Editors: Friend or Foe?

Our guest blogger today is our friend Karen Ball! She runs Karen Ball Publishing Services, LLC and is an award-winning, best-selling author; a popular podcaster/ speaker; and the co-creator with Erin Taylor Young of From the Deep, LLC. She has also been executive editor for fiction at Tyndale, Multnomah, Zondervan, and B&H Publishing Group, and a literary agent with the Steve Laube Agency. Visit the Write from the Deep web site.


Oh my friends! The stories I could tell about writers and editors. Some lovely, coming-of-age stories…some near-romances. Others creep into suspense or thrillers. And then there are the blood-curdling horror stories…

So what makes the difference? What makes for a positive author and editor relationship? Well, there are a lot of things writers need to understand and look for in an editor, but what made the difference for me as a writer was my editors understanding that their part in my writing journey was about a lot more than just having the right technical knowledge.

These editors understood how I, as a writer, slaved away, wrestling words and sentences and scenes into submission until pages, then chapters, then the book finally…finally took form. That when I wrote “the end,” I breathed a deep sigh—and then held that next breath as I sent my beautiful baby off to them. They understood how I fretted and worried, wondering what they’d say. Would they hate it? Was I a hack? Who ever told me I could write???

And then, when they evaluated and examined every bit of my masterpiece, they sent me the words I longed to hear: “Oh, this is WONDERFUL!” But they didn’t stop there. No matter how I wanted them to. Nope, they went on: “Now, let’s make it even more so.”

These wonderful editors knew I needed time to weep and wail and curse them until I had to admit just how right they each were. And they trusted that I would, once reason returned, dive in, reshaping and revising until every word shone.

Now, as I look back, I’m wonderstruck at how their guidance and encouragement drew a level of craft out of me that I didn’t even know was there. But they knew. Each in their own way, they knew. Through working with them, I found my truest voice as a writer. Their guidance, encouragement, and belief in me and what I was writing…that made all the difference.

So I want to encourage you… Find that kind of editor. One who will share your vision and come alongside you. One who will help and encourage you as you refine your message and craft. One who understands your part, and his part, in this writing journey. That kind of editor will enrich your writing…and so much more.

Wondering how to find the right editor for you? What you need to understand and look for in an editor? Karen Ball and Erin Taylor Young have written a book to help you do just that! Finding and Working with an Editor: Everything You Need to Know for a (Nearly) Pain-Free Edit shares an abundance of guidance and insider tips, gained from over 30 years of experience in publishing, all geared to help you in your search for an editor.

[Note from Steve Laube: I highly recommend this book to every writer. The editorial relationship is critical to your publishing success. The ebook is only $3.99! You have no excuse. Get your copy today.]

28 Responses to Editors: Friend or Foe?

  1. David Winters March 19, 2018 at 6:08 am #

    Karen Ball is a great editor and a better person. Thanks for the advice.

    • Karen Ball March 19, 2018 at 12:22 pm #

      Aw, thanks so much!

  2. Loretta Eidson March 19, 2018 at 6:16 am #

    Thank you, Karen!

    • Karen Ball March 19, 2018 at 12:22 pm #

      You’re so welcome.

  3. Andrew Budek-Schmeisser March 19, 2018 at 6:26 am #

    Great resource, Karen. Thanks for the heads-up. (And we’ve missed your delightful voice!)

    In the literary eneavour, the finished product is to the writer as the exterior of a new and mighty edifice, gleaming in the morning sun.

    But it’s the editor who has the courage to venture inside, to see the taps that don’t work, the doors that nip the fingers of the unwary, and the elevators that stop at the wrong floor…and to help with the process of turning nascent elegance into pure and functional beauty.

    • Shirlee Abbott March 19, 2018 at 9:12 am #

      I think of my WIP as a child, Andrew. The editor catches the behavior problems and knowledge deficits my mommy eyes miss. And the child is better for the intervention.

    • Karen Ball March 19, 2018 at 12:24 pm #

      Great analogies, both of you!

  4. Damon J. Gray March 19, 2018 at 6:42 am #

    Karen, it is so good to see you here on the blog again. I always enjoyed reading what you chose to share.

    • Karen Ball March 19, 2018 at 12:24 pm #

      Thanks, Damon. So appreciate Steve for letting me come back for a visit!

  5. Carol Ashby March 19, 2018 at 9:12 am #

    Having an editor who will pray with me over the scenes with high spiritual content is a treasure beyond words. Working with her isn’t just pain-free. It’s a delight. She was recommended by my cover designer, who is herself a best-selling Christian historical author and owner of a small traditional publishing house. It’s funny how God will orchestrate the right people coming into our lives at just the right time!

    • Karen Ball March 19, 2018 at 12:25 pm #

      Amen, Carol. Love how we can rest in the truth that He is in control of every aspect of what we do in obedience to Him.

  6. Tisha Martin March 19, 2018 at 9:58 am #

    Karen, what a delight to learn from you today. Thank you so much for your encouragement. As you said, “One who will share your vision and come alongside you. One who will help and encourage you as you refine your message and craft. One who understands your part, and his part, in this writing journey”—Yes, this!

