Behind the Scenes: The Editor

Check out this succinct diatribe against what is wrong with book publishing from Gawker, usually a site that focuses on other elements of media brou-haha.  My favorite part of the whole rant: “Books are important.” Hell, yeah. I raise my mug of “Haterade” in salute to that.

So while Gawker and I were pondering editors, each in our own corner of the internet, I had to stop and ponder something a Bitchery member said in a comment thread, and with my Swiss cheese memory I can’t remember when or who so please let me know if I need to attribute the following to your illustrious self. To wit: it’s not so much an author we should be glomming, but an editor’s work. The editor you follow as a fangirl should consistently deliver the kinds of stories you enjoy, because most likely, they are the kinds of stories h/she enjoys.

I was recently added to the Avon ARC list, and hello, there’s now a bag of books once a month on my porch. A satchel of romance, as it were. Most of the ARCs are introduced on the back cover with a letter from the editor, and I’ve noticed that of late, I’ve been enjoying the various books edited by Erika Tsang – many different authors, but one editor in common. (So of course, like the giant dork I am, I wrote her an email and told her so.)

Until Aaron Sorkin gets tired of behind-the-scenes dramedies of television shows and starts working on a behind-the-scenes story of a romance publishing house (with Fabio, if I get any vote in the casting!), I’m guessing the work of the editor will remain somewhat mysterious to the average reader. It never occurred to me until I got additional publication education courtesy of the Bitchery (thanks, Y’all) that editors, among the unsung heroes of romance, would need some deserving attention.

So – do you follow an editor as well as an author? Do you buy regularly the works that come from a specific editor’s office? And if you’re a writer, what editor would you “I’ll-send-her-a-muffin-basket” love love love to work with?

Comments are Closed

  1. 1
    Meljean says:

    Cindy Hwang at Berkley.

    And, okay, now she’s my editor, too—but it was LONG before that I was picking up a lot of her authors: Angela Knight, MJD, Eileen Wilks (so that when she e-mailed me out of the blue I mostly freaked out because I already knew who she was—and I thought it was a joke. Yay, lucky me, it wasn’t.)

    She picks up a lot of paranormals, particularly those that edge on super-hot—and was one of the first NY editors to pick up a few authors from e-pubs.

    Now she’s got people like Nalini Singh, Emma Holly, Pamela Clare and Lisa Valdez…all authors I watch.

  2. 2
    Robin says:

    Thanks, Sarah, for posting what you did and linking to the Gawker post, as well.  I have been feeling very much in the dumps lately about shittily crafted books, and I so believe that an editor is critical to the process of writing and reading a great book.  I don’t blame editors for crappy books (although I wonder where the hell they are sometimes), but I don’t often think enough of praising an editor for a great book, either.

  3. 3
    Jane says:

    Disagree.  I discovered that the editor for Kresley Cole whom I think writes really fun female empowering books also edits Karen Tabke who wrote a book featuring a woman with no self esteem who allowed herself to be in a relationship with a man who wasn’t sure he even liked her.

    I generally like Cindy Hwang’s books but she edits authors I don’t like as well.  Following an editor is alot like following a line (mainly because there are only one or two editors within the line) and that just doesn’t mean that the books are all going to be of the same caliber.

  4. 4
    E.D'Trix says:

    Adding on to what Jane is saying, a lot of editors are given authors to edit from departing or transferring editors. So the idea that every editor is only editing authors that they lovingly hand-picked is unfortunately not true. Were you to find out which authors in the editors stable were hand-picked by said editor, then you would have a much better indication of what type and style of books they like.

    Of course, then you have to factor in the expectations of the publisher and individual lines they are acquiring for. Unfortunately, almost no editor has the power to blindly buy any book that appeals to them. They must take in to account what their company is looking for, current market trends, and what will best earn a profit for their company and allow them to receive a steady paycheck.

    Do I love the books that I personally signed? Hell yes. Do I love all of the books I have been given to edit? Uh. No. But I sucked it up and did the best I could with what I had.

  5. 5
    Lorelie says:

    I’m sorry, am I an idiot for not knowing which editors have worked on what I read?  Is that something one must research online or did I just skip something in the first pages?

    Oh, and on the topic of editors – I’ve noticed that whenever authors thank their editor in the aknowledgements any errors scream out at me.

  6. 6
    Meljean says:

    They must take in to account what their company is looking for, current market trends, and what will best earn a profit for their company and allow them to receive a steady paycheck.

    I can see where this might be a good thing, though—maybe not for the editor who has to do work with books they don’t love, but for the readership. It adds variety; instead of an editor buying one type of book that they prefer and putting it out in that line, also buying books that aren’t their favorites. With, I hope, still an eye for quality within whatever trend they have to cater to keep the readership of their line (somewhat) diverse.

  7. 7
    sherryfair says:

    I can go a step further back in the publishing process & say that I’ve noticed that I’ve like several novels whose authors are represented by a particular agent, Gail Hochman.

