Thursday, September 03, 2009

But, But, What Happenes to Us Now?! (Or, the End of the Long Affair)

One of my beloved authors called me the other day. Her book is pubbing shortly.

"How are ya?" she asked.

"Good," I said. "So, is there anything I can help you with?"

"No, I was just calling to say hi, see how you are. We haven't talked in a long time; I wanted to see how everything's going with you." She paused. "So, this is weird, right? We talked everyday, sometimes several times a day, for months and months, and...what, it's over? Do you authors just go away after the copy edit's over? Do your lives just drift apart?"

Well, not exactly. Frequently I am involved in the publicity process (being the anal-retentive control freak micromanager that I am, I am often VERY involved, much more than my poor publicity department might wish me to be). But publicity plans are often meandering and inchoate--we try to book everything for when the book first hits, but (in a good situation) they wander on indefinitely, the author continuing to book gigs, sometimes reviews even popping up months or years after publication (the internet has changed that for us, and for the better of the book and reading public, I think).

But all this means that there is no concrete end to our author/editor relationship. In fact, what was a passionate, creative, perhaps at periods difficult or cantankerous but most certainly at points emotional affair basically piddles to a non-contact point without so much as a denouement (bad plot structure!!!). I have 1800 other projects coming up, so naturally I forget about you--not in a mean way--and in theory, you have a life to get back to. But how odd, when I think about you a couple months later, and you are no longer an active part of my life. How bittersweet.

Actually, I have a backlist of authors, even ones I don't work with anymore and can't imagine working with again--perhaps they only intended to write one book, or another company bought them for a lot of money, or I no longer publish what they write--but still miss. I send most of them holiday cards, if I have their current address, and keep track of the ones who have Facebook (you know how I am about Facebook). But it is still a sad and anticlimactic parting.

What about on your end? Any authors here want to comment on their relationships with their editors after the publication window is over? Do you keep the love alive, or does it drift away?

24 comments:

Charles Gramlich said...

I've always found the correspondence dries up somewhat, and that is to be expected, but at least in some cases I've continued to touch bases with them. I don't generally feel in need of constant contact so it's ok with me.

JES said...

I've worked with four editors, for three different publishers. Wouldn't mind hearing from any of them again, and not for mercenary reasons. As you said, the contract/publication process can get pretty, um, fractious at times. But they were all great people and I hope they're doing okay in The Present Climate.

(One of them I believe has retired, one was promoted to publisher, and a third I also worked with as co-author on a big non-dead-trees project.)

But the world moves on, and people (including me) don't continue to have the same vested interests in one another. I wonder all the time about old college professors and other mentors, wishing I'd at least kept in touch via occasional letter. But the next project comes up at work, or the WIP beckons, or vacation or family crises and celebrations or, hell, the current Netflix rental is suddenly there, and I turn the page again.

Brian F. said...

I'm going to assume, Moonrat, that you're already familiar with this:

http://www.nytimes.com/2005/10/23/books/review/23royte.html

Brian F. said...

Let me try that again.

I'm going to assume, Moonrat, that you're already familiar with this.

Gerb said...

I'm lucky to have worked with the same editor for six books. We have a great working relationship, but I don't expect her to keep up with me when we're not "on." There are long periods of time when we don't have much contact because there's no reason for it, and that's just fine.

I suspect when one of us moves on, though, there will be periods of withdrawal and the desire to keep that flame lit.

Caroline Starr Rose said...

This makes me think of the relationship created by an expectant mother and her OB. The baby's born and then--POOF!--that's that. It's sad, after months of contact.

Bruce Pollock said...

Alas, in my checkered 14 book career, most of my editors have either retired, changed houses, changed professions or gone into the witness protection program, well before my pub date. Some who once said fond things about my writing I've continued to hound as they worked their way up the ladder--one to the top of a major house--to little avail. Others the relationship became strained when they failed to immediately sign off on my next proposal.

Lots of things can go wrong. But there's nothing better than working with a great editor. Who else can you talk to about your WIP for hours on end without fear of them demanding equal time or extra pay?

And to Brian F's link--amen!

Anonymous said...

I'm in mass-market, so you really, really need two books a year out -- not always possible when working a day job, but that's the ideal. So you're in contact with your editor more, I think, than if you publish a book a year in hard cover.

The editor who acquired my first book was a dream -- I got along better with her than I did my agent, who I've since fired.

My old editor shepherded me through my first and second books. And then, after she bought my next two proposals, she was fired.

My new editor didn't "get" my writing, and we weren't friends. It was a totally different experience. I went from being able to e-mail my former editor about anything -- she was like the absolute BEST critique partner -- to not hearing a peep out of my new editor for months.

Usually what happened then was New Editor would call me with a horrifying amount of rewrites to be done in two weeks' time.

I worry still that I'm not a good writer -- that the only reason I was ever pubbed in the first place was that my old editor -- who got FIRED -- liked me.

But recently I found my old editor (who is now out of publishing completely) on FB. It was SO nice to hear from her again. She will be a friend for life.

I only hope that I can recreate that relationship with my new editor and/or a new agent. It helps, in such a solitary, self-doubting business, to have someone in the INDUSTRY -- not a CP, not a Beta reader, not even another pubbed author -- be passionate about your work.

Annette Lyon said...

It's a really odd feeling when a book's gone to press and it's "over" for the time being. My editor once even said, "It's been great working with you on this project" as if it was a farewell. I about flipped. "But . . . but . . ." I had an urge to run to her office and insist we go to lunch or something. But then the next project comes along, and things heat up again.

