We don't start off knowing this stuff.
When my first books were published I knew nothing about anything. Do I have to make every change the editor asks for? Can they do it if I don't agree? Will they hate me if I disagree?
No, no, and no.
Edits to Your Beloved Manuscript
Every writer is edited. All of us.
Oh sure, maybe not the famous ones, but you've read a later work of a superstar, the stuff no editor touches because the writer's too powerful? Yeah, well then you've seen how those books too often needed help they didn't get.
Let's hope that if we ever hit the bestseller list, we don't suddenly lose sight of the fact that all of us need another set of professional eyes on our work.
Because good editors make a book even better.
There are bad editors, sure, but most who do this for a living don't want to rewrite your book, we don't want it to sound like us, we want to make it as good as it can be, clear and powerful.
Okay, That's Good; So I Can Disagree With My Editor?
Yes, yes, and yes.
You're always welcome to disagree that a change is for the better, but we'll ask you why. No editor wants an unhappy writer, but good editors change things for clarity, readability, to help the story flow. We want your voice to be as strong as possible and that's why we make edits.
For example, a lot of writers start their stories too early, including long chapters of set up. I once asked a writer – who had eight published novels – to remove their book's first three chapters and weave that information into the story later, because the fourth chapter was where the story started.
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That writer agreed, but had they not, we'd have talked about it. Your book will never be changed against your will. You own it, it's yours, if we reached an impasse you always have the option to take your work to another publisher – the original manuscript, not the one we worked on together. The goal is always for us both to be happy.
So yes you can disagree, but do so with good reasons and politely.
We expect writers to feel strongly about their work, we also expect them to understand their book has now become a collaboration. Your publisher has to be happy with the final book, just like you do.
So agree, disagree, but understand we're working on this together now, so let's do our best to hear one another.
That way we'll make something great.