Monday, March 10, 2014

Editor's Notes #10: Good, Bad, or Ugly? My Editor's Private Life


I would never consider myself to be a celebrity-watcher. Most often, I couldn’t care less what strangers do in their spare time, whether they’re famous or not. I don’t know them and they don’t know me. Would they be fascinated by a photo of me, grocery shopping? No? Well, then, why should their grocery-store photo fascinate me? Because they dared to shop without a face full of makeup? Give me a break. They’re regular (albeit obscenely rich) people, and they shouldn’t have to be “on” all the time.

That said, allow me to add that who a person is should not change whether someone is looking or not. I’m not saying they have to show their most private emotions to the public, but a little consistency would be nice. To see a public figure (whether international celebrity or local police chief) present a pleasant face to some, while privately being abusive at home, is disheartening to me.

What does this have to do with editing, you ask? Perhaps you’re getting the idea that I think I’m famous. Perhaps you want a photo of me at the local grocery store so you can judge me on whether I’ve bought organic food or not. Perhaps you’re even wondering why a serious editor would be buying a MAD magazine. (The answer: because I can’t help myself.)

The thing that has me pondering public lives versus private lives—and what that has to do with editing—is this: I think it’s a good idea for people to check out an editor’s social media interactions prior to hiring that person. I don’t mean that you have to agree politically with that person, but there are a few things to consider.
  • Does the editor promote the authors he works with? Although this isn’t a necessary step, I think it’s a polite and helpful thing to do. I know it’s difficult to reach a large audience, and I want to help in any way I can.
  • Does the editor talk about the authors or their books in a derogatory way? I lose respect automatically for people who publicly trash others. I'm not talking about those times when someone is frustrated and says something like, “Boy, I’ve been so busy with edits that I haven’t had time to clean my house or work on my own novel.” I’m talking about when you open your Twitter page and a friend says, “Check this out.” You go to his link and see a tweet from your editor, moaning about the YA dystopian fantasy she’s editing (which can only be yours from the description) and how boring it is and how she wants to gouge her eyes out. She mentions specific instances and phrases which confirm that it is, indeed, yours, and openly ridicules your work, never thinking you’ll see it . . . or never thinking at all. If potential clients see that, they probably won’t want to take the risk that she’ll talk about them if they hire her.
  • Does your editor tell the truth about his work? A friend showed me a tweet from a guy who had been one of a handful of betas for one of her books. The tweet talked about “pimping my clients to build up new business” and the person listed books he’d edited. My friend’s book was listed. This person had not “edited” the book he was claiming, and had only provided beta feedback early in the process. Beta feedback is important, but it’s not the type of editing he was talking about in the tweet, and he knew it. Any potential client could have looked in the front pages of that book and seen a completely different name listed as copy editor, but many would take his claim at face value without doing the research.
  • Is your editor’s social media filled with things you’d rather not be associated with? If his page on Facebook is filled with hate speech or things like, “Those reviewers don’t know a good book if it smacks them in the face. We should all trash their Goodreads ratings and undermine their Amazon profiles. Who’s with me?” then you probably don’t want to be involved with that editor. What about a status that reads, “Too hungover to bother rereading the final three chapters of edits. Hey, I already have my money anyway.” If that’s the person he’s comfortable with presenting to the public, then that’s the person he is. Do you really want to be giving your money to that person?
Those are only a few examples, but I think they’re pretty important things to consider. I don’t think you have to agree on every political, religious, and economic view, but if there are things that send up red flags in your mind, heed them.

34 comments:

  1. While I was waiting on the edits to come back on my first book, I came across an interview the editor did, where she listed off everything she was working on. Of the works, she listed things I knew couldn't be my book, and then she mentioned a "middle-grade horror", which I could only assume was mine. At the time, I didn't know what "middle-grade" meant, and I asked. I got no reply. I shrugged it off, eventually got my book back and published it, to quite a few bad reviews, many commenting on editing. I recently found out what "middle-grade" means, and it's basically a book for elementary school kids. Which was NOT what I had intended. So I was out the money I paid (just under $400), had a book which was poorly edited toward a demographic I had never intended it for, and a ruined debut as an author. So, yeah, pay close attention to things your editor says in public. They could be the red flag that saves your work.

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    1. Oh, Shaun. What an awful thing to have experienced. And to have the edits done poorly in the end sounds like the ultimate insult. An author's debut should be an exciting time to celebrate, not regret.

