In my Newsletters, I’ve discussed at length the question of whether or not mainstream publishers edit. A former Random House editor-in-chief, Dan Menaker, in the Daily Beast lists four book he considers “under-appreciated” books that he edited. They are Zoli by Colum McCann, Serpent Girl by Matthew Carnahan, Blood Kin by Ceridwen Dovey, and Safelight by Shannon Burke. I’ve not read any of these works so I can’t comment on content, but his admission once again illustrates that publishers do in fact edit. The issue is when, meaning at what point in a book’s “curve” does this occur. My contention is that a previously unpublished writer expecting an executive at a Big 5 publishing house to edit her or his material is about prevalent as a hound dog sniffing out a skunk.
Not that the editing wouldn’t occur, it’s getting this unedited material in front of the Big 5 publisher in the first place that’s the issue. Writers must accept that before a draft reaches its “final” form, publishers will change things, and the author will likely be asked to revise text, as well, and often a lot of it. But a manuscript needs to be in the best shape possible to get it to an agent to have it reach that point. And it’s likely the agent will make revision suggestions, or with the author’s permission do some of the revising personally. Constant revising is a part of the writing process, and anyone not accepting this will be sledding up the mountain.
For any writer who’s distraught at reading this, I’ll ask how routinely has this author revised material after being 100-percent certain the draft was in its best possible shape? That should give all of us a hearty chuckle. All good writers I know are never satisfied with their material, and this is especially true of the best authors—both past and present.