It is not that unusual in the world of publishing for a book to become what is called, “orphaned.” What is meant by this is that the original contracting editor stops working on the book before it is done. There can be many reasons. The original editor moves to another publishing house. The original editor retires from publishing. The original editor becomes ill. There is a massive shake-up in the original publishing house. There is an irreconcilable dispute between writer and editor. Even, it has happened, the original editor just gives up on the book for whatever private reasons.
My very first book, Things that Sometimes Happen (1970) had three editors. (Four if you count the revised reissue) The first (contracting) editor suddenly retired from publishing. The second—assigned editor—went off to a different publishing house. Then there was the third—I don’t think I ever even talked to her.
That said, a change of editors mid-stream, so to speak, is not necessarily a bad thing.
I have been in situations in which the change has been for the better.
Nonetheless, to shift from one editor to another can be a big jolt for the writer.
Sometimes the new editor has been assigned and does not have a particular affinity for the contracted book. Or the new editor sees the book in a new light, and requests big changes. I’ve been in situations in which the original editor says, “Done!” only to have the publisher say, “Wait a minute. We need to look at this anew. Here’s your new editor.”
Of course the reader will know nothing of this, nor need they. The hard truth is that the people—writer, editor, even publisher—do matter, but in ways the reader need not know. The reader wants a good book and whatever it takes to make it good is what everyone is trying to deliver. An orphaned book finds a parent in the satisfied reader.