Sunday, March 10, 2013


Every editorial letter I’ve ever gotten is what I call “the compliment sandwich.” What’s a compliment sandwich, you ask? 

Here, let me show you

In editorial terms, it goes a little something like this: 

Dear Author, 

We are off to a great start (note the use of the word “start” and not “you nailed it”)! 

Followed immediately by: 8, or 10, or 12 soul-crushing pages that detail everything you need to change in your manuscript, ranging from plot, to individual character and relationship development, to timing, to scene cutting, to itemized line edits. Basically a page-by-page outline of why your book sucked. 

All of this is rounded out by a friendly and cheerful: Go you! We know you can do it, and can’t wait to see your next draft!!! 

Your Editorial Team 

I both anticipate and fear that moment when I open my editorial letter. I love the feedback, really I do. Seriously, I look forward to the revision process! But the first time I read through the letter, I’m convinced my editor just finished up a three day crack pipe bender. 

But instead of immediately calling her out on it, I have a “process” I have to go through first. I start by taking a full day to let everything sink in. I mull over her points and, more importantly, give my bruised ego some time to heal. 

After that, I go back through the letter and start checking off the concepts that have merit, which at first are few and far between—you know, the crack pipe and all. But after a while, I start to consider that maybe, just maybe, she might be more right than I first believed, and I start conceding more and more points to her, until, in the end, I am sending her a thank-you note along with my shiny, newly revised manuscript. I even start to believe she may have been drug-free when she wrote the letter in the first place. I know, right??? 

Writing is such a collaborative effort. But it’s also not for the faint-hearted. You have to be willing to swallow your pride and accept the fact that you’re not always right, and that others can see things when you aren’t able to. 

But it doesn’t change the fact that a compliment sandwich, while eventually delicious, is hard to swallow when you first get it.


Mardel said...

Great post. It just reinforces my respect of authors in general. that you are all willing to pour your soul into writing, take critiscm that would break me, and still put out books. It's an amazing process in my eyes. And even when I don't like an author's work, I'm still respecting the fact that they did it. They worked and produced a story with all the things that go into a story - dialog (good or bad, I have a pet peeve with poor dialog but at least it happens, right?), details, world building.... it's all amazing to me.

So much respect for you and other authors' efforts and willingness to listen when they need to and to still end up with a book. And thanks for the chuckles (re: crack pipe benders, haha)

Kimberly Derting said...

Thanks Mardel. And reading, like anything else, is so subjective. Not only did that author love their story, but so did their agent, their editor, and probably a slew of others at their publishing house.

Melanie Stanford said...

I loved this post. While I don't have an editor yet, I get that same feeling after getting it back from a beta reader or crit partner. I need a day to get over that overwhelming feeling of suckitude and then I can get to work making the manuscript better.