    With poetry, yes, I follow avidly the yearly selections by made certain prominent editors whose taste I admire. (Poetry presses are so small that they are usually run by a single editor.) I usually like poetry books published by the University of Pittsburgh and Alicejames Books—but with a few notable exceptions, I’m not so crazy about books published by the University of Georgia Press. I like most (though not all) of the Norton poets. But I’m not knowledgeable at all about the personnel behind the romance publishing industry, so I can’t identify their stamp on a book.

  8. 8
    Ann Aguirre says:

    Cindy Hwang, Erika Tsang, Hilary Sares.

    Right now they’ve all got copies of my book too, along with some other great editors. If I thought a muffin basket would help I’d send one.

    But no, I don’t typically follow editors. On my own I book shop in a weird way. Pick up books at random, read the backs, maybe the first page, and then buy or not, on whatever whim I feel.

    I also buy on recommendations. Bought and loved the Lilith Saintcrow books on a rec from one of my crit partners. Now I’m waiting with poor patience for more books.

  9. 9
    Ruth W says:

    Karen Tabke who wrote a book featuring a woman with no self esteem who allowed herself to be in a relationship with a man who wasn’t sure he even liked her.

    The whole time I spent reading this I kept wondering how an editor let this go into print.  Not only because of the characters, but it was so grammatically bad, like no editor had seen it at all.

  10. 10
    Jane says:

    Ruth W – you and I must be the only ones who didn’t like this book (not) because while all of my other amazon reviews are rated 100% helpful, this review is not.

  11. 11
    Ann Aguirre says:

    Wow, I just read Jane’s review of Good Girl Gone Bad. She included this quote:

    “Do you like me? At least a little?”
    His eyes burned hot and he smiled. “I like you enough . . . Now shut up and strip.”

    Okay, ew!

    That book sounds like a trainwreck.

  12. 12
    SB Sarah says:

    I am still trying to find the comment that I referred to in the entry about glomming an editor, because I’m beginning to think that I’ve mis-remembered it based on your advanced knowledge of the publishing industry and the responsibility of editors.

    And, “I like you enough. Now shut up and strip?”

    Now THAT, that right there, is romance. Mmmhah!

  13. 13
    Robin says:

    Ruth W – you and I must be the only ones who didn’t like this book (not) because while all of my other amazon reviews are rated 100% helpful, this review is not.

    Add me to the list of people who had a very strong negative reaction to this book, not only for the editorial issues but also for what I felt were glaring plot and characterization issues.  Apparently, Tabke has just sold two historical Romances to Pocket books (she had been “eluding” to the news on her site, she said).  Do most authors want to write both contemporary and historical Romance?  Because it seems to me that each is a sort of speciality, with very different research, voice, and writing issues involved, and that the cross-over wouldn’t necessarily be natural.

  14. 14
    E.D'Trix says:

    I can see where this might be a good thing, though—maybe not for the editor who has to do work with books they don’t love, but for the readership. It adds variety; instead of an editor buying one type of book that they prefer and putting it out in that line, also buying books that aren’t their favorites. With, I hope, still an eye for quality within whatever trend they have to cater to keep the readership of their line (somewhat) diverse.

    Agreed. And even when buying within the constraints of the line or publisher, I would venture to guess that the majority of what is bought is loved buy the editor. I, personally, have never signed an author whose work I didn’t love. Unfortunately, sometimes you inherit authors with multiple outstanding contracts on work that personally doesn’t appeal to you. In that case, you just have to (in the immortal words of Tim Gunn) “make it work”.

    As an erotic romance editor, I have definitely had to turn down *wonderful* books that did not fit the erotic romance niche. It hurt my heart a little bit each time I did so.

  15. 15
    E.D'Trix says:

    Argh. BY the editor. Way to typo, ed’. Way to typo.

  16. 16
    Kaite says:

    Do most authors want to write both contemporary and historical Romance?  Because it seems to me that each is a sort of speciality, with very different research, voice, and writing issues involved, and that the cross-over wouldn’t necessarily be natural.

    I dunno, some of them pull it off very well. At least, I know Jayne Ann Krentz does—no matter what you might think of her books, she can write in three subgenre, almost at once it seems!—and I think Ann Stuart does, as well. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe Elizabeth Lowell has a historical or two up her garters, as well.

  17. 17
    Caro says:

    An editor I like will get a new writer at least picked up so I can read the back blurb, though I don’t rely on it exclusively.  I expect them to do a range a stories because that’s probably what the house wants them to do.  But, no, editors aren’t on the top of my list in how I make the decision on what to buy.

    Btw, speaking of the Fabio man, he and his man-titties are apparently scaring the contestants on America’s Next Top Model tonight.  You know that’s gonna be good for at least a few laughs.

  18. 18
    Jennie says:

    It’s one of those aha moments—in the back of my mind I must’ve realized that the editor is a critical part of the process, but honestly it didn’t cross into my conscious thought to look to see who my best loved books are edited by to see if there is commonality there.

