Think Like An Editor

RevisionThink like an editor, the writing books always say. One books claims that an editor’s first question is How many copies can I sell? I can’t think like that. I can question my own writing, I can go over it and over it, I can add sensual data that I missed on the first draft, but I can’t think like an editor. I can hear harsh criticism and profit from it, but to look at a book as a product? I have a hard time.

I structure my writing to be popular, to be such that could sell, but I’m really terrible at selling my own work. I tell my students they have to be an artist and a sales person, but I can’t pull off the salesman bit.artist

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11 responses to “Think Like An Editor

  1. I don’t think the editor’s job is wonder how many copies he can sell. He has to first wonder it he can sell any at all. The quantity should be up to the sales staff or other business types at the publisher. If the work isn’t publishable, there’s no point in wondering how many will sell :O)

  2. When I edit, Ed, I’m considering to what extent the author has succeeded in realising his original intention, and if she hasn’t in places, how this might be fixed. All I’m concerned with AT THAT STAGE, is getting the ms to be the very best it can be. A publisher’s editor does this, as well as considering how the book can be tweaked to increase its marketability.
    Re being terrible at selling one’s own work, alas, it’s pretty much the fate of all writers who aren’t genre writers. Selling mode requires the person to operate on a completely different wavelength from the creative. That’s nigh on impossible for some writers.

    • It’s reassuring, Danielle, to know I’m not alone. I belong in the last class of writers you mention. All I can do is keep writing and trying to market, but in the end I will just have to let the fates carry my work where they will.

  3. I think we are far too busy classifying ourselves into literary… genre writing when at the end of the day all the rules, all the writing comes down to a very basic thing. It is all about the story. Its not a question of what is more important: Character or plot. In the end it is all about the story. Does your story engage your reader and keep them coming back page after page? The only answer to the question “What type of writer are you?” is:
    I am a storyteller.
    Nothing else is needed. It tells the whole story. Story… story… story is all that any editor should be concerned with in the first instance.

    Sorry about going on so about this but I’ve been through a year of this debate and I’ve found (in my best literary language) its a load of crap. A writer is a story teller, nothing more. Strive to be the best story teller you can be.

      • Perhaps you don’t live in Australia, David. I agree with you, BUT – for an emerging writer to get a first novel published in Oz, unless they’ve already proven themselves in the ‘literary’ field, they need to stay strictly within genre guidelines. The great cry I hear all the time now is, Where will this book go on the bookseller’s shelves?
        Naturally, once the writer has proven themselves, they can write any darn thing they please, but pity help the emerging writer in Australia who writes something that doesn’t fit cleanly into one of the genres.
        A pity, but there it is.

  4. Danielle, my advice is write whatever you want to first. Don’t worry about proving yourself and then writing whatever you want to. If a story is great, it will get out there, sell and be remembered. Maybe the story you need to write without the concerns for the ‘rules’ is the one you prove yourself with. Perhaps your concern about the genre conventions is just buying into the publisher’s propaganda. Just remember its all about your story and nothing more.
    Think of your genre as a tool to tell your story and nothing more. The label is the thing you need to avoid. Don’t limit yourself by labels and that is what the ‘literary’ fiction writers do. To them, It can’t be a great literature if its a thriller, a romance, or a mystery. Here in Canada a great book ‘The Sister Brothers’ was nominated for the Giller prize. Its an example of what I’m talking about: a great story told within the genre label utilizing all the tools of great writing–plot, character, the literary devices.
    Right now I’m working on a mystery that is more about human relationships and redemption than who did the deed. The story is better told, for me, within that style of story. And imagine that I have my murder occurring before the book even starts- a serious no no in the mystery genre. But your story starts where your story starts.

    • Don’t worry David, I’ve always pleased myself – but then I don’t have a published novel, even though my manuscripts have won national awards. Good luck with your mystery. If you’re already published as a novelist, you’ll probably get away with it.

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