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The Danger of Editorial Comments

I recently rejected a work via email and got this in response:

I can’t blame you. Since I sent you the proposal, I fired the anal-retentive editor who I hired to help me write it and in the process sucked every bit of my personality out of it to make it a “best seller,” as he claimed. I have rewritten it in a completely different voice. I don’t suppose you want to give it another trial, but if you do, let me know. If not, thanks for reading the first version. It was dry and boring, and I apologize for putting you through it. At times, even a seasoned businessman gets blindsided by the promise of fame.

What a great response and something we can all learn from. Editorial comments (whether from a hired editor, agents, your own editor, or a critique group) are wonderful, but we all need to follow our own voice and our own hearts first. The comments aren’t going to do anyone any good if they suck the life out of the book.

BTW—I didn’t ask to see the book a second time, but I do suspect I’ll see it on Publisher’s Lunch very soon.


Category: Blog



  1. I’ve been blessed with several mentor-type Blog Buddies who’ve saved me with similar advice. The important thing seems to be taking the time to learn self-editing and developing confidence in the ability to tell one’s own story.

  2. That’s one of the problems, especially starting out. We all know we need a little bit of tweaking, but we’re not sure who’s tweak-worthy.

    5 Ways To Know You Should Ignore Your Editor
    5 Their comment’s alway’s seem to have problems’ with apos’trophes.
    4 Constant questions about why you’re not writing “something with that Harry Potter kid.”
    3 Their suggested big “plot twist” involves robots.
    2 Her latest plot suggestion sounds a lot like last week’s “General Hospital” storyline.
    1 He keeps asking you how well you know Oprah.

  3. IMO, he should have followed his instincts to begin with. If it sounded dry and he didn’t like what his editor did, why send it to an agent that way? It just as easily could have been the advice of a critique partner, or his mom. I think it’s important that as professionals, we should recognize the merit of our own work and not leave it up to others to decide how best to present it in a query letter. That’s our job. And our responsibility.

  4. The same can be said for trying to please several critiquers pulling you in every direction. Pick the tips that work best for you and don’t lose your way.

  5. Definitely good to keep your eye (and ear) on the original heart beat of any creative project when working with any kind of editor or reader’s feedback. A sure way to kill something is to just go and make the suggested changes as if they are Gospel. It’s even better if you can identify the problem that the editor is having and solve it in a way that keeps you true to the original spirit of the thing. As you can tell, I’ve killed a few living pieces in my time. It’s a terrible feeling.

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