      I'm careful to never mention a book's title or the author's name when discussing what I'm editing, unless I am sure the author is okay with it. When I was working on Raymond Esposito's newest (The Devil's Hour), I posted a lot on Facebook about how much it was scaring me, but it's a horror book, and Raymond is one of my FB friends, so I knew he would see everything I posted. I talk about the fun stuff I enjoy while editing but save my complaints for myself. I can't imagine how much it would hurt someone to hear me trashing their book publicly, before it's even been released.

      Delete
  2. Yes, yes, and yes. We both have a friend who's an editor, and I feel like this post was about her. Her Facebook feed is cluttered with one of two things. Either A) "Oh GOD, another book where the protagonist does something unrealistic. Instantly takes me out of the story. NEVER do this. This is terrible and hard to read through."

    Yes, genius, talk down publicly to the people who are paying you good money for your help.

    Or she posts B) "Anyone who disagrees with my political views is a backwards idiot who isn't worth living, and here's why (insert 2 page rant)."

    She's a fine friend, but bringing her into our work lives just sounds like an absolute disaster, and we definitely don't want anyone like that representing our body of work. Because of this and this alone, we'd never use her as an editor. And the sad thing is... she's a great editor.

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    1. Oh my goodness. That makes me want to scream. I wonder how surprised she'd be if someone refused to pay her because of her posts.

      I've come to the conclusion that when I post something, someone out there saw it and I'm responsible for my words. Even when in the midst of a "lively debate" (as they call the knock-down-drag-outs on Goodreads), I'll never go back to the thread and delete my posts. If I had the guts to say it once, then I've said it. Removing it only makes me appear as either a coward, or someone who doesn't know my own mind.

      It's a shame that you can't use someone you know is qualified. It's probably the best way to keep her as a friend, though. She may never know how much business she lost before even approaching the starting line.

      Delete
  3. I think this post ties in perfectly with last week's Editor's Notes on authors and their public image.

    We really do have to keep our eyes open to see if there are any flags regarding our editors. It's the number one reason why I stalk your blog, your Facebook, and your Twitter.

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    1. I thought I saw someone who looked remarkably like you in my backyard last night, taking pictures of the house...

      At least stalking me is easy. I never go anywhere. I'm a wonderful sleep aid.

      Delete
    2. Lynda, you have a facebook? and a Twitter? and I didn't know? Hrummmfff

      Delete
    3. I'm mysterious that way. I'm even there under my own name. That confuses people. If you want to be my friend, you have to work at it!

      Delete
  4. Hi there! I stopped by to welcome you to A to Z, and I promptly got sucked into your blog. I really enjoy your writing, I will be checking back over April :)
    I wanted to let you know that we are doing an A to Z theme reveal blogfest on March 21st, in case you plan on having a theme. You can sign up for it here.
    Cheers!
    Tarkabarka
    #TeamDamyanti minion

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    1. Thank you! I'm excited to be participating for the first time. I jumped right over to your blog and signed up for the theme reveal blogfest, because I do have a theme (yay!) and now I'm the 214th person who's going to reveal theirs on March 21st.

      Come back and visit anytime!

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  5. You gave us a lot of good things to consider. Thanks for that!

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    1. S.K. Anthony (from my Thursday Coffee Chats) and I call it "back-having." You should have each other's back, not stab it. I want to know I can trust people to say the same things to my face as they can when I'm not around. I think it's because I come from a family of gossipers, lol, and I consciously fight against it.

      Thanks for the visit and comment!

      Delete
  6. Awesome post, and good reminder: we tend to hire our editors via word-of-mouth, but a little social-media check can't hurt. You're right in that 100% soul mates isn't a requirement, but an editor-writer relationship is, hopefully, long-term, and one does work best with people that share our core values.

    Visiting from The A-Z Theme Reveal to welcome you to the party -- looking forward to finding all about your April posts :)

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    1. I'm feeling very welcomed with the A-Z people. You all are great! I'm so glad I got involved.

      Word-of-mouth will make you or break you. Even more so now, when anyone can check up on you with a few well-placed clicks. I don't know about other editors, but I sure do like repeat business. :)

      Delete
  7. If I mention a title or author's name, I say good things. If I have a complaint or don't really like a book, then I somehow manage to forget the author's name.

    Love,
    Janie

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    1. I think selective memory works for a number of things. My kids use it all the time. They can't remember to switch the laundry, but they remember if there's a snack in the fridge.

      I just think (as I'm sure you do, also) it's good business to be pleasant.

      Delete
    2. Absolutely! If someone mistreats me, then I find a way to be extra nice back to that person. (I'm just kidding. I'm a bitch.)

      Delete
    3. HA! I do love the idea of heaping coals on someone's head by being extra nice. It's biblical, so I'm positive I'm doing the right thing. :)

      Now look what you've made me admit in public. No one is ever going to trust me again.

