Tactical Tuesday: Advice for Self-Editing

So an author has signed a contract for his work with a publisher and thus begins the editing process of the book he holds most dear. The author is excited to get the edits and to begin making the changes. Then…oh, no…the editor can’t really want to take that out of the author’s story. Wait a minute, the author has a reason for not including that information at that very moment. Really? The editor thinks this scenario can’t happen in real life? Why, the author was abducted by aliens just last week.

Yes, the editing process does begin. There’s a lot of give and take in edits. The author gives and the editor takes out. Okay. I’m only kidding, and I’m exaggerating above, but just a bit. Editors do sometimes ask authors to make tough decisions about their prose.

If that’s the case, how does an author approach an editor about suggested changes? First of all, I want to point out that editors are not infallible, but neither are writers. Also, editors aren’t changing an author’s prose simply because they can. Editors work hard to provide the author with a finished product he can take pride in. If the author gives a valid reason, most editors will cave.

For that reason, an author should look unemotionally and objectively at the edit and explain why he wants to leave it as is (STET), or why he feels there might be an alternate edit. After an author takes an unbiased look at the suggested change, and he feels that he has a very good reason for leaving it alone or making a change, he should then approach the editor.

Nicola Martinez, Pelican Book Group’s Editor-in-Chief says, “An author should always be professional and respectful, and when communicating via e-mail, err on the side of being almost ‘too nice’ in tone even when explaining a reason for disagreement.”

Open communication is the key, and, as noted above, sometimes the author may find that his reasoning is met with agreement. On other occasions, the answer will be no. At that time, an author will need to decide his next course of action, but that action should be taken with care and attention to the contract he entered into with the publisher. Again, Ms. Martinez says, “But remaining respectful and professional is the key because getting a reputation for having a bad attitude, being rude, or difficult to work with, or backing out of deals, can have lasting ramifications.” She also pointed out that the publishing world is small. Editors move from publishing house to publishing house, and an author may be quite surprised when he runs into an editor he once treated without respect.

*I feel it is very important to note that this post was not written to address any actions by any of Pelican Book Groups wonderful authors. The post is for informational purposes only.*

Happy editing.


  1. Thanks for this excellent post, Fay! You practice what you preach! :) I was so blessed to have you as my editor.


    Pelican Book Group Author

  2. Great advice Fay. Thank you.

    Blessings from
    Paulette L. Harris

  3. Beautifully put! And you would know, since you work from both sides of the fence! Thanks for sharing your unique perspective.

    Btw, have you ever been asked to remove something in one of your books that you SO didn't want to?


  4. Susan: Yes, but I wasn't contracted at the time. It was a requested revision and the invitation to resubmit. I decided not to resubmit. However, had I been under contract, I would have followed the advice given by Nicola Martinez for this blog, and in the end, if the answer had been "no," I can assure you that I would have honored the contract and my preference would be forgotten.

  5. MaryAnn: I love working with you as well.