Have you ever looked up and seen the end of an era descending with such speed and force that there’s no way to move out of the way?
In the publishing world editors come and go. Publishing doesn’t pay well, and New York, where many publishers reside, is notoriously expensive. Writers like to trade stories about the number of editors who worked on their book. This is black humor, mind you, because it never makes for a better product.
Normally two editors work on a book together, the line editor who edits content, questions choices, rewrites or asks for rewrites of awkward sentences, and the copy editor who looks for grammatical and punctuation errors, and cleans up any mistakes that made it through the first edit.
Since the world of editing is entered through a revolving door, editors sometimes come and go so quickly a book and an author get caught in the breeze.
One editor purchases the book and exits. Another (sometimes not happy about the purchase) sends a revision letter–and leaves. A third arrives, not happy with purchase or requested revisions, and sends another letter, or worse, edits so heavily and asks for so many revisions of the manuscript that the original story disappears and the result is a mish-mash of conflicting voices.
Yes, it happens. More often than you will believe.
The editor who bought my first book called to congratulate me on the sale.
My then-agent liked to save money and hadn’t called to tell me my book had sold. (She wrote a letter I hadn’t yet received. Remember the days when long-distance calls were a luxury? She certainly did.) So the editor’s call was a streak of lightning and a great way to start a relationship.
Only there was no relationship. At the end of the call she told me she was leaving my publisher.
The editor who edited the book was great, and I met her at that year’s Romantic Times conference. Happy with the relationship, I watched her disappear, too, after a couple of books. Meantime I’d begun writing for another publisher simultaneously and went through multiple editors there.
I was beginning to get the picture. Never get attached.
My next editor at my first publisher swore she loved my books and did a great edit. But when I submitted an idea for the next book, she didn’t like it. Nor did she like the next. At this point my telephone-phobic agent spoke to the head of the line who suggested we switch editors.
Enter Leslie Wainger.
Leslie was the head of a line of books I wanted to write for. She had a reputation as a demanding editor but one who allowed the author to keep her voice intact. Voice? Easiest way to explain it: Voice is what sets one author’s work apart from another’s. The way words and ideas are used. The individual way a novel is structured. Some editors have preferences they press on the author. Others, like Leslie, allow the author to be herself while corralling that author’s worst instincts.
Since that fortunate pairing began, Leslie edited more than fifty of my novels.
Leslie, like most good editors, is a psychologist. She understood what I couldn’t tolerate and gave me freedom. At the same time she offered good counsel, just the right amount, and edited with an eye to keeping the book mine. She taught me what a good editor does for a novel, and when I found more good editors at Berkley (Cindy Hwang) and Avon (Ellen Edwards) I recognized them and was happy to work together.
Last week Leslie announced her retirement.
Those of us who have loved working with her will be so sorry to see her go. At the same time we’re delighted she’ll have more time now to do the things she loves most. (The photo is a hint about one of her passions. )
But now the anxiety begins. Will my new editor understand and like what I do? Will she know when to edit and when to step aside?
I look forward to new possibilities, while at the same time, I will mourn the end of something special.
Farewell, Leslie, the patient and tolerant. I have loved working with you and will always be grateful for your help and good nature. I’m not always easy to work with, but you made me believe in myself and my writing.
Enjoy the retirement you’ve earned. And don’t forget my email address, okay?