Rejection and the Perfect Editor
Writer and former editor, Ruth Harris, recently provided an entertaining post about the many reasons why a publisher may reject a manuscript. One example was intriguing—writers who submit an unpolished draft. They’re convinced that someone in the publishing house will fall in love with their story idea and commandeer the in-house editors to work their magic.
Yes, it can happen, once in a blue moon. We’ve all heard tales of under-developed manuscripts that became bestsellers because someone in a publishing house took a chance. But most of those stories are old.
As Harris remarks, ‘The days of Maxwell Perkins are long gone.’ Perkins, a legendary U.S. editor at Scribners during the first half of the 20th century, created a stable of now famous writers, e.g. Erskine Caldwell, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, and Ring Lardner. He was notable for his detailed work to improve his writers’ material. He convinced Thomas Wolfe to remove 90,000 words from Look Homeward, Angel, which became Wolfe’s best-selling novel. Wolfe described Perkins as ‘the greatest editor [of] this generation.’
We’d all love to have a Mr Perkins, assiduous in improving and promoting our material. But Harris points out that few publishing companies still provide such support.
So as a writer, it’s up to you to present your best work. One way to do so is to get your manuscript professionally edited before sending it out. If you can find a great independent editor to provide the help you need, you will be taking an important step towards achieving your writing goals.
My ideal editor would—
- have a good professional record
- understand my chosen genre/area, its conventions and trends
- be business-like and supportive
- provide useful feedback that encourages rather than annihilates
- be on my wavelength in terms of values, personality, and sense of humor.