Never Back Down From An Editor…Someone Else Will Buy The Book
The best way I can sum this up for you is to say that the author (aka YOU) knows best what makes the story work. No one else—most especially an editor—can do a better job than the author (aka YOU) at making the story and characters strong.
Now, with that said, let’s look at the details…
First of all, I am NOT talking about things like spelling, grammar, and punctuation. If you are using a modern word processor and haven’t done stupid things like adding “special” words to the dictionary or crazy things like adding or editing the grammar rules, your software should catch nearly all of these issues. Maybe…
For example, in the dictionary of nearly all decent word processors, you will find the words “for” and “fro”. How often in a typical book is the word “for” used? At least several hundred times in most cases. On the other hand, the word “fro” is rarely used. Actually, I can’t remember a single time I have ever used it, but I don’t do a lot of historical work. The fact is, however, that the spell checker will not catch the error of typing “fro” when you mean “for”. Even though “for” is a preposition and “fro” is an adverb, most grammar checkers will miss the error, too. There are two ways to fix this…after you write your story, do a search for “fro” and make sure you really meant to use that word. A better solution is to go to the dictionary and remove the word “fro”…now, “fro” will be flagged as a spelling error.
But I digress…
What I am really talking about here is story content…no decent (or better) editor will try to change your story. Sadly, there are an awful lot of bad editors in the business. I can promise you that at some point in your career an editor will come to you and ask you to change your story, usually with some statement like, “…this will work better for the reader…”
In a word, bullshit.
Typically, if you’re fairly new to the business or to the publisher, your refusal to make the suggested changes will be met with a reply like, “…well, I’m not sure we can publish the book the way it is…”
Fine. Just reply, “Good deal. I can sell it for more to someone else, then. Have a wonderful day. Bitch.”
If your book is worth the electrons storing it, the publisher will come back and say, “Sorry…here’s a new editor since you and Jane Doe have some kind of personality conflict. It won’t happen again.” If not, shop it around some more.
If you know something is right, stand your ground. Do not give in just to get the book published. If you have an agent, get them involved right away. The sooner the better because they can often avoid the power struggle that may ensue.
If you have an actual representative, this situation will never come up because the editors know better than to play these kinds of games…this leads to the representative pulling perhaps tens of millions of dollars worth of books and giving them to someone else.
Let me give you one small example from my works…
Anyone who has read my works—or even my blogs—knows that I write “OK” as opposed to “okay”. I once had an editor who hated this, and she insisted that I change all of my “OK” to “okay”. I started off pointing out to her that “OK” or “ok” is preferred over “okay” in more than a dozen dictionaries. She still wanted it changed and started doing a search-and-replace on the manuscript. I simply changed them all back to “OK” and sent it back to her.
At this point, the dingbat actually told me that she couldn’t publish the book with “OK”. I just sent the email to my representative. My rep pulled more than 200 books from the publisher that encompassed nearly 100 authors. The explanation to the publisher was that their editorial staff was a pain in the ass and not worth the effort.
The same day, the publisher came back and told my rep that all was fixed, I had a new editor, the old editor was now flipping burgers someplace, and please come back with your books. My rep then demanded an extra 2% on the royalty for all of the books to cover the angst factor, and the publisher was happy that was all it cost them.
A happy ending for everyone…well, except the idiot editor. I hear that she might make over-night shift manager soon.
When should you take such a hard line? That’s easy…
Whenever the editor wants something “fixed” that changes the story or impacts your voice, this is the time when you should not back down.
It is your story and voice that sell. These things set you apart from the myriad of other authors, and to compromise these matters is to literally sell your soul.