I recently had a friend of mine ask me to edit his manuscript. Although I know him well enough I’m not sure what genre he likes to write. Being both a librarian and an author I do like to read. But, like every other human being I have types of books I like and others that just aren’t for me. As an author I do try to branch out and read things outside of my comfort zone. (Westerns, romance novels, mainstream fiction.) But I’d rather dislike something that’s about to be adapted into a movie than be the first person to read a good but rough manuscript and say it was “Eh.”
Editors are like you and I. They have specific genres they like to read and they do a better job at editing books they’re geared to like than to tell you to completely change your manuscript to better suit their needs. It would be like me saying “Yeah, the plot’s good but all the kissing junk is really distracting from the main flow of the book.”
“Helen. It’s a romance novel.”
I once had a friend write a children’s book about a unicorn and turn it into her editor. Chiefly this author friend wrote westerns, and chiefly her editor who had worked with her for many years read westerns. “I don’t like it.” The editor declared.
“I just don’t!”
“…I just don’t like unicorns, okay!”
The editor, who had been reading and enjoying this authors western novels for years upon years simply didn’t like children’s books, especially children’s books about unicorns, and as a result, my author friend never pushed to have her children’s book published. It’s not the end of the world, but if my author friend were to find another editor who liked children’s books, particularly ones about unicorns, that editor might have said something like “This story has good bones but we need a different illustrator.” Or “The language is too lofty. Please remember most of your audience is under five.” Or “What if instead of Sparkle Mountain we call it Sprinkle Mountain? That way the chocolate river makes sense. Because the mountains in this story are actually made of ice cream, right?”
An editor can make or break a book. They’re the first line of defense from not only type-os but also obscure blunders like “Yeah, that law in Canada changed back in 2012 so here’s an updated statute of limitations. I only spent an hour trying to find that. No biggie.” Or worse. They keep you from breaking your own laws like “You said your vampires couldn’t go out in the sunlight. Yet Damaris gets overly excited when he meets Michelle’s dog and he runs outside without his umbrella. Yet, he comes back to the porch unscathed… Hurt him.” Editors are hugely important. But not every editor is going to like your book just like not every reader is going to like your book once it hits the market. You have to find one that’s going to see your manuscript for the diamond in the rough that it is and then help you polish it until it sparkles.