater emotional impact, condensed tone…and a much better read.