I just had a client terminate our contract because she felt my edits were not suitable to her genre, were both vague and repetitive, and that my comments were hurtful.
While I am sorry this particular author felt so insulted, this revelation blindsided me because my last email communication from her was of her giving me a status report, not that my edits were giving her trouble or that my tone was “demeaning.”
In fact, I have email communication from her saying that the reason she picked me is because she liked my editing style, that I provided more feedback than other editors she had approached, and that she was thick skinned and “liked blunt.” When she saw the edits and comments I provided on her free sample edit (something I do with the hopes of avoiding situations like this...sigh!) she said that they “kicked [her] ass the hardest” and that she “liked what [I] brought to the table.”
With regard to her comments about my edits being wrong for her genre, I believe that good storytelling trumps genre. Authors use certain elements to best effect, and the really good ones make it look easy, so easy in fact that you don’t notice it unless you study it.
She also claimed that I had made it clear not to communicate between editing rounds, which is not true. While it’s easier to hash out issues between edits all at once, I always make it clear that I should be contacted if any questions or concerns arise, at any time during the process.
There were other statements in her letter that didn’t ring true, but you get the gist of it. But when she said that she had showed my editing comments to others who “agreed” with her, a bell went off in my head.
From where I sit, my interpretation of this situation is totally different, and it is something that authors need to understand before and during the editing process.
You spend weeks, months, years writing and hopefully rewriting/revising a manuscript that you hope to publish and people will read and enjoy. If you are lucky enough to have a publisher who has offered you a contract and paired you with an editor, you are wise to make that relationship work. Pick your battles, but learn to recognize when something is being pointed out to help you, because you know what?
The truth hurts too.
What? Do you think I haven’t had editors pick apart my baby until it was a meatless carcass lying in the noonday sun? Well I have. I ranted, raved, cried, and got pissed. But I realized it was done by the people who wanted my work to be the best it could be. I had to calm down, and I’m glad I did.
When authors and editors disagree, more often than not miscommunication is at the heart of the problem, and if you are going to be a serious writer, you need to learn how to communicate—especially with your editor. If I had been made aware of any issues, I’m sure we could have come to a solution. I am not an ogre. Unfortunately, she chose to sever our working relationship before giving me a chance to understand, let alone explain.
This author had paid for my services. I’m not the type of person who rips off people so I would be remiss if I did not point out every issue and instance I thought was preventing this author’s story from coming through in a cohesive, coherent, and entertaining manner. I turn down more assignments/projects than I accept because if I don’t like your story or its premise, I will not accept the job.
Just because you are paying me doesn’t mean that I’m going to give you lip service. I am going to be honest. I make it clear from the start that editing comments should not be taken personally because they are not personal attacks. If you feel that every edit is a personal insult and a manuscript full of edits and comments is tantamount to saying your mama is a 10-cent whore who conceived you while having a half-off sale, then you need to distance your feelings from your manuscript before you submit or before you seek paid editorial assistance.
Ever see The Simpson's episode where Lisa faced the demanding gymnastics trainer, Lugash? I can't guarantee that I'll make you a star, but I will get your manuscript into shape if you let me and you are really ready to do the work.
If you need constant reassurance that your work is perfect as-is...then why are you paying hundreds or thousands of dollars to someone to tell you this? Compliments are FREE! But there are thousands of “editors” who are willing to stroke your ego and take your money while doing it if it makes you feel better.
Me? I have a conscience.
I’m serious about my work and the quality of it and I would hope that is why you are paying me your hard-earned cash for my services. If you are serious about your writing and we work together, I’ll do everything I can to help make it shine. I have helped many authors do this who appreciated my efforts...and they were thick skinned enough to handle it.
So before you say you are “thick skinned,” determine if your skin is like elephant hide or is merely a lacquer finish. You are not “thick skinned” when you crumple like used Kleenex when the first wave of edits come in.
Your editor is your manuscript’s last line of defence between you and a cold, hard, MEAN world. You and your manuscript better toughen up so you can face it and stand up to it.
Publishing and being a successful published author is not for wimps. This is a serious industry where there is serious money to be made and serious money at risk.
You can either put your big-girl panties on and deal...or sit in the corner and drink your juice box.