Unless you get assigned a new editor. And then the process starts all over again.

But yes, it's a weird phenomenon.

Lyn Miller-Lachmann said...

My editor (with an independent literary publisher) died before the my recent novel pubbed, and I miss him. I know we would have kept in touch as we did after my previous book came out. But the newest one was close to his heart and he worked very hard on it. In fact, knowing he was ill, he wanted to move the pub date forward, but I wasn't ready and talked him out of it.

Elle Parker said...

This is great post! I have wondered about that myself, now that my first book has been out a little while. I just adore my editor and I miss working with her. Happily, I'm working on a second book in the series, so I'll get to work with her again. It is sad if the working relationship was a good one, and I hope editors know that a lot of us authors do get attached.


Elle Parker

Christy Pinheiro, EA ABA said...

Ilove my editor-- even more so when she's really vicious. The more she tears apart my manuscript, the more I love her. But invariably she's always very nice and her comment bubbles say "maybe you should try this..." or "perhaps you should consider..."

We almost went to lunch this week. Almost. Ah, damn. I'm a shallow friend.

moonrat said...

oh Brian, so fantastic!

Ellen said...

Good relationships never die. They just move to Facebook.

moonrat said...

Ellen--AWESOME!! words to live by!!

Anonymous said...

I miss my editor! My agent is a gatekeeper and I don't feel comfortable reaching out directly to the editor -- who has changed houses since the pub of my last book, anyway -- with ideas about future work. I'm sure she is too busy, plus it seems weird to go over my agent's head with ideas not yet formalized. It feels like trying to connect with an ex-boyfriend ('can't we be friends?'), missing the attention, advice, excitement.

Sighhhhhh.....

Stuart Neville said...

I'm finding that things are going in cycles, partly because of the difference between pub dates in the UK and US.

Going back to last year, first all the contact was with my agent, then the editor who bought the book, then the editor who did the line edits, and that stage went on for a couple of months because she also coordinated my and the copy editor. Then things kind of went quiet, and I was writing book #2.

I started to panic a little when things stayed quiet alarmingly close to publication, so I kept bugging my publicists, who showed saintly patience with my whining. Then things went crazy during publication, with lots of contact with publicists and my own PR (I thoroughly recommend hiring your own local PR if you live far away from London or NYC), then things kind of settled down.

But things have picked up again for the US pub, with a fair bit of contact with the American publicist and marketing director, and I expect that to intensify.

But there's also more activitly with my agent because book #2 is done and we're polishing it up before it goes to editor #1 who was mentioned way back at the start of this essay, and the whole cycle will start again!

That was a great piece Brian linked to, btw.

Larissa said...

I don't have experience with this yet, but the exchange you wrote reminded me of how I felt about my OB after I had my kids. LOL.

Ebony McKenna. said...

After the revisions, my lovely editor at Egmont said she would be forwarding the manuscript to the copy editor for proofing, and must 'love me and leave me'.

I know she sees other authors. :-D

It does feel a little strange and isolating. We have developed a deep bond over this book. But when the intense part was over, we have gone weeks without an email - because there is no need for it.

We're now moving on to the second book so the emails will ramp up and we'll both work hard to create something even better than the first. It's intense at times, and then nothing. That's the nature of it. Flood and famine.

Maines said...

I'm a managing editor, so I don't have quite the same relationship with our authors, but there are a few with whom I work closely. One of those passed away recently; her editor called me immediately when she heard, because I was the only other person who would share her shock and sadness in the same way. You can tell your friends when a family member or friend (or even a pet) dies, and they understand and sympathize with your feelings, but when you say, "My author died," it's not quite the same.

moonrat said...

Maines--that's happened to me, too :( It's a real blow.

Anonymous said...

How funny that you say that you talked to your author every day, sometimes several times a day for months and months. My editor has been more hands off than hands on. We email on important stuff, but not really chatty in general - and I can count on one finger how many times we've talked on the phone.

I think when I first started the biz, this freaked me out a lot. Other people go on and on about how much they talk to their editors on the phone, and how much they love that and the support. Now that I know how my editor works, I'm perfectly happy with her less 'hands on' approach. It's when I thought ALL editors were like that is when it freaked me out. I thought perhaps there was something wrong with my book (or me), but it's just her style. We get along great, the process has been smooth as could be, but there's no pictures of kids exchanged or daily phone calls or what-have-you.

Are hands-off editors more common nowdays than hands-on? Or is it client by client?

Jm Diaz said...

In my professional life, I often found that those colleagues I work with the best, became more than just that. We became friends. Boss, co-worker, employee, it doesn't matter. Talent is talent..and rare at that. And though we may not speak, or even comment on each others Facebook pictures daily, we are still in essence, friends.

We could go to bar and have a drink, or meet up at Starbucks for coffee, catch up, and move one. No lost feelings. People always say "it's just business." But I do business with people, and some people, you can't help but like.

moonrat said...

Anon--I think it's pretty editor-by-editor as opposed to client-by-client. I, for one, require LOTS AND LOTS of correspondence. I'm a micromanager and a detail freak. (That said, most of my authors get along with that, and it works out awesomely.)

But my more reserved authors I'll sometimes fall into emailing patterns with instead of phone. Also, different time zones mean more email. But I'm SURE there's a spectrum in how "hands on" editors are, as well as how, um, prolix. I'm also sure I'm very far on one end of the spectrum--maybe I just attract authors on the same end.