    As a writer, I have a special place in my heart for the editors who have mentored me over the last few years. A good editor who understands you and your project is simply priceless.

    As an editor, I find bolstering strength from your words today, to be a better editor for my clients in understanding them, their project, and the message of their heart in reaching their readers.

    As Assistant Director of PENCON, a conference for professional editors, I am deeply moved to continue to uncover and provide valuable content and conference sessions for our attendees.

    I’ll be attending Mount Hermon this weekend—looking forward to seeing you there!

    –Tisha Martin

    • Karen Ball March 19, 2018 at 12:26 pm #

      Tisha, I look forward to connecting. Thanks for your kind words!

  7. Sheri Dean Parmelee, Ph.D March 19, 2018 at 10:35 am #

    Thanks for the information, Karen. I am headed to Amazon next!

    • Karen Ball March 19, 2018 at 12:27 pm #

      Thanks, Sheri! Let us know what you think!

  8. Joey Rudder March 19, 2018 at 10:37 am #

    Thank you, Karen. (And I’m with Damon…I always enjoyed reading your blog posts here. 🙂 )

    • Karen Ball March 19, 2018 at 12:28 pm #

      You’re welcome, Joey. And I always enjoy posting here. 🙂

  9. Cynthia Mahoney (aka Claire O'Sullivan) March 19, 2018 at 12:00 pm #

    Hi Karen,

    My story wasn’t so awesome 🙁 and I am grateful for the resources here. My editor gave feedback on 3 chapters on SPaG (I paid the amount she had asked for the 380 pg MS down the line as she changed her prices to out of my league) to match professional editors. I checked her online stats in case she just hated my MS…

    She made several grammatical mistakes and as I wandered through her notes, I was stunned (even I found the mistakes). She is a ‘bona fide’ editor.

    Her price changed, I was out of money, and I became disillusioned and fearful of even looking.


    Without a degree in English, I found every resource possible, and free (which I can afford). I know my gaffs are all over the place despite online, eReaders, Strunk, White, Spunk, Bite, CMS and Say What? You’d think I’d be an expert …

    Unbelievably and blessed beyond all comprehension, the SLA accepted my MS despite my commas etc. (I am pretty sure most commas are an invention of the devil… ) and currently pouring each gaff.

    Much appreciated article with resources.

    Cindy Mahoney

    • Carol Ashby March 19, 2018 at 12:24 pm #

      Cindy, I’d recommend getting a copy of Diane Hacker’s “A Pocket Style Manual.” I first saw this book when my daughter had to buy it for her honors English classes in high school. It covers clarity, grammar, punctuation, mechanics, and other topics related to writing well. It provides clear descriptions and examples of both correct usage and common errors (including a glossary of those similar words that make you wonder which to use). If you ever wonder how to reference something, it has all three major systems (APA, MLA, and Chicago) for everything from a personal face-to-face quote through web and broadcast sources to odd combos of authors, editors, and translators. I need that for my history website. I keep mine in the bookshelf on my writing desk. My grammar skills are good enough that I could work as an editor, and I still find it super useful to have at my fingertips. It can demystify comma usage for you with its mix of rules and examples.

      • Cindy Mahoney March 19, 2018 at 12:37 pm #

        Hi Carol,

        Thank you! I will definitely do so. (See? Here, let’s see if I can correct this… A great suggestion and I’ll run to the website to purchase.)

        Thanks, because I will, and immediately.


    • Karen Ball March 19, 2018 at 12:33 pm #

      Your story is one of the reasons Erin and I put this book together. I’ve heard a lot of stories along these lines and wanted to do everything I could to help writers navigate the potentially turbulent waters of finding and working with editors. I’m so sorry you went through what you did.

  10. Cindy Mahoney March 19, 2018 at 12:44 pm #

    Thank you, Karen. I do dislike being a JKR as she lived in a ‘flat,’ (I don’t have that luxury). However, I agree with Paul, to be content… Gives me a greater appreciation of God’s provision of our daily bread.

    Have question. Is it available in pdf form, with PayPal on your site? I’ve gone through the KDP free trials. Darn mobi is not free (as they purport), and Nook. ha ha, not in budget.


    • Erin Taylor Young March 19, 2018 at 1:20 pm #

      Hi Cindy,

      The book will be available in print form in another month (or less!).

  11. Patti Iverson March 19, 2018 at 12:45 pm #

    I wish I’d write a book so you could be my editor! My, but that would be wonderful, or ridiculous! I love you.

  12. Cindy Mahoney March 19, 2018 at 12:45 pm #

    for our daily bread, not of… sigh.

  13. Terry White March 20, 2018 at 1:33 pm #

    I just signed a contract yesterday to write a book and in it I specified my preference for who will edit it. He ALWAYS makes my writing better! Jerry Jenkins said it best–the best writing is never a solo, always a duet!

    • Cindy Mahoney March 20, 2018 at 2:06 pm #


      That is fantastic — with agent, publisher, editing group?

      Inquiring minds want to know … really need my fingernails back, tough to button clothes, etc.


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