You send your manuscript to your editor. You may get a rejection letter—I’ve had my share over the years—but, even when your work is accepted, you will get “an editorial letter.” These editorial letters lay out the things the writer needs to do to move forward. I have even had such letters explicitly say “If you agree with this, we can go forward and publish this book. If not …..”
Over the years I have worked with many editors, so (no choice) I might even be called an expert on editorial letters. That said, in all my years of publishing—and many books—only once did the accepting editor tell me he was sending my book (S.O.R. Losers) right to copy-editing. I objected, feeling there was work to do.
An editorial letter will lay out the editor’s views as to what needs to be done to the book to make it publishable. I know of one editor (a very successful one) who, none the less, elicits from one of that editor’s writer’s “The scream.” See adjacent image. (Edvard Munch scream)
On the other hand I have in hand an editorial letter sent to me (some time ago) which is four pages (single spaced) of commentary, which was insightful, clear, useful, and put to valuable use. It made me want to go back to the book and revise, and I did so, successfully.
Let it be quickly said, one writer’s editor’s painful editorial style is another writer’s lucid critique. Unless you are writing the same kind of book over and over again, a given editor may not even be the right match for every book you write.
People and editors may differ about this, but I think the role of the editor is to help the writer create the kind of book the writer is trying to write. Problems occur-I think–when the editor tries to bend the writer to the book the editor wants written. Indeed, the editor needs to be clear. The writer needs to be responsive.
Still, as it not often acknowledged enough, the writer-editorial connection is a deeply collaborative process. One of my favorite (and productive) parts of the publishing process are the discussions I have with a smart editor. It almost inevitably leads to a better, richer book.
Sometimes, it’s not necessary to do everything the editorial letter suggests. By working on section A, it just might make section B better, more logical, etc. On the other hand, when working on section C, it can shift things so, you wish to, need to, change sections, D, E and F, going far beyond what that editorial letter suggested.
If all of this advocates that the submission and acceptance of a book, is only part of the process, I have made my point. That editorial letter can be a road map to a good book. Think of it as a buddy movie. Travel well.