Four Myths About Editors

Since even the most prolific authors’ experience with editors may be limited to one or two, editors can seem mythical. Let’s unwrap a few assumptions:

1)  Editors don’t have to worry about the market. Agents advise writers to consider the market when writing. This is because editors do have to worry about the market and must make their acquiring decisions at least partially with the market in mind. Yes, they desire amazing writing, a sweet author, and clean copy. But they have to please the president of the company and, most important, shepherd a book that will ultimately be purchased by many readers.

2)  Editors have all the power. Editors are powerful, no question about it. They can dash the dreams of a writer with a “no” just like that. But when editors do like a manuscript enough to take it further up the chain, they must justify why your book is the right book to be published by their house at that time. Then the committee (or maybe even two different committees at separate meetings) must agree. The process helps the author, because it means the team is behind you. It’s not just you and the editor against everyone else. Your book is supported.

3)  Editors who like me and my work won’t ask for many revisions. You may not be asked to revise much, but don’t count on it. An editor asking for revisions, and even rewrites, still likes you and your work. It’s just that the editor strives to make your work the best it can be to be published for the reading public. The editor is on your side. Always remember that.

4)  I only have one shot with an editor. That’s generally not the case. Authors can improve on craft, story, and platform, and have another shot with an editor. You’ll be able to discern from the type of decline letters you receive. Here’s where your agent can be your guide.

Your turn:

How many times have you approached the same editor?

How has rejection encouraged you to improve your craft?

36 Responses to Four Myths About Editors

  1. Judith Robl August 16, 2018 at 5:19 am #


    I remember sending you a manuscript. Your gentle rejection let me know that what I had written was not being interpreted as I had intended.

    That manuscript is still a work in progress as I struggle to write it in a more explicit tone. I am grateful that your rejection included the reason. It was most instructive. Thank you!

  2. Damon J. Gray August 16, 2018 at 5:25 am #


    The only editors with whom I have worked are those I must hire out of my own pocket. I have yet to meet an editor to whom I am allowed to submit directly. Most use the agent as a firewall/gatekeeper.

    • Tamela Hancock Murray August 16, 2018 at 8:53 am #

      Yes, we are gatekeepers for many reasons. Keep it, though. You are doing everything right!

  3. Linda Yezak August 16, 2018 at 5:44 am #

    I fell for the “I only have one shot” line and was surprised when the editor approached me at a conference about submitting again. Biggest surprise was that she remembered me. Another time, I got to meet an editor who had rejected my first manuscript. She had sent me the sweetest, most encouraging rejection letter I’ve ever received. At the conference, she asked if I ever resubmitted. Never did. Never understood that I could until she asked.

    (Life without an agent.)

  4. Shirlee Abbott August 16, 2018 at 6:08 am #

    You lit my imagination, Tamela. I should define My Four Myths about [fill in the blank] — editors, agents, successful authors, pastors, counselors, politicians, all the people who annoy me. I hear God’s voice behind your words, “Stop jumping to conclusions, Kid!”

    Thank you.

  5. Sami A. Abrams August 16, 2018 at 6:32 am #

    In our classrooms, we are using Growth Mindset. The power of “yet”. It’s not “I can’t”. It’s I haven’t learned that YET. So, in the realm of editors and manuscripts…I’m not finished editing YET. An editor hasn’t accepted my manuscript YET. Etc. I’m learning right along with my students on this one.
    Thanks for laying the process out for us. It helps to know what you should expect and what you can do.

    • Tamela Hancock Murray August 16, 2018 at 8:55 am #

      Great idea! One I hadn’t learned YET — but now I have!

  6. Andrew Budek-Schmeisser August 16, 2018 at 7:03 am #

    My editor returned to me my work,
    shredded, spindled, half-eaten raw
    and retired to where editors lurk
    and laugh, all red in tooth and claw.
    The human shell’s a twisted smirk
    to lure writers into a fearsome maw
    that makes them feel no more than clerk
    to a tyrant who admits no single flaw.
    I wail and moan, and keening, kick over a shelf
    but editor’s right; she’s improved my writing self.

    • Tamela Hancock Murray August 16, 2018 at 8:56 am #

      Ah, the process is often painful indeed!

    • Tisha Martin August 16, 2018 at 9:53 am #

      Andrew, this spoke to me with great encouragement, as both an editor and a writer. May I ask a favor? I am speaking at a writer’s conference in two months on Self Editing for beginning writers and advanced writers. May I—please, with attribution to you, of course—use this poem as a sort of meme/introduction in my beginning self-editing class? It fits perfectly how I’m to present the material to beginning writers. So appreciate the consideration!

      • Andrew Budek-Schmeisser August 16, 2018 at 9:56 am #

        Tisha, yes, absolutely! I am so honoured! 🙂

        • Tisha Martin August 16, 2018 at 10:14 am #

          Thanks, Andrew! I truly am grateful, and I’m sure a few others will be as well. You certainly speak for all of us in that poem. 🙂

    • Judith Robl August 16, 2018 at 11:56 am #

      Andrew, so glad you posted here. You’ve been much on my heart and in my prayers.

      I do love your sense of humor, your rapier wit (to coin a cliche).

      • Andrew Budek-Schmeisser August 16, 2018 at 12:01 pm #

        Judith, thank you so much. This morning I had to read Tamela’s essay, then lie down and rest a bit whilst forming a reply, and then type it when I had the energy. Things have been a bit rough.

        That you enjoyed it made my day, and makes the effort worthwhile.

