Thursday, June 07, 2018

Do I really have to thank the editor who didn't do much?

The editor for my book was a not all that useful. She was late on editorial letters, haphazard in her comments, and as far as I can tell really didn't do that much.

I turned in the acknowledgements section of my book and said thank you to her, but my agent is saying it sounds too terse. Do I really have to say something nice about her?

There are ways to acknowledge effort without saying thank you if this is something you really want to do.

Thank the editor for acquiring the book, or if she inherited it when the original editor left, thank her for stepping up when the job needed doing. Acknowledge her contributions made the book better if you think they did, even in a small way. Acknowledge the time she spent on your book even if you didn't think it was enough.

It's never wrong to be generous in these matters. You don't know what was going on with her during the editing process. A terse thank you is better than silence (I've had a few of those) but a little butter on the toast is a good thing.


Carolynnwith2Ns said...

"...a little butter on the toast is a good thing."

From life experience let me say...add Skippy and maybe a little Welches. Without being a feast, just the right amount nourishes effort.

CynthiaMc said...

Always be kind. It costs little and returns much.

DeadSpiderEye said...

Be honest, hypocrisy is disgusting.

Colin Smith said...

Make much of what she did do, and turn a blind eye to what she didn't. Sounds like good advice to me.

Butter on toast is a given in the UK. Maybe that's why we're all such lovely people... 😆

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Yes COLIN, you are all lovely, humble and cheeky :)

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Gee COLIN I hope I used "cheeky" right. Maybe I was being cheeky.

Julie Weathers said...

You could always do what Derek Landy did in book four of his Skullduggery Pleasant series. Read down a bit to find it. The Skullduggery Pleasant books, by the way, are the first books I've ever bought based on dedications or acknowledgments. You'll want to read all the acknowledgments listed. They're awesome.

I've been acknowledged in four books. Even a short thank you is appreciated.

As Janet said, you don't know what was going on in the editor's life at the time, but a thank you now may make a difference later. Besides, it's just good manners. It's kind of like me buying cards for my mother for her birthday, Mother's Day etc. It takes a while to find something she will like and will uplift her without me having to lie about how I feel.

nightsmusic said...

While you may be irritated that she did so little, it costs nothing but a few minutes of your time to be kind. You never know, she could be your editor on another book. Like my gran always said, don't cut off your nose to spite your face.

E.M. Goldsmith said...

I now want buttered toast but do not think that was the intent of this post.

As someome already said. Being kind costs nothing and yields much. More bees with honey and all that jazz.

Dena Pawling said...

Like Janet, I vote for finding something you can say honestly. Maybe even make it a little humorous, if that won't sound odd with the other acknowledgments you've written. Something you can say even if she really did absolutely nothing, like “thank you for ensuring this book was published” or “not killing me during the process” or “keeping me on my toes” or “not calling the police when I got a little nutso” or “allowing me to retain my artistic vision.”

Congrats on your book being published! One day I hope to write an acknowledgment section too =)

Jen said...

Agree with the majority of posters and with Janet, and would add that being gracious is NOT the same as hypocrisy.

Either your editor had good intentions, in which case a brief but kind "thank you" would probably do her heart good and endear her to think favorably of you as a class act, OR your editor just didn't care, in which case that same "thank you" will also show you as a class act. Either way, being generous and humble will only help you here.

I'll add to the other posted axioms my mother's favorite: Don't burn bridges. You never know when you might have to go back across.

Good luck, OP. I know you'll make the right decision. :)

Lisa Bodenheim said...

Agreed. Find a way to be gracious and honest. A book is a printed, public, and permanent document!

Congrats on your upcoming release!

Craig F said...

I must be confused yet again this morning. I can't tell if this is a bought and paid for editor or an editor for the publishing house.

If you hire an editor, you thank them by paying the bill. If it is an editor employed by a publishing house, I would just thank the house itself.

Brenda said...

Was there nothing at all to be learned from her?

JEN Garrett said...

It's a bit of an art to be honest but kind. Take Janet's advice - find something to be grateful for. Don't inflate an editor's contribution, of course, but thanking her specifically for what she HAS done is a good idea. If you can't, someone else suggested in these comments to thank the publishing house generally rather than the editor specifically.

Adele said...

Hmmm. A writing exercise. This could be fun. A couple of samples to get you going:

"I don't know where I'd be without the efforts and assistance of my editor Mr. Notsogood...", or perhaps
"A special shout-out to my editor, Ms. Notsogood, who did everything she could to make this novel a success."

You don't have to feel that your acknowledgements are a lie, but there are always things you can say. Find something the editor did right, and focus on that. Did the editor take your call, even once? Were any of the instructions you did receive clear? Is the editor a snappy dresser? Efficient in some way?

You may not have been happy with the editor, but it's possible many others are. There's always the chance that your attitude will change later, but that acknowledgement is written down forever and can't be erased if you regret it.

Theresa said...

I also thought about the whole "don't burn bridges" thing.

Writing a thank you doesn't have to be hypocritical, especially if it's done the way Janet suggested. And if you think you really need to say something about the editor's performance, do it verbally. No paper trail. Really, think twice about burning a bridge.

John Davis Frain said...

If you don't have anything nice to say, come sit by me.

Dorothy Parker probably said that first. My grandma said it about six hundred times. What I wouldn't give to sit on her back porch and tell her a story. I would have NEVER known anything bad touched her life. I learned things later, of course.

Your acknowledgements page is permanent. And it will reflect on you as much as it reflects on her.

