When Book Editors Err… By Dr. Marlene Caroselli

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“There are two types of people in this world: Those who can edit and those who can’t,” Jarod Kintz asserts. Having dealt with both types of editors (and a number of other types), I’ve developed a few strategies that may help your partnership, and help expedite the editing process. Ideally, your successful collaboration will get your book into the hands of readers more easily and more quickly.

1.) Take a stand without alienating the editor. (You never know when you may have to work with her again.)

I once had an editor whose vocabulary was somewhat limited. I had used the word “flagellation” several times in the manuscript. Apparently, she confused the word with another “f” word: viz., “flatulence.” Each time she came across my “flagellation” point, she would write a critical note, accusing me of having less-than-delicate verbal manners. I, of course, refused to concede the point and finally had to copy dictionary pages and mail them to her in order to convince her of the error of her ways.

An editor working for a traditional publisher on one of Angela Hoy’s books was fired several years ago after adding numerous mistakes to her book. Angela had nothing to do with the firing though she admits she was deeply frustrated after being required to fix the editor’s mistakes over and over again, over a period of several weeks. Editors, even those working for traditional publishers, are not infallible.

2.) If all else fails, enlist the help of the publisher.

Another time, I had to work with an editor who was paid, I suspect, by the number of red marks he added to a page of my manuscript. If I had written the perfectly acceptable sentence, such as,

“Having dealt with both types, I’ve developed a few strategies.”

he would change it to:

“I have had experience with both kinds and have formulated a few methods.”

These two sentences basically say the same thing; each is correct from a syntactic and a grammatical viewpoint. His edited sentence, though, differed from mine in several insignificant ways, thus allowing him to have red marks all over the pages.

As much as I hated to involve the publisher in my defense, I had to let the company president know that such editing was totally unnecessary.

3.) Give in when the point is not worth your time.

Most editors, though, know what they are doing and they do it well. More often than not, their suggestions are good ones and I let them stand. After all, the best writers, like Jeanne Voelker, edit their stories endlessly. (“They eventually run and hide from me,” she admits.) A good editor will find them, and will edit them even more. Be grateful.

Dr. Marlene Caroselli is an author, keynoter, and corporate trainer. She writes extensively about education, business, and careers. Her 61st book is a Kindle/Nook ebook titled 50 Ways to Cleave Your Cover. Her first book, The Language of Leadership, was named a main selection by the Executive Book Club. Principled Persuasion, a more recent title, was designated a Director’s Choice by the Doubleday Book Club.