One day, a few months after the sale of my book, I was talking to my agent. As we prepared to hang up, he sighed and glumly said, “Now I have to call one of my authors and tell him his editor is leaving the publishing house.”
“Yikes!” I said. “Geez. Don’t ever call me with that kind of news.”
So one fine morning, just as Bad Girls Don’t Die was all set to go into copyedits, my phone rang. It was my editor.
She said, and I’ll paraphrase: “I’m leaving the publishing house.”
There are not a lot of words to describe the feeling these words can give a first-time author (or any other author, I imagine). Some combination of the bottom dropping out and the sky falling down.
In most cases, your editor is the person who first read your book as a submission. She’s the person who liked it enough to champion it through dozens of meetings and to argue its case with people whose job it is to make sure the publishing house doesn’t lose money on bad investments. It’s kind of like having a den mother, grandfather, mentor, friend, and bodyguard all rolled into one.
So to lose that person… it’s pretty scary. You feel a little like a lost baby mountain goat, standing all alone on a peak in the middle of nowhere. (In fairness, I have to say that my agent was reassuring me the whole time. But you know how stubborn baby goats can be.)
I was set up with a new editor, and assured that things would proceed normally. My new editor was away from the office for a week or so, but she’d be in touch when she got back and had a chance to go through the latest draft.
I waited as patiently as I could, knowing she was busy (all editors are busy — always). As time progressed, the wait became agonizing, as I imagined her sitting down to read the manuscript with a giant red marker, slashing out entire chapters and muttering to herself about what a pain it was that she had to take on another author.
Finally, I couldn’t take it. I sent a hesitant email to see if she had a couple of minutes to talk. She called immediately.
I took a deep breath. In the manner of a mature, confident fifth-grader, I asked, “So… Do you hate my book?”
“No,” she said. “Not at all.”
“Is it a pain in the neck for you?”
“I didn’t have to take it on,” she said. “I chose to.”
“Oh,” I said. “Okay, cool.”
And that was that.
Since then, my new editor has proven to be all the champion, den mother, grandfather, bodyguard, mentor, and friend an author could wish for. She’s dedicated hours and days of her time, invested her thoughts and creative vision and energy. She’s fun and funny and brilliant, and she even takes time out of her busy schedule to gush over my dog.
And that’s enough to wipe all the scary moments out of existence.
So, Delightful Editor, if you’re reading this… thank you!
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