      Delete
  8. People tend to forget how open social media is. I know of a guy who got fired because he was tweeting about what a Grandiose Dump he took at a clients business.

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    1. Oh my goodness. Why on earth would you tweet about that? Another fine example of people losing their social filter under the faceless quality of Internet interactions.

      I have no words. I just can't imagine any of my friends doing that. Okay, I guess I did have a few words...

      Delete
    2. I call it having more money than sense (he was a minimum wage worker or just a little over so that shows how much sense he had). But yeah I think people will tweet anything to get attention

      Delete
  9. Great article and very timely for me! I am a 'new' author and have yet to take the plunge of hiring an editor. I am learning though, that this will most likely make or break a self-published author. I have to date done my own editing, but I know it could be better.

    Thank you for all the good advice and I now know where I can turn to when I am at the point of affording a good editor!

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    1. Usually my advice falls under the "give me lots of chocolate" variety, but once in awhile, I come up with something people can actually use.

      Having someone else's eyes look at your work is always a good idea. If you look back on some of my other "Editor's Notes" posts, you'll see I'm a big fan of getting a handful of samples and quotes from a variety of editors so you know what you're dealing with. Spending that money is a big decision.

      So glad you stopped by and commented!

      Delete
    2. Sending the gentlemen over with chocolate. Save a little for SK

      Delete
    3. Good man, J.T., good man. You know where it's at.

      Delete
  10. I am a"new" Editor. I have no formal training, only what I know as a retired teacher who has taught writing to elementary and middle school students. I don't yet get "paid" the big bucks by my author, as we are "learning" together. We discuss her books as she writes so that many mistakes, hopefully, never make it into the manuscript. She is ESL, so we have worked through a few language problems.

    My question doesn't really go with today's blog but here goes anyway. Where can I go to improve MY skills as an editor?

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    1. Hi, Marsha! I think it's great that you and your author are growing in your skills together. It's good that she has you, because ESL can present a host of odd issues if there's no editor present. I don't know that you'll ever get paid big bucks, but if you do, let me know how you managed it. Editing isn't a get-rich-quick thing.

      If you don't already have a copy of The Chicago Manual of Style, grab one. It's the final word on punctuation and grammar rules for the publishing industry. Merriam-Webster's is the dictionary of choice. If you have taught writing, you should be familiar with the structural/content editing, and the CMS will carry you through the copy edits and proofreading end of things.

      I signed up on elance.com so I could take advantage of their free tests. You can choose, in the writing category, tests that deal with spelling (US or UK), grammar, punctuation (US or UK), creative writing, and more. It helps to hone your skills, and your results are posted on your profile page for potential employers, should you decide to bid on any skill-appropriate jobs.

      All in all, I believe skills improve with practice. The more you do, the more you learn. I have a friend who acts as my editing guru, and I think everyone should have someone like that to turn to when they have questions.

      Janie Junebug is also an editor and may have some additional advice for you. If she doesn't happen to pop back on this comment, she has a post up above and you can track her down at her own blog, which is always a delight to read.

      Delete
    2. CMS is a beautiful beast. Recently bought a new copy. My old one didn't even mention E-anything. lol

      Delete
    3. Thank you. I will definitely get a copy.

      Delete
  11. I love my editor. Lucky she found me. Don't know where I'd be without her.

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    1. You should probably shower her with gifts regularly. Oh, wait...I tried that angle already.

      xoxoxo

      Delete
  12. Using freelance editors can lead to many of these problems. I have created an indie publishing company that has a model that I think will overcome this problem. We have a submission system in which the author submits their work (for a fee), and then they either get accepted for publication with 70% royalties, or they get comments on how to improve the manuscript. They can then make revisions and resubmit the manuscript for another round of comments or acceptance. this can be done up to three times for one submission fee. Our promise to the author of no form rejections is one we can keep with this model. In this way we hope to improve the quality of the work and make the final product great. www.cawingcrowpress.com

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    1. Well . . . as a freelance editor, I could have blocked this blatant advertisement for YOUR publishing services, but I chose to allow your comment to publish for two reasons:
      1. Everyone should have a choice when looking for an editor, and if I'm not the one for them, then so be it.
      2. The number of errors on your website pages should be enough for people to decide that you're probably not the publishing house they're looking for.

      Delete

I love comments, and will always answer them, partly because I like having the last word and partly because I just like getting to know the people who read my blog. (Note: if the post is more than a couple weeks old, your comment will automatically go into the "needs approval" folder, but I will still publish it and reply!)