One of the more enduring myths of the Working Writer is the long-enduring relationship with a single editor. The myth goes something like this:
William Writer works hard on his novel. After years of work, he submits it to several publishers, all of whom reject it. At last, Edwina Editor gets hold of it and recognizes William’s genius–and market potential. She wisely buys the novel, offers him a few changes, and the novel turns into a best-seller. William Writer writes a second novel, which Edwina Editor helps him turn into another best-seller, which spurs William to write a third. Over the decades, William and Edwina’s relationship evolves from one based purely on business into a warm friendship based on mutual respect and trust.
You can probably guess from the tone of the story where this is going.
It rarely works this way. A few writers work with a single editor. A very few. In reality, most writers work with many editors over the years.
The main reason isn’t the nature of publishing–it’s the nature of the job market. Editing is a job, just like any other. And in jobs, people come and go. They get hired and fired, they retire, they change careers, and they get lured away to other companies.
Case in point: I worked with Laura Anne Gilman as my editor at Roc for three years. Then she decided to change careers and become a freelance writer herself. (In an example of the small size of the publishing world, she’s now here at Book View Café.) My Silent Empire books were in mid-series at this point, and suddenly Roc had to hand me over to someone else.
John, editor #2, had to read the first three books and the synopsis of the fourth one all at once. Fortunately, he liked the series and was happy to edit Offspring, the final book. I thought things had settled down. Then John abruptly left Roc and took a job with DC Comics. This, unfortunately, left me with no one to champion me at Roc, and I effectively became a new writer for them when it came to submitting new material to them.
During all this, I also wrote the novel based on the movie Identity. I did it under an impossibly tight deadline–four weeks, and over the winter holidays to boot. The editor’s name was Amanda, and she waxed enthusiastic at me. I had done a fantastic job with the writing, she said, and she was mightily impressed at my ability to write under such difficult conditions. Cool! When you impress an editor like this, it’s much easier to get more contracts from her, and you leap to the top of her “go to” list.
Then Amanda went on maternity leave. She never returned.
I also wrote The Nanotech War, a Star Trek: Voyager novel. My editor Jessica liked the book and liked working with me. Yay! Not long after Nanotech came out, she left publishing entirely to go into library science.
Sometimes it feels like someone is killing my editors. (It’s not me! I swear!) But that’s not the case. It’s just the way our modern job market works. It sucks, but it isn’t unusual. You just roll with it and keep writing novels.
–Steven Harper Piziks
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