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On editors

Some of you who follow publishing news might have heard recently that legendary book editor Bob Loomis is retiring from Random House after 54 years. He has worked with a laundry list of amazing authors, including Maya Angelou, William Styron, Calvin Trillin, to name a few. Peter Osnos, another longtime publishing executive and founder of PublicAffairs Books, weighs in on book editors and their changing roles in a recent issue of The Atlantic.

An amazing fact he highlights is that Loomis had National Book Award winners for both fiction (Pete Dexter’s Paris Trout) and nonfiction (Neil Sheehan’s A Bright Shining Lie) in the same year, 1988. That is a remarkable achievement.

The story he shares about Loomis bringing Sheehan’s book to publication is one of those great old school publishing stories. I love the visual of two large paper bags full of manuscript drafts of the award-winning book that took 16 years to finish. I have an author who has had 4 editors in less than 5 years, just to give you an example of a pretty common story in today’s market and how different it is from Loomis and Sheehan’s experience with that book.

Overall, the piece sends a positive message about editors in publishing, and suggests even thought the business has changed dramatically, there are still a lot of dedicated, talented editors out there doing what they do best, editing books and helping authors navigate the winding road of publishing a book.

The message is that all of you writers out there should keep on writing, because there are editors on this end who want to edit your books (and agents who want to represent them)!

2 Responses to On editors

  1. Stephen says:

    John Green had a very funny ode to the importance of his editor at http://www.johngreenbooks.com. Worth a watch for a laugh.

  2. Catherine Whitney says:

    Working with editors has almost always been an inspiring, humbling and gratifying experience. When an editor chooses my book, it is because he or she believes in it and cares about its success. In my experience, the collaboration between editor and author produces a better book that I could have produced on my own. I am grateful to have the input of seasoned, passionate book people. Editors, much like agents, are often the unsung heroes of publishing. They don’t make a fortune, and they’re in it for love. That love shines down on the lucky author. Can you tell that I’m a fan?

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