What I imagine a book editor’s office looks like

(See also parts 12345, and 6 of this series)

The most important relationship you will have as you look to publish is the one with your press’ acquisitions editor. For both of my books with LSU Press, I’ve worked with Rand Dotson.  Rand is a good editor for several reasons, but two stand out to me. The first is that he has a history Ph.D., which means he understands the challenges of the book projects undertaken by historians. The second is that he is succinct and direct in his correspondence.

A second important editorial contact that you might have is with a book series editor. I’ve had the honor of having both LSU Press books published in the Southern Biography Series. Bertram Wyatt-Brown was the editor for Old Hickory’s Nephew; the main title, in fact, was his suggestion. Bert was also editor when my proposal for the Jackson biography was contracted, but he retired in 2009, succeeded by Andrew Burstein. Both Bert and Andy wrote helpful editorial reports that made the manuscripts stronger.

My advice for working with editors is simple:

  1. Heed their advice. They are experienced editors and/or senior scholars, and you ignore them at your peril.
  2. Treat them with respect. Editors are your advocates with the press board, and they want you to succeed. Missing deadlines without permission, ignoring their suggestions, and acting as if you know more than they do are surefire ways to sabotage what could (and should) be a productive relationship for you both.
  3. Communicate. If you encounters problems while writing a manuscript or during the production process, talk to your editor. S/he can intervene in problematic situations that ease your mind and can explain why you can’t emboss your book cover with 24-karat gold.

Part 8 is here.

2 thoughts on “The Evolution of a Book, Pt. 7: Working with Your Editor(s)

  1. I just sent my final MSS off to the University of Virginia Press (William Temple Hornaday: An American Crusader for Wildlife) and I found that one of the most difficult parts of the entire process was rounding up the illustrations. On the whole I wanted photographs that had not been published before. Tracking them down took time. Some were available only in jpeg, but not of sufficient quality. This, of course, was difficult for me to determine, especially when the “owners” did not know the dpi of the scan. Some of the electronic copies were “too small.” Again, I found that difficult to determine. Some organizations charge ridiculous fees, while others take forever to send them. My advice to authors is to keep your eyes open for illustrations during your research and get actual 8×10 copies when you can.

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