A few weeks ago, my oldest son Gabriel left us for his junior college year abroad in Athens, Greece. It was a bigger transition than sending him to college in Wisconsin. Yes, we can fly to Athens if absolutely necessary, but he isn’t looking for that, and the flight is long and expensive. So this represents the first time he’s really on his own beyond a day’s travel. We are thrilled for him. But for us, it is more difficult that we expected. It’s another way parents need to let go, and so far he’s doing well and we aren’t looking over his shoulder but enjoying the occasional Skype or text.
Whether it is birthing pains or kids leaving the nest, transitions can leave many of us feeling fragile and anxious. This is also true of many authors when it’s time to submit their manuscripts.
Unless you’ve written one, it’s hard to understand the mental energy required to write a book to trade publishing standards against a deadline. Writing is original, one sentence at a time thinking, and that requires the mind’s most energy-intense work over months and years.
Authors need to navigate handing over the manuscript to the publisher without getting caught up in negative feelings or fears that can make it hard to think clearly.
None of this is to say you shouldn’t advocate for your views and concerns–or even take action if a publisher is damaging the book. But I’ve seen how important it is for authors to distinguish between their free-floating transition anxiety, and a genuine need to advocate for themselves.
For authors, while your editor and marketing team have loved your proposal, now you are entering a new relationship. Your editor has sole responsibility for turning your pages into a quality finished product, one that lives up to the excitement generated by the proposal. Most editors are already passionately connected to your manuscript and want to implement ideas that arose from their reading and acquisition of the book. Their role isn’t to copyedit or proof your manuscript; production does that. Their role is to collaborate with you.
Sometimes the editor may ask for some structural changes, or want sections rewritten or heavily edited. Except in very rare cases, however, they won’t push for heavy restructuring.
Keys to coping:
- Remember that it is a great opportunity to work with an experienced editor who wants to help make your book as appealing as possible for a global audience.
- The editor’s recommendations aren’t cast in marble. They’re open to discussion and your perspective.
- Most authors are understandably too close to their books to see them objectively. The editor “speaks” for the readers who pick up your book for the first time. Ask your agent or a trusted advisor about editorial changes you may find objectionable.
In other words, keep your cool. Once your book is published, it goes out into the world and in many ways, is not yours anymore. It belongs to the reader. When you hand in your book to your editor- it’s a first step in letting go.