Understanding The Editor

Author Relationship

By Leonard G. Goss & Carolyn Stanford Goss

1. During the editorial process, editors work with authors to produce books that are as excellent as they can be, in terms of both content and quality. Editing is usually done on screen--sometimes only for house style, sometimes in a more comprehensive way, depending on the specific needs of a given manuscript.

2. As editors edit an assigned book, they typically correct misspellings, punctuation errors, and incorrect word usage, and generally conform the book to house style. The editor also identifies and, in cooperation with the author, clarifies unclear writing, theological or historical inaccuracies, and potentially offensive material.

3. Some see the editor as a supercritical, academic-monastic individual who cackles as he edits a manuscript so heavily that writers can't recognize their own work. Others idealize the editor as a knight in shining armor who will rescue a manuscript (or an author) from obscurity, make the work great, and bring huge success! The truth is somewhere in between.

In Christian publishing, the editor and the writer have the same goals and serve the same Lord, but they are coming to the task from different angles. This sometimes makes for a nebulous world in which the rules seem unclear. Ideally, author and editor will maintain a context of cooperation and teamwork, and within that context the editor fills necessary roles on behalf of both the publisher and the author. The editor and the writer are coworkers.

Throughout the editorial process the editor gives honest feedback and offers constructive criticism. If some elements in the book do not work, are offensive to the intended readership, are theologically questionable or simply unclear, it is the editor's responsibility to work with the author to resolve the problem.

Trust is at the core of the editor-author relationship. The editor respects the writer's point of view, the purpose for the book, the style, and so on, and thus doesn't make the book the editor's rather than the writer's. On the other hand, the writer trusts the editor to tell him what the book is really like and what its strengths and weaknesses are. The editor helps a writer focus on a reading audience, on the purpose for writing the book, and on whether the story line, tone, writing flow and style, content, and vocabulary effectively reach intended readers. The editor helps the author remember that quality is just as important as content.

Leonard G. Goss and Carolyn Stanford Goss are the authors of The Little Style Guide to Great Christian Writing and Publishing. They bring years of expertise to the question of style for the Christian marketplace. Len Goss is the editorial director, Trade and Academic Books Publishing, Broadman & Holman Publishers. Carolyn Stanford Goss has extensive experience in publishing, having worked in marketing and special sales for Random House, Richard D. Irwin, and McGraw-Hill. They live near Nashville, TN.

Excerpted from The Little Style Guide to Great Christian Writing and Publishing Used by permission. © 2004 By Leonard G. Goss and Carolyn Stanford Goss.