Event Review: Writers on Editors: An Evening of Eavesdropping

Written by Amy Haagsma; copy edited by Meagan Kus

Recap of EAC-BC’s branch meeting on March 18, 2015.

On March 18, EAC-BC hosted authors Margo Bates and Daniel Francis for a panel discussion about working with editors. Jenny Lee, a writer, editor, and digital journalist with the Vancouver Sun, moderated, adding details of her own experience and encouraging questions from the audience.

Each author brought a different perspective to the discussion: while Margo elected to self-publish, Daniel’s books have been traditionally published.

Margo spoke of her search for an editor for her first book, P.S. Don’t Tell Your Mother. She wanted to work with an editor who understood what she needed and what she was trying to say, and who would challenge her to improve the book. The setting, the rural town of Telkwa in the late 1950s and early 1960s, also dictated finding an editor who understood how the characters would speak.

Daniel, conversely, has not always been able to choose the editors he works with, although he did mention that different publishers have different reputations and different specialties.

Both, however, were steadfast in their support for editors and emphasized the need to hire them.

Although Margo recognized that editing would be the largest cost associated with self-publishing her book, she indicated that many self-publishing authors don’t have the same realization. They often have not budgeted for editing and may not understand why they need an editor. In fact, some authors spend far more trying to market their unedited book than they would have spent hiring an editor to help them improve it.

Daniel concurred, adding that it is often inexperienced authors who think they don’t need editors. He’s been grateful for the role editors play as a book’s first critical reader. He reflected that editors can help authors organize their thoughts and save them embarrassment, including “infelicities of style.”

The discussion then turned to the author–editor relationship, and how editors can best help the authors they work with. The authors indicated that editing should be a collaborative process. Authors need to be open to an editor’s suggestions, but an editor must also be cognizant of when to correct and when to query, and not automatically change things.

Editors also need to be tactful and encouraging, as some authors find it difficult to separate themselves from their work. Above all else, feedback should be genuine and match the level of edits.

Missed the meeting? Download the audio file (EAC members only).

Amy Haagsma is a communications professional and a graduate of SFU’s Editing Certificate program.

Meagan Kus is a freelance copy editor and proofreader with an 18-year background in arts administration.

Image by Shutterstock

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