Thursday, February 08, 2007

Editor No-Nos

Ten Things Editors Probably Shouldn't Do to Their Authors

1. Assign Them Nicknames: Only call your author "kid" if your author is actually younger than you. The older author doesn't take it as a compliment; they probably have purses, rejection letters and marriages that are older than you. Definitely avoid using derogatory nicknames for the author behind their back -- the author will hear about it (see #6.)

2. Drop in on Them: Only drop in on your author at their home after you have called 48 hours in advance to let them know you're in town. When you arrive, don't ask for a tour of their workspace, they probably use a corner of the dining room table. If your author's children are present, refrain from talking to them in baby talk unless they are 18 months old or younger. If you're allergic to pet dander, pet hair, Play-Doh or dust, best invite the author to your hotel or skip the visit altogether. And avoid asking the author to cook for you. You'll live longer.

3. Err on the Title: Try to use the correct title for your author's present manuscript when you talk about it with them. Never guess at it; you'll probably get it wrong and this freaks out your author.

4. Forget Their Calls: If your author is the type who only calls you once or twice a year, and you miss their call, try to return it. If you forget, they will imagine horrible things and never call you again.

5. Lie to Them: If you're going to lie to your author, make sure the author has no other sources of information (like your assistant, co-editor or boss) with whom they can quietly check out if what you said is true.

6. Make Public Complaints: It's best not to complain about your author at conferences. What you say will be repeated word-for-word to your author in an e-mail from someone present who doesn't like you.

6a. Attached to the e-mail will be a candid, unattractive photo of you, too.

6b. Taken while you were drunk and trying to give the conference guest of honor a lap dance.

6c. In front of his wife.

6d. Which your author will then e-mail to all your other authors.

7. Miss Payments: You like getting your weekly paycheck, right? It's nice to pay your author on time, too. If you can't, let them know. If you forget to pay your author for a year or more, don't make excuses. Don't make a cute little joke about it. Just: Mail. The. Check.

8. Object to Revision Questions: If your author questions something involved with the revisions you request, don't immediately assume the author is an ungrateful, egotistic snot trying to usurp your authority, or that the author hates you, or that the author wants to get you fired. It may be something simple, like they can't figure out how you want them to change something, or they can't read your handwriting.

9. Spouse Talking-tos: If you call the house when the author isn't home and speak to the author's spouse, partner or significant other, resist the urge to have a heart-to-heart talk with them about their inability to be supportive of the author's career. It will not make the author's spouse more supportive, and the author will come home to World War III.

10. Tactless Blurb Requests: If you ask your author for a quote for for a newly-signed rookie, avoid referring to the rookie's debut as "the best book I've read all year" if your author has turned in a book in the same year. For one thing, you won't get a quote.


  1. Anonymous1:36 AM

    Ah ha haa! That's hilarious! I loved number six, and the thought of someone actually doing number 10 nearly made me shoot coffee out my nose.

  2. "Only drop in on your author at their home after you have called 48 hours in advance to let them know you're in town."

    Same goes for pretty much any visitors to our place. My wife and I have a PC each in the (dining room? lounge? what was the original function of this room anyway?) and the space in between is filled with stuff I'm working on.

    Long ago we decided that this is our house and workplace, not a motel or a show home. WE live here, and while we always keep it clean we don't have to keep it tidy.

  3. I told you that you had a lot to teach me about revenge--see #6. LOL.

  4. Anonymous7:22 AM

    you're bad. really really bad.

    When are you going to do 10 things an author shouldn't say to their editor?

  5. Oh... this is awesome! And sooo true! Many editors should read this.

  6. Gah. It's too early to be snorting milk out my nose.

  7. Anonymous11:00 AM


    I want to know how many of these you know from firsthand experience.

  8. Anonymous12:06 PM

    Very nice. And true. I've experienced 5, 6, and 7.

    The bottom line, for me, between both author and editor: Create an atmosphere of respect and support, and you'll be amazed how good a book you can get.

    Additionally, there's nothing worse than an editor who harbors some bizarre and entirely imaginary envy of the writer's life -- and said envy turns to disrespect.

    Sometimes, I think it's imagined that we kick back, have afternoon Martini Madness Parties (tm), and leisurely write the novel while chuckling with friends over how clever we are.

    Except for the Martini Madness Parties (tm), it's all untrue.

  9. I am sooo stealing this!
    A few word changes and I am sending it out to family members.


  10. Never say to your author friend whose books about haemovores and lycans you edit on a casual basis that you are sick to the back teeth of vampires and werewolves.

    Trust me. Never.

  11. Anonymous5:35 PM

    Good list. And, y'know, I'm not entirely sure it's a good thing to call a business acquaintance "kid" even if they are younger than you. We're all adults in this business here, except for the ones what ain't, and even them, if they're in the business, ought to be treated like they're competent enough to be there until proven otherwise.

  12. Testing comments. (ignore me)


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