  7. Ann Coker August 16, 2018 at 8:39 am #

    When I was managing editor at Good News magazine, the most important lesson I learned from my boss was to edit with the author in mind, to make the writing better but still with the voice of the author. That has served me well even when editing my boss’s work. The finished work is not to sound like the editor but the author.

  8. Barbara Ellin Fox August 16, 2018 at 9:13 am #

    Thank you for pointing out that editors have to go through committees. That tells me he or she really needs to be whole heartedly sold on my work to take on the battle.

    I submitted to you and you were very kind and amazingly fast. You requested a full. Your conclusion was the story should start in the heroine’s POV. That gave me the incentive to rewrite the beginning and give it a try. It didn’t work as well for me, but it went a great deal toward strengthening my hero’s goals and motivation, so that was a huge help. I wasn’t sure if I should get back to you after my effort, especially since it didn’t go the way I’d hoped, so I’m taking this opportunity to thank you for strengthening my ms.

    Rejections are not my favorite but they are wonderful when there’s a little nugget that helps me improve as a writer.

    Thanks, Tamela

    • Tamela Hancock Murray August 16, 2018 at 10:59 am #

      I’m so glad you let me know! And though I’m sorry the advice didn’t work out in the end, I’m thrilled my words helped you hone craft!

  9. Tisha Martin August 16, 2018 at 10:11 am #


    Thank you for knocking down some of the walls for us, showing us that editors are as much people as we are, and they will fight for us too if they especially believe in our story.

    Earlier in the year, I met with an editor from one of the publishing houses and we had a nice conversation and discovered we were both passionate about the same interests. This editor loved my pitch, but didn’t like the character’s age or the comp titles I had chosen. Taken aback just a little because I had worked so hard on every little piece, I inquired what made the difference. The simple answer: “Our readers, and those are not comps our house typically looks for.” And then I began to understand a little more about the whole submission process. Such a beautiful, fine line between writer’s craft and editor’s subjectivity.

    My question for you, Tamela, is, How can an author stay true to their story but aim to please?

    • Tamela Hancock Murray August 16, 2018 at 11:02 am #

      Think about and then outline your story. Look at other books that would attract the same audience. Would that audience read your book? Why or why not? Then you can change your story to find that audience, or keep the story and aim for a different audience. If you aim for a different audience, return to the same questions. That process should help you with the “comps” problem.

      I’m not saying this is an easy process, but I hope that is at least a start.

  10. Wendy L Macdonald August 16, 2018 at 11:34 am #

    Dear Tamela, my favorite take-away from this post is: “The editor is on your side. Always remember that.”
    Birthing a baby is painful. But our body and midwife are on our side and on the side of the baby. It’s worth it.
    Writing contests and critiques are the perfect prenatal classes for birthing books because we learn how to bear the pain of criticism and apply what works for the benefit of the manuscript.
    Blessings ~ Wendy Mac

  11. Sheri Dean Parmelee August 16, 2018 at 11:43 am #

    Tamela, thanks for the information. I am getting ready to talk to an editor for the first time today….in about 20 minutes, so your blog posting was very timely. Thanks!

  12. Lois Keffer August 16, 2018 at 11:53 am #

    This retired writer/editor/editorial director says “Bravo!” Thank you for that wonderful post, Tamela. Might I add two thoughts? Editors are generally giving folk who would love to help all their friends by reviewing their partial manuscripts, but we seldom work less than a 60 hour week. Add to that weekend promotional trips, conferences and writing our own works, and you’re looking at a draining lifestyle that includes lots of middle of the night hours. Please be careful before you ask an editor friend to glance at your work. It will be hard for her to take a quick sloppy look, as her life work is to give it her all. Finally, we LOVE writers who take time to polish, leave it a bit, then polish again before submitting your work. If you follow guidelines and do your work as unto the Lord, we’ll do everything we can to promote you, so be the writer who stands out!

    • Tisha Martin August 16, 2018 at 12:19 pm #

      Lois, you’re making this editor giggle with a familiar understanding. 🙂 You’re so right—we cannot “just read a manuscript” for a friend in a flash. I’m absolutely inspired by your comments and your love for writers. Truly, we are called to our craft. I hope to see you around more often!

      • Lois Keffer August 16, 2018 at 12:22 pm #

        Thanks, Tisha. What sweet comments from one of my own breed!

    • Tamela Hancock Murray August 16, 2018 at 2:39 pm #

      Thank you, Lois! I’m always grateful when another knowledgeable professional steps in to add excellent advice!

  13. claire o'sullivan August 16, 2018 at 1:50 pm #

    Hi Tamela,

    1. Not yet (i.e. no editor with a PH)

    2. Thanks a lot for the nail-biting advice

    3. I love you anyway.


  14. Loretta Eidson August 16, 2018 at 5:22 pm #

    Hmm, I’m not sure how many times my manuscript has been rejected, but I remain open to instructions, edits, and rewrites.

    • claire o'sullivan August 16, 2018 at 6:21 pm #

      I can relate.

      Being open to edits, rewrites, suggestions are always helpful, though sometimes painful to the point of a good wince ‘n groan (behind the computer screen, of course).

      Most of the books that are poorly edited or not edited at all are those that get poor reviews and land into the Did Not Finish (‘DNF’) bin. I would rather be edited with my moans, groans, wincing and inward whining than to read the reviews that say, ‘DNF.’

      I have seen this happen in all publishing venues, several times with big names (Christian and non-Christian) that blunders were not caught at all, and often with self-publishing (not always). Almost always with vanity publishers and I feel bad for those folks who spend thousands on that.

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