Friday, July 13, 2012

Working With Editors

by Elizabeth S. Craig, @elizabethscraig

2926501952_cd22de434a (1)I have a tough time adjusting to change sometimes.

I’ve learned, through the years, to be more flexible. That’s the only way I’ve managed to write books as a parent—because a parent’s life can be totally chaotic. Children get sick, carpools change, children’s activities change, schedules are changed at the drop of a hat.

But change, in general? Still tough for me.

So that would explain the feeling of trepidation I got when I found out two days before the July deadline that my editor for the Memphis series is changing. My previous editor is leaving Penguin and she sent me an email to let me know…and to give me the contact information for the new editor for my series.

Everything got better quickly. I shot an email to the new editor and introduced myself—gave her a brief overview of the kinds of books I write and the different editors I’ve worked with. I told her I would be sending her a new book….the next day. I told her I was always happy to make changes of any kind.

I also stated that I wasn’t great on the phone and preferred emailing, if possible. :) Otherwise, I’m usually so deer-in-the-headlights that I don’t even remember the substance of the conversation afterwards.

The new editor emailed me back and was totally lovely. I calmed down and got back to the new story I was writing.

But it’s tough. I’ve been working with Emily since 2009 to develop and promote the series. She knows the characters and knows when something is out of character for them. She knows the setting and my voice.

My friend, Hart Johnson, had the same editor. She was a little anxious about the changes, too.

Of course, this change does give me the opportunity to hear some new ideas and possibly take the series in a new direction. Once I realized that was the case, I felt a lot better.

Each editor I’ve had has handled business a little differently:

New books, possible new series, contract issues, payment:

For these types of issues, my editors go through my agent. Except for one editor—in a deal that I negotiated myself. For Midnight Ink, when I have a royalty issue, etc., I call them directly.

Planning the series: One of my editors likes an outline/proposal for the next book in the series. Another editor told me whatever I wanted to do was fine.


One editor corresponded by mail. I’m not kidding. I was shocked to see a huge package of revisions one day with corrections written in the margins. I made the corrections on my Word file and emailed it back….it would have cost a ton to print and mail back that thing.

Usually I communicate by email. I really prefer it that way because I have a record of the changes and the editor’s thoughts on a project. Sometimes I’ll copy-paste bits of the emails to my online calendar to make sure the items are addressed.

One editor does like communicating by phone some. Unfortunately, I’m usually out running errands or taking my kids somewhere…and flustered. The phone does fluster me. It means I have to email later to make sure that I’m on the same page with the editor.

Revisions and light editing:

Aside from the editor who mailed revisions, the other editors use Word’s Track Changes to send me suggested corrections and changes. I make the changes and email them back.

Artwork and production:

One editor asks me after the fact how I like the cover…but will make changes if there are elements I don’t like (there has only been one time where I asked for a small change—a sign was purposefully misspelled outside a business owned by my character—and I thought the error it didn’t fit the character, whom I perceived as educated.)

The other editor asks for me to be very involved with the cover—actually, more involved than I feel qualified to be. I’d probably prefer the art department and marketing to work their magic, then just have the be ability to comment on a sketch and ask for minor changes.

Sales reports and follow-ups:

Both editors send me figures after the first week and ask whether I’d like weekly reports from that point out. I don’t. :)

Conferences and promo:

One editor, years ago, never mentioned promo of any kind. Never asked if I blogged, never asked if I tweeted or if I went to stores or conferences.

My current (well, and now former) editors invite me to conferences where the publisher has a presence there (like Malice Domestic and Bouchercon) and ask if I’ll be at the dinner the publisher hosts. Unfortunately, these tend to always occur far away when the children have something huge going on….although I did attend one that was very nice.

I think that the key factor in working with editors is flexibility. Business is handled differently, depending on the editor—and change doesn’t have to be bad. It’s just…different. And now I’ll need to be flexible again.

I’m reminding myself, also, that they are adjusting to change, too. My new editor is saddled with me! Now she’s got a writer who hates talking on the phone….and explained that to her. :) What if that’s the primary way she likes communicating with her writers?

What’s your experience working with editors…or dealing with changes? How do you adapt to change (and is it easy for you to?)

Image: Mad African!: (Broken Sword)'s photostream