My Irish Editor Almost Changed the Message of My Book
It would have become bad advice
A few months back, I just finished writing and compiling my first book. Then I engaged an editor for the book. And it went fine until she gave a suggestion. That suggestion could have sent the book in a different direction entirely. The idea of the book was that people don’t get rich by working hard (rather, they work hard to stay rich). In trying to simplify what I described as the process of getting rich, she called it “fake it till you make it” in an attempt to make it clearer. That shocked me.
- In defense of my editor
- The saving grace process
- The itchy suggestion
- The remedy
- Lesson learned
In Defense of My Editor
She lives in Ireland with her family. We had never met physically before. But we previously worked together in a publication. She edited my work several times and working with her was a pleasure.
We both moved on from the publication, but we remained connected on LinkedIn. And she didn’t have much competition in my mind when I needed an editor. This reinforces the business lesson which says:
People do business with who they know. You have to be in the world of your client before they need you
Anyway, we got back in touch and she was pleased with the opportunity to edit my book. So we negotiated and the work began. I didn’t take a passive role in the editing process. We both agreed on a process that eventually saved the core message of the book.
She was the best person I could ask for at this point to edit my book. Her primary concern was making the book easier to understand. And I appreciated that.
The Saving Grace Process
The usual method of editing would be to give your book to the editor. The editor will completely edit the book. And then you will be given the final copy of the manuscript. But we did it differently.
We were both used to a method that was the norm in the publication we worked for. And that entails using Google Docs. First, Google Docs made it smooth and easy for multiple people to work on one document.
Our process of editing was that I had to approve every single edit she made
That was double work for me, but I didn’t mind. The quality of my book was more important to me. I didn’t pay for the editing and just expect a final copy. I was approving the edits one after the other.
There are times where I would not agree with the edit, and my opinion will stand because I am the author. In some of those cases, she makes a compelling point to explain her position and we would eventually agree to a compromise. She was looking at the language, word choice, and clarity of communication.
The Itchy Suggestion
Sometimes as a writer, you think you have done a fantastic job expressing your thoughts clearly. But when another person picks up your work to read it, their interpretation can be very off.
In one of the early chapters of the book, I tried to explain what to do instead of working for money. And it is not so easy to explain. It is as hard as trying to describe the color red to someone who has only seen colors white and black.
Their frame keeps drawing them back into what they do understand instead of creating the new picture the book is trying to paint. This made my editor suggest that a better explanation of what that part of the book meant is “fake it till you make it”.
Interestingly, I addressed that notion in the latter part of the book. But I didn’t know it would be a thing so early. This is a serious concern to me because someone might come to the same conclusion when they get to that part of the book and never read the rest of it.
The first thing I had to do was to rephrase the explanation. This is because if my editor came to that conclusion herself, it means it is a conclusion that anybody reading that part of the book will likely come to.
And sure I don’t want my editor thinking she is helping to produce a book that encourages people to fake it to make it. So I had to explain what I meant and asked her to look at the new way I rephrased that part.
But I am grateful for her input and suggestion. If not, I wouldn’t have known that what I meant as a piece of good advice can be interpreted another way.
Did the remedy work? As far as I know, it did. I haven’t gotten feedback from someone who read the book to say that it was bad advice. In fact, the reviews the book has gotten on Amazon thus far has been fantastic.
Simpler words and clearer sentences are not always the answer. Yes, it is an editor’s job to help you achieve this. However, a simpler sentence that more people can relate to can completely change the meaning of that part of your book.
A small change like that can dent the core message of the book. This is why the author should be engaged in the editing process.
Most authors just wait for the final copy of the manuscript to review it. But there is something about working through the editing process with the editor. If it is going to be your name on the cover of the book when it is released, you have to make sure that you can be proud of the content.
Be involved in the editing of your book. Listen to your editor. But always know that you have the last word. Your opinion is what stands in the end.
What was it I was trying to explain that my editor misinterpreted as “fake it till you make it”? Well, you will have to find out from the book yourself.