Thursday, September 27, 2012

You and Your Editor: Partners in Crime

by Anna Lee Huber

imageNew authors hear lots of stories about editors—good and bad—and when we finally receive that coveted publishing contract, we’re left guessing how exactly this author-editor relationship will work. Most of us don’t want to rock the boat, but we also want to protect the artistic integrity of our work. We wonder how much of a say we really have. If we signed over our right to an opinion once we put pen to contract.

Yes, we do have a say. That book is still ours, after all. That’s still our name on the cover. And our editors want us to be happy with the final product, not regret putting our manuscript into their hands.

I think it helps to understand that the relationship between author and editor is a collaboration, not a dictatorship. Our editor is our ally. They want to work with us to make our novel the best it can be, not change it into something else. When seen in that light, it makes it much easier to consider and implement their editorial suggestions, as well as question them when we don’t agree.

We should value our editors for the talents and skills they bring to the table, first and foremostAnatomists Wife Cover of which is an ability to view our writing objectively. A good editor will pinpoint any problems or miscommunications that keep our novel from being all that it can be, and make suggestions on how to fix them. However, it’s key to remember that while they want these problems fixed, it doesn’t have to be done in the way they recommend. It’s the author’s job to figure out the best solution. Your editor will assist you however they can, but it is still your responsibility to make the repair.

When I received my first round of content edits from my editor on my debut novel, I was pleased to discover I agreed with most of the changes she suggested. But there was one edit in particular that caused me a great deal of anxiety because I did not agree with her proposed fix. She wanted me to add a prologue to introduce some of my secondary characters earlier in the novel. While I accepted the merit and necessity of her suggestion, I felt that doing so would make it far more difficult to grab the reader’s attention, as I’d done in the beginning of chapter one. I explained my concerns and proposed an alternative solution, slipping the scene into the middle of chapter two, which she instantly agreed with.

I then felt silly for agonizing over the edit for so long, but I learned a valuable lesson. The next time, I would simply talk to my editor. I would view her as my ally, there to help me, not dictate to me what to do. She’s not some school marm ready to rap me on the knuckles if I disagree with her. She’s my partner in crime, errr…writing.

Anna Lee Huber was born and raised in a small town in Ohio. She is a graduate of Lipscomb University in Nashville, TN, where she majored in Music and minored in Psychology. THE ANATOMIST'S WIFE, the first book in the Lady Darby historical mystery series, has been hailed as “…a riveting debut…” and will be released by Berkley Publishing on November 6th, 2012. She currently lives in Indiana with her husband and troublemaking tabby cat. When not hard at work on her next novel, she enjoys reading, singing, travel, and spending time with her family. Visit her website at

THE ANATOMIST'S WIFE: Scotland, 1830. Following the death of her husband, Lady Darby has taken refuge at her sister's estate, finding solace in her passion for painting. But when her hosts throw a house party for the cream of London society, Kiera is unable to hide from the ire of those who believe her to be as unnatural as her husband, an anatomist who used her artistic talents to suit his own macabre purposes. Kiera wants to put her past aside, but when one of the house guests is murdered, her brother-in-law asks her to utilize her knowledge of human anatomy to aid the insufferable Sebastian Gage-a fellow guest with some experience as an inquiry agent. When Kiera and Gage's search leads them to even more gruesome discoveries, a series of disturbing notes urges Lady Darby to give up the inquiry. But Kiera is determined to both protect her family and prove her innocence, even as she risks becoming the next victim...


Unknown said...

Anna, thank you so much for the great post. This will be very helpful for debuts.

I remember my first book and chatting with my editor. I also didn't know what I could say or defend and I wished I would have fought for an edit I didn't like.

On my second novel, I decided to be more assertive and got the changes I wanted without a challenge at all from my editor.

However, I wished I had an article like this during my first book to have guided me.

Anna Lee Huber said...

Thanks, Miranda! I wish someone had told me this before I received that first round of edits, too. It would've saved me a lot of unneccesary anxiety.

jenny milchman said...

I am the type of hates to edit, never thinks it's necessary...then is instantly grateful as soon as I'm done that the prior version never saw the light of day! Thank goodness for brilliant editors. Sounds like you lucked out, too, Anna! Best of luck with your debut...I'll be looking for it.

Unknown said...

I asked my other writing friends about their process, but many have editors who don't respond. I'm so glad that is not my case, because I know my stories need some support. lol but at the same time there i things i know must stand. but when you get that first deal, you're afraid to rock the boat, so you don't know. that's why this is a good article. someone will read this and feel better about their feelings on the matter.