Interview with an Editor Part I
Editors be kinda important. Ahem… I mean, Editors are important.
As I’ve been blogging on the topic of Self-Publishing, I’ve had the privilege of rubbing digital shoulders with a few editors and I thought it would be helpful for self-publishers to read a little bit from an editor’s perspective. Because of this, I’m looking to post three interviews with three different editors. These interviews will hopefully give you an idea of what to look for in a good editor as well as how to get the most out of your experience with an editor.
The first interview is with Eric Shay Howard. Eric is an easy person to chat with. He has a great sense of humor (which I appreciate) and I think you’ll find the answers to the questions below to be helpful. I have three editors lined up to interview and I have asked all three of them the same questions so you can get three different perspectives. These different perspectives will hopefully help you understand how to write and publish in a more professional manner.
Eric is both a writer and editor. This is a good thing, in my opinion. Each of the editors I am interviewing are writers as well as editors. Eric lives in Louisville, KY and is the editor of Likely Red Magazine at www.likelyred.com. His blog is at www.ericshayhoward.com.
So, let’s get at it:
1. What are the most common grammar/story-line/character issues you catch as you edit a book?
I mostly read and edit short fiction. In a lot of the short fiction that I go through, I see a lot of non-concrete details in stories that make it hard to determine exactly what’s going on in the story. I’d rather see what the character is doing rather than read about what the character is thinking. It’s the physical, concrete details that are important me when I read for the lit mag. What’s there, in the scene? What are the characters doing? What are the characters saying? There are exceptions, of course, but too much time in the characters’ heads, or too much time spent in hypothetical-land tends to make it difficult to determine what’s actually happening in the story.
2. As an editor, if you could give one piece of advice to a new author, what would it be?
I think a lot of newly published authors hide behind extreme social media professionalism: social media accounts with little or no personality, out of fear of rejection from readers. Don’t be afraid to continue to be yourself when promoting your work and don’t be afraid to be active on social media. Your publishers worked hard to get your story out there, and you as the author are a part of that. Tell everyone on everything: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, your blog, and any other platforms you’re a part of.
3. As an editor, if you could give one piece of advice to a seasoned author, what would it be?
I would encourage seasoned authors to not be afraid to write shorter stories. Novels are great, but not everything can be a novel. Stretching shorter work into longer work to meet word count minimums only encourages the rest of the writing community to not take shorter pieces seriously. That helps persuade readers to not read them in the first place. As a result, writers who write short work have a hard time finding a home for it, purely for financial and marketing reasons. It’s a very unfortunate situation.
4. As an editor, what advice would you give to an author when it comes to receiving feedback from an editor?
It’s like dating. It’s not you, it’s me.
5. As an editor, what kind of questions do authors ask that let you know they are really looking for your input?
Since I mostly edit shorter work, most of stories I accept for publication are pretty close to being finished and don’t require a lot of editing, if any. Because of that, I don’t get a lot of specific questions. I’ve had a few people reply to rejection letters asking for more detail about why a story was not accepted for publication. I’ve responded to a few, within reason. It’s almost always a personal thing: me not connecting to the story in some way. When it’s not that, it’s usually a problem with details and plot not being concrete enough. I’d say based on that, if you’re asking about or calling attention to your details in some way in your feedback questions, you’re definitely in the right track.
6. Is there a question you wish authors would ask you and what is the answer to it?
There still seems to be a divide between genre-fiction writers and literary fiction writers. Based on a lot of cover letters, writers who submit to Likely Red Magazine often identify themselves from within one or the other. If someone were to ask me if I thought there were any difference between the two, I would say that no, neither one have a guarantee of surviving after the author is gone. Work often identified as genre-fiction has the advantage of sales and numbers. Work deemed as literary fiction has the advantage of literary journals. We’re all in this together, just looking for a place for our stories. In 100 years, you never know which stories will end up in university textbooks, whether they be considered genre-fiction or literary fiction by the masses at the time of their original publication or not.
We’re all in this together, ya’ll.
So there you have it! Interview with an Editor Part I. I hope you have found this helpful. Make sure you check out Interview with an Editor Part II where I interview Deborah A. Bowman.
Comment below with your experiences with editors.