During the intense six weeks of The NYU Summer Publishing Institute (SPI), we’ve listened to many speakers, panel discussions and attended countless workshops, but we’ve never sat in on a conversation between an editor and her author. Not until the great Amy Einhorn, Publisher and Vice President of Amy Einhorn Books, and Lyndsay Faye, author of The Gods of Gotham, appeared together on one of the final days of SPI to enlighten us about the unique symbiosis between an author and an editor.
“It’s a team effort. What I say to my authors is: ‘These are all suggestions’,” said Einhorn to illustrate the collaborative, not imperative, way to propose changes to an author. And some authors may be amazed with how much freedom they have: “Authors who are also journalists are often surprised [when going through the book editing process] at how much autonomy they have; they are used to far heavier editing,” revealed Einhorn.
Faye agreed and praised the subtle work of book editors whose job is to gently help authors improve their work and provide moral support during the sometimes long, and rarely easy, path to the shelves. In fact, when asked about self publishing, Faye noted the importance of the editing process in improving a literary work. “I have nothing against self-publishing… if you can find your audience on your own [without the help of a mainstream publisher], it’s bloody fantastic! Still, you have to have a stone cold eye about your own work. You need outside feedback. It can work without it, but you need to be extremely focused,” she summarized.
Even if authors have great control over their manuscripts, a good editor is one who is committed and engaged: “When publishing, you’re getting married, not dating. It’s a long, interactive relationship for years and years,” said Einhorn.
As SPI draws to a close, we have come to realize that this statement describes not just the relationship between an author and editor, but among the members of the entire publishing team. This has been emphasized repeatedly throughout SPI because publishing at its very heart is a team business. While making books may begin with a solitary author like Faye, the combined efforts of dozens leads to a successful final project that reaches and engages an audience.
Collaboration was a buzzword as well in our final SPI projects. By working on intensive group projects, meeting with human resources directors to revamp our resumes, attending Book Expo America, networking with alumni, visiting bookstores, magazine and book publishing companies, and meeting with the 250 (!) publishing professionals who came to share their expertise with us, the 116 of us truly learned that publishing is about content just as much as it is about the people who work to create, perfect, and distribute content. As we finish the program and reflect on all that we have learned, it is with great enthusiasm that we look forward to a stable marriage with this industry we love so much.
by Laura Sangrà Herrero