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August 28, 2017
By Betty Kelly Sargent
Editor Betty Kelly Sargent answers writing questions submitted by readers. This month, she explores the author-editor relationship.

Dear Editor:
What should I do when I disagree with my editor? It seems to be happening more and more.

The primary job of an editor is to bring out the best in the manuscript she is working on: to make it read like the best of your work, not hers. If you feel that your editor is not respecting your voice, doesn’t really understand your subject matter, or is just plain wrong, then tell her.

Many editors are not as talented as Maxwell Perkins, and even he probably made suggestions his authors refused to accept. Good editors are sensitive to authors’ language, voice, and goals. If you don’t feel that your editor has these qualities, then move on if you can. But, if the choice isn’t yours because you’ve been assigned an editor by your publisher, I’d follow this three-step formula: think about what she is suggesting for a day or two and allow for the possibility that her change may improve the manuscript; discuss it with her and listen carefully to her reasoning; if you still disagree and she refuses to honor your request, then move on—find a new editor yourself if you are working on your own, or ask for your publisher’s advice.

Try to remember that what she is offering is not intended as personal criticism but as professional insight into what could make your manuscript stronger. Whether you decide to take it or leave it should be entirely up to you. Your name will be on the cover of your book, not hers.

Betty Kelly Sargent is the founder and CEO of BookWorks.

If you have a question for the editor, please email Betty Sargent.