Tales from the Trenches - Part I

By: Jeff Herman

We hope we’ve given you a sense of what an editor of your own can do for you and where we fit into the publishing picture. But next to firsthand experience, perhaps nothing communicates quite as sharply as an anecdote. Here are a few of ours:

“An in-house editor called me with an unusual problem. He had signed up an acclaimed author for a new book project. She had written a number of stories—nonfiction narratives about her life in an exotic land. The problem was this: some of the stories had already been published in book form in England, and that collection had its own integrity in terms of theme and chronology; now she had written another set of stories, plus a diary of her travels. How could the published stories and the new ones be made into one book?

“I decided to disregard the structure of the published book altogether. As I reexamined each story according to theme, emotional quality, geographical location, and people involved, I kept looking for ways in which they might relate to each other. Eventually, I sensed a new and logical way in which to arrange them. I touched not one word of the author’s prose. I did the same thing I always try to do when editing—imagine myself inside the skin of the writer. A prominent trade book review had this to say about the result: ‘One story flows into the next…’ ” —Alice Rosengard

“A writer had hired me to help with his first book after his agent had sold it to a publisher because he wanted to expedite the revisions and final approval of his manuscript. As a result of our work together, the book came out sooner than anticipated; it also won an award and the author was interviewed on a major TV news program. The same author hired me a year later for his second book, purchased by a larger publisher, and this book, too, entailed some significant developmental editing. At that point we learned the in-house editor had left the publisher and a new one had come aboard. This editor not only objected strongly to one whole section of the book, she also gave the author a choice: revise the section in one week or put the project on hold for at least six more months.

“From halfway across the world, the writer called me on a Friday to explain his publishing crisis, which was also coinciding with a personal crisis, and asked if we could collaborate closely on the fifty pages in question over the weekend. I agreed, cancelled my weekend plans, and we camped out at each end of the telephone and emailboxes almost nonstop for three days. He resubmitted the book on Tuesday, the book received all requisite signatures in-house, and a month later it went into production. This hands-on and sometimes unpredictable kind of collaboration with writers helps illustrate the special nature of independent editing.” —Katharine Turok

Remember to follow us on Twitter and Like us on Facebook to be the first to learn about new releases, see behind-the-scenes at BP Wiz headquarters, and stay on top of the latest news from the publishing world!

No comments: