Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Some Editors Are More Anonymous Than Others

What do you recommend as the best way to find out which editors edited which books? I want to select books with certain similarities to my stories, and then submit to those editors.
It's not easy to find those answers. Editors stay in the background a great deal-- deliberately. So the best you can do at most houses is to submit to the imprint which published the books you admired.

Sometimes googling a title and the word "editor" will come up with something, but at most houses they don't put up web pages listing most of the books an editor has worked on. But some do.


Anonymous said...

Can you elaborate on why editors might want to stay in the background? Are they trying to avoid criticism, or unsolicited manuscripts, or...?

Weronika Janczuk said...

Anonymous poses a great question--I would like to hear the answer to that as well. I would love to see names and faces of editors attached to books more often.

Regardless, thanks for the post. I plan on sticking with the agent track--at least then you have a higher chance of catching a name in the acknowledgments.


Minnie said...

Um - the link of the editor whose books were published. Who is that editor? EA? Should we know this?

Anonymous said...

SCBWI members have access to a members-only publication called "Edited By" which lists some books edited by some editors. I think it is occasionally updated. It isn't exhaustive, but it's a good place to start.
The dedication or acknowledgments part of a book also often mentions the editor.

Denise said...

I can't speak for EA and I hope she'll forgive me jumping in.

I'm an editor. I prefer to stay in the background mostly because it's by nature a behind-the-scenes role. We help to turn a manuscript into a book (sometimes just by polishing it a little; other times by doing wholesale reconstruction). But it's still the author's creation, and they should get the credit and the glory. I know some companies now credit the editor on the imprint page, but I think a quiet, voluntary "thank you" in the author's acknowledgments is nicer.

Similarly, but more negatively, the author can veto an editor's suggestions. If an author is deeply attached to his bad grammar or his shaky plot or his cliches, they can end up in the finished book despite the editor's attempts to dissuade him. There's no way for readers to know which infelicities the editor failed to spot, and which the author insisted on keeping. So, yes, sometimes we're reluctant to have our name and reputation linked to the books we work on. It's never a good feeling, but it happens.

I suspect being in the background makes me a better editor. It means my ego isn't involved. If an author and I disagree on something, and if I've put all my arguments and he still prefers to "stet", I can remind myself that it's his book, and his name will end up on the cover. I can graciously let him have his way, even if I'm sure in my heart of pedantic hearts that he's wrong. Which is as it should be.

Those are my reasons, anyway. I too would be curious to hear others, and to hear from any editors who would like to see editors more publicly associated with the books they work on.

Forgive the essay!

Literaticat said...

A good editor's hand should be invisible.

That said, if you want to find out who edited something, it is very often either in the acknowledgments, or you can buy a subscription to Publisher's Marketplace, or you can join the SCBWI or similar, or practice your google-fu - these methods are by no means surefire nor will they give you exhaustive results, but will go a long way toward your research.

Literaticat said...

Also, in response to Minnie, the example EA gave is Karen Lotz, who is the Publisher at Candlewick.

EA was saying that Candlewick is one of the few houses that puts lists of who-edited-what online (Though for my own part, I could only find them by googling "editors name candlewick", not by a cursory glance at the website. And these lists are also not exhaustive).

Anonymous said...

Sometimes, more than one editor is involved. A project could be orphaned, or for me, the publisher was the acquiring editor, but another editor in-house worked on the book.
I have found that by reading acknowledgments, studying SCBWI conference fliers (which often pair editors with books), blogs, and hanging out at Verla's you find can often out who edited what. If you work at it, you can even start predicting who edited what based on individual preference...but it takes time and work.
And sometimes, it doesn't matter because by the time you figure it out, they've left the business.

Anonymous said...

An editor's hand may be invisible to an outsider reading the book, but not to the author. They are always going to stumble across THAT passage or THAT character change and know they just did it to keep the peace.

Editors make SO MANY things better but sometimes can also make things a little worse -- if subsequent reviews list X as a troubled spot, and the editor insisted on having the author create X during the editing process, you better believe the author knows whose bright idea it was. :)

On the other hand, I find it sad on places like Goodreads where book reviewers ALWAYS seem to snottily say, "This book needed a good editor." Or, "Where was the editor?" The editor is editing to his or her own taste, not a random book reader on Goodreads.

If you don't like a book, it's the author's or editor's fault, maybe the book just isn't for you.

Deirdre Mundy said...

Re: This book needed an editior....

I think this is often a way of saying "There was a lot of superfluous stuff that could have been cut..."

I notice the problem most in series fiction, where the first few books are usually pretty tight, and then, as the series goes on they get longer and looser.

I generally chalk it up to authorial success. As in: for the first few, the author had to listen to her editor, but after she became a best seller, she could ignore cuts. (Yes, JK Rowling, I am talking to YOU. )

Anonymous said...

Deirdre -- Or, it could be that there wasn't the same level of critical editing and suggestions on the editor's part (knowing they'd be bestsellers anyway.)

The last book of the Twilight saga read like someone other than the author wrote it (abandoning the canons, no big battle, the wtf baby, etc.) -- is that because the editor had been reigning in the author the whole time and by the fourth book was too exhausted to give a damn? Or was it because after the success of the first three the author didn't feel compelled to bow to suggestions anymore? I don't know.

Interesting discussion though.

SWILUA said...

second on the acknowledgments section. you can learn a lot from those.

Anonymous said...

Okay, this is something I'm about to do but for the following reason; I write multicultural middle grade and YA, and sometimes editors (not many, but a few) state on interviews and blogs that they're looking for more diverse protagonists only they haven't seen any sent their way. Sure, I'm still going the query agent route but I believe it's a viable avenue...however, my goal is to land an agent, and please don't misread this as someone who doesn't understand and appreciate the value of an agent's help in polishing and submitting a manuscript. I certainly do, and I definitely will not contact an editor (or assistant editor) unless they state they are open to queries. Believe it or not, there are a few (not many) who are open to direct queries from time to time.

Anonymous said...

Sometimes knowing what an editor has worked on in the past is no indication as to what they would be willing to work on in the future. It's seldom that I meet an editor who only likes one type of story. And some of them spend several years working in an area they really don't enjoy until a position opens up in an area they like better.

My book is nothing like the others my editor has worked on. That's one of the things she really liked about it. Some of her books by other authors really appeal to me, others not at all. When people ask me about my editor's taste I don't know what to say. She likes what she likes.

I have come to appreciate that about her very much because when I'm working on something new I don't waste my time second guessing what my editor will like. I just focus on making it the best story it can be and then she'll either like or she won't. In which case I'll sell it to someone else.

joelle said...

Try the acknowledgment pages of books you love. That's where you can often find both editors and agent's names. It's a good place to find agents who might be a good match for you and you can mention that you read their client's book in your query and that's why you chose them (if you liked the book - don't just say this). I do seem to recall that SCBWI has a page on their website with a list of books and who their editors are too, but you have to be a member to see it.

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