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About Writing Right: The Blog


I ran across this question on a forum the other day. Will a book editor comment on a good book when he sees one? I wasn't surprised at the large number of misleading and outright wrong responses the author received. Here's what I know about the subject.

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If, by the phrase "book editor," you mean a conventional book publisher's acquisitions editor to whom you submit your book for publication and not someone you hire to clean it up, the answer is far more simple than your other respondents indicate. Those respondents include the person with a self-published eBook on Amazon and another who, in forty years, has never heard of an editor saying a story is good. The truth to your question is obvious.


Of course he will! That's what a book editor's job is—to find and publish quality, marketable books. Remember?


Now, you didn't ask about a book editor providing a detailed criticism or offering an unpaid assessment or any of the other ridiculous things to which some respondents replied. The reality is that, if a book is any good and fits an editor's list, he or she will tell you so and offer a contract. Even if it's not something upon which he can make an offer (wrong genre, wrong subject, bad timing, not a large enough potential audience), if he's an intelligent and thoughtful editor, he'll let you know you're on the right track.


After my half-century of conventionally publishing more than ninety books from preschool to adult fiction and nonfiction in virtually every genre imaginable, I have received numerous such comments. So has my agent. Usually, it's something along these lines:


"Thanks for taking the time to share your work with me. I found it extraordinarily well written, with a moving storyline, believable dialogue, and strong characterization. Unfortunately, it's not a genre that we are presently acquiring, so I'm going to have to pass on it, much to my regret. You shouldn't have difficulty finding someone else to whom this genre appeals, though. Penguin Random House comes to mind. So good luck, and feel free to query me with any of your other projects."


Yes, I've received more than one message just like this—many more, in fact. And, as a book acquisitions editor and even a magazine and newspaper editor myself, I wrote similar responses to writers when appropriate. Any of the respondents who stated otherwise didn't understand your question, didn't bother to try to understand your question, or don't know a damned thing about conventional book publishing and the acquisitions process.


Now, with that said, will all acquisitions editors let you know if you have a good story (that is, a well-crafted theme or subject)? No. Some won't take the time; some won't deviate from the norm of summarily issuing pre-printed rejection slips; some won't recognize the inherent goodness of the story. And, of course, no editor will waste time responding to a sub-par or poor-quality submission.


Most seasoned professional editors, though, recognize the fact that, if you're a good writer, you should be told so in the event that your next book is something right up the editor's alley, and he would love to publish it. It's common sense—unlike some of the responses you've received here!


People who can't read or understand a question or who aren't qualified to answer it definitely should sip their morning coffee quietly and move on to some other past-time. Like watching Tom and Jerry reruns on TV. Such people are certainly not qualified to guide others in their search for truth, justice, and the American way.


With all apologies to Superman.


Smoke if you've got 'em.

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D. J. Herda is author of the new ebook series of writing advice, About Writing Right, available at Amazon and at fine booksellers everywhere. You can check out his weekly column, "The Author-Ethicist," at Substack.com.

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