    For me an obvious “She must’ve had a fabulous editor” author is Dara Joy. I really liked her earlier books, but the last two self published books (and especially Wildcat Arrows) CLEARLY show what a good editor can and does do.

  19. 19
    Suisan says:

    I really have no idea how I would follow the career or the “work product” of an editor.

    Although now I feel as if I’ve missed an essential part of enjoying romances. Like how music used to be shared in record stores. Remember? You liked one band, and then you tried to find other albums with the same bass player? Or maybe you tracked the producer from one genre to another.

    But I was always inept at doing it by myself—I needed the guidance of a true record store geek to show me where the various records were.

    Poser.

  20. 20
    KellyMaher says:

    Ed, I love you for the Tim Gunn comment.  I would so love to hang out with him for one day.

    As for the wanting to write historical and contemporary, for me I like trying my hand at subgenres of romance that I like to read, and I like reading romantic suspense, historicals, paranormals, fantasies, etc.  My published stories include a contemp, a fantasy/superhero, a contemp with paranormal elements, and a time travel from contemp to Victorian times.  Of the stories I’ve recently sold, one is a light romantic suspense and the other is paranormal with strong Ancient Egyptian elements.  One of my works in progress is a historical (late-Victorian) erotica.  Another is futuristic dark fantasy.  So, while I’m all over the board in terms of settings, they’re all erotic stories.  JAK’s books are all romantic suspense (light or heavy) at heart…at least her most recent ones.  My opinion is if the author switches between settings, she/he’s most likely sticking to another core subgenre as their main element.  Anyway, just rambling procrastination.  Back to work.

  21. 21
    KellyMaher says:

    Oops!  Forgot the original reason to comment as I got lost in responding to other comments :D I don’t take the time to follow a particular editor, mainly because I’m so hit or miss with the editors that I do know which authors they belong to.

  22. 22

    I write for Chris Keeslar at Dorchester, and I simply love working with him. He is famous for his really, really long revision letters, but it was exactly one of these that made me decide to accept the offer from Dorchester. I liked that he understood my story so well (i.e. put his finger on all the weak points I had hoped nobody would notice *g*) and that he gave me excellent input on how to improve the novel. To know I can rely on my editor to spot weak points in my writing and to come up with some ideas how to get it right, is something I very much appreciate. :)

  23. 23
    Sisuile says:

    To some extent, I do this in a different genre. If the Neilsen Haydens have had their collective hands on a book, I am much more likely to go out and buy it. To the a similiar extent, I will pick up any Tor or Baen book for at least a back-blurb reading because I generally like what the imprints put out. Same with Luna.

  24. 24
    Kalen Hughes says:

    Do most authors want to write both contemporary and historical Romance?  Because it seems to me that each is a sort of specialty, with very different research, voice, and writing issues involved, and that the cross-over wouldn’t necessarily be natural.

    Not all of us, but lots of us. Off the top of my head:

    Jane Ann Krentz/Jane Castle/Amanda Quick

    Celeste Bradley

    Christiana Dodd

    Anne Stewart

    Kinley MacGregor/Sherrilyn Kenyon

    Connie Brockway

    Lisa Kleypas

  25. 25
    Kathyb says:

    Your column made me think of something I hadn’t thought of in years.  I stopped reading series romance sometime in the mid 80’s.  I didn’t begin again unitl Loveswept started their new line.  I loved just about every book from #1 to about 500-600?  That is when they changed editors and after about six months I began to notice quite a difference in the books.  Over the course of the next 12 months I slowly just stopped purchasing any of the books.

    Loveswept went thru a couple of major changes over a short period of time.  The loss of several great authors to mainstream and several changes in format.  But I still think the ultimately, it was that initial loss of the editors and the style of the new editors that shaped the way the romance line was presented.

  26. 26
    Robin says:

    Not all of us, but lots of us.

    Okay, given that stellar list (I’m very anxious to read Kleypas and Brockway’s crossover books, BTW), let me ask my question another way:  do publishers encourage authors to write both contemps and historicals, and do they make any distinctions in the process of evaluating the decision to publish them?  Does an author have to achieve any distinction in one arena before going to the other?  Or is an author who sells in one arena basically assumed to be able to sell in the other?

  27. 27
    dl says:

    I also have no idea how to follow editors.  But, had been wondering about the importance of a good one, my example is LKH.  She writes two series for different publishers.  While AB seems to just drift around from crisis to crisis with no real goal, her Merry series seems to have better direction.  I assume the difference is a better editor?

    Two items most likely to influence my book purchases are name familiarity (I follow favorite authors), and recommendations.  Maybe I should try the editor thing.

  28. 28

    Hmm…there are a lot of great editors out there. I’d say my top four would be in no particular order: Cindy Hwang, Monique Patterson, Anna Genoese, and Jamie Levine. :)

Comments are closed.

↑ Back to Top