Editing

I Love Change, Especially For Someone Else

Several decades ago, the British magazine, The Linguist printed a graphic with the phrase, “The strongest drive is not to Love or Hate; it is one person’s need to change another’s copy.”

In the cartoon, the word “change” was crossed out and replaced first by amend, then by revise, alter, rewrite, chop to pieces, then back to “change.”

I am not sure whether the cartoon necessarily struck a sensitive nerve among it’s readers, or simply revealed a common occurrence everyone could understand. But it was memorable!

The need to change someone else’ creativity is almost to the level of a universal truth, on the same lofty plateau as, “Every action has an equal and opposite reaction,” or “Always drink upstream from the herd.”

No matter what you write, many people who read it will first think, “If I were to have written this, I would have written it this way.” And then proceed to make the changes in their mind.

Every pastor of every church has at least one “sermon editor” in their congregation, who is not around during the preparation of their sermon, but is more than happy to offer a critique with suggested edits for future reference after the church service.

Relatively few people have the ability to discern whether something created by someone else accomplishes an intended purpose and leave it alone. The same principle plays out for any artistic endeavor from performing a song on the accordion to painting a bowl of fruit.

“Why did you put the bananas on top of the apples and oranges? Everyone knows the bananas form the base for the fruit bowl, dummy. Your painting will be all wrong!”

Hey, maybe they were going for something different, did you ever think of that?

Authors who work with editors (and visa versa) feel this tug-of-war every day. Most often the give and take is a collegial, collaborative effort, making for a better book, but sometimes it rises to the level of mortal combat, depending both on the strength of the author/editor relationship or respective personalities.

One attractive aspect of self-publishing is the elimination of an editor-battle. The author’s perspective will prevail if a disagreement ensues, a guarantee against loss of creative control.

The same potential battle happens between publisher, author, designer, editor, marketer or sales person, over many other elements of a book, such as:

Covers – the question is not who likes or doesn’t like a cover, it is whether it effectively portrays the book contents to a potential buyer. And the opinion of the book merchandiser at a major retailer really matters. “Frank says to make it green with black letters and they’ll buy 50,000 copies. Anyone care to disagree?”

Interior layout – an under-appreciated part of the book. Efficient page-use is not nearly as important as a pleasant experience for the reader, which are often different values entirely. Likewise, being overly creative on an interior can create problems for the reader. (How the interior layout translates to an eBook format is also important.)

Product description – this is more about key word use and clear communication about the contents of the book than spinning a creative tale. In the online retailing world where search engines rule, the choice of words will have an effect on sales. For this, effectiveness is more important than creativity.

Whichever side of the equation you might reside, keep focusing on the goal, to make a better book to sell to as many people as possible so it can be read and enjoyed.

Sometimes setting aside your personal opinion is key to achieving this goal. Maybe, just maybe someone else’ creative approach might be just fine and needs no editing.

But of course, it goes without saying your creative approach is always perfect. (Insert appropriate emoji depending on how much a sense of humor your have.)

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