Regardless all that, congratulations on getting to put together an acknowledgements page. Wow.

Adele said...

Julie Weathers - Card-writing is a special art. A friend of mine had a toxic mother and a dysfunctional family in which everyone felt obliged to pretend they were happy, happy, happy. One year my friend searched through hundreds of Mother's Day cards before finding one that didn't make her feel hypocritical. The message? - "Dear Mother, know that through all my life, no matter where I go or what I do, I will always feel the same about you as I do now", nicely intertwined with roses. Subtext is subjective, so they each got what they wanted.

Julie Weathers said...


I don't hate my mother. She's a product of her upbringing. When I get irked at her, I remember the little girl who was terrified of the dark, but her mother would lock her in a small closet for days anyway and sometimes remember to feed her.

I just can't pick up those sappy cards that say, "Dear Mother, Thank you for teaching me how to be a loving mother like you. When I think about my happy childhood..."

Yeah, let's go with a nice Bible verse.

Back on track to the OP, congratulations on getting a book published. What a thrill this must be. Your acknowledgments are such a small part of the journey. Don't let it ruin the joy.

Barbara Etlin said...

You could thank the publishing company or the editorial department generally. Probably at least one person there was helpful.

People in publishing more around a lot. You might find yourself dealing with the same editor at another publisher later.

Acknowledgements are permanent and easily searchable. I find when I Google myself, my name in the acks page of my author friends always shows up. It reminds me that someone appreciated that I helped them once and it makes me smile. Be kind and give this gift to the nice people who helped you in your publishing journey.

Barbara Etlin said...

*move* not *more*

One Of Us Has To Go said...

Me: "What is 'hafazard'?"
Boyfriend: "Pardon?"
Me: "Hafazard!" *shouting-ish*

Boyfriend puzzled: "Can you give me the context?"

*Me impatient*
"She was late on editorial letters, hafazard in her comments."

"Eh?" Boyfriend even more confused. "Spell it?"

*Me almost annoyed, sigh, sigh, rolling eyes, stupid Boyfriend??*

Me: "Man, I just look it up then!"

*Search, search online dictionary*

Me: "It means 'random'!"
Boyfriend (maybe rolling eyes himself, who knows): "Well if you'd told me, haphazard. HAP-HAZARD!!!"

Oops, sorry Boyfriend. And thank you, OP, the best way to learn AND REMEMBER new words is by CONTEXT 😉!

Julie Weathers said...

Totally off topic, but if any of you were thinking of the Surrey International Writer's Conference sooner is better than later. Registration opened at noon yesterday and three spots left in full conference.

Melanie Sue Bowles said...

After writing the acknowledgments for my fist book and submitting them to my editor, I was grateful for the guidance she offered to do a bit of a rewrite. She suggested the inclusion of several people, behind the scenes, who made my book better. I was unaware of the extent of their hard work.

BJ Muntain said...

Julie, I was registered for Surrey the first half hour registration was open. In other words, I'm going this year! Yay! It's for sure!

MA Hudson said...

Your book will be read by hundreds, if not thousands, of people. If they see a terse acknowledgement, it's you that they'll think badly of, not the editor. Take Janet's advise and find something you can thank the editor for without selling your soul, and make a note-to-self to never work with that editor again. Hopefully your book will be such a runaway success that you'll be able to hand pick the editor for your next book. Fingers crossed.

Julie Weathers said...


I am so thrilled for the good news. The full packages are already sold out now. I debated, but Rain Crow will be done and I can probably use the battery charge before starting the query gauntlet.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Hey how about an acknowledgement contest regarding our projects either finished in thought or actual deed. Um...
I'm packing my bags for Carkoon right now. Leaving the kale and lima beans at home.

MA Hudson said...


Julie Weathers said...


Un, yeah, my acknowledgments will be rather boring and lengthy.

AJ Blythe said...

On topic has all been said, so off topic...Whaaa? Butter on toast/bread is not a thing in the US? How do you stop your bread from going soggy?

DeadSpiderEye said...

What's the one stereotype associated with writers that really bites, is it the procrastinating jotter struggling with writer's block? Nah that's just not realistic. It's not the one concerning the writer stoic in their determination to get published in the face of constant rejection either, that's just too close to everyone's personal reality. No I'll tell you what it is it's the hack, the writer who sold their soul, dumped their integrity in the waste bin as they prostituted themselves for a check at the end of the month, that's the one that really churns the stomach. I wonder, how did all those hopeful, idealistic young writers get waylaid. What could be the first step on the road towards terminal cynicism? Could it possibly be the dismal platitudes they ejaculated in praise of non-entities?

Today -- if integrity were traded on the stock market, it wouldn't fetch the price of a sack of dried peas, so I wouldn't blame anyone for taking the easy option, but if your integrity is important to you, you're going to stand up for the truth. So does that mean amid your genuine acknowledgements you include an aside like, 'Oh yeah my by the way, the editor Ms. XXXXXX was a bum'? I would say not but neither does it mean equivocating, 'No thanks could possibly do justice to my editor's contribution'. It just means staying silent, don't waste praise on the useless, cos one day someone is really going to help you out and your praise will mean nothing, it'll just be more hollow words.

Julie Weathers said...


Here's the rub. The author says, "as far as I can tell she didn't do that much". However, she doesn't actually know what the editor was doing. The editor might have been fighting to leave some things in the writer's voice other people wanted changed. The author doesn't really know.

It doesn't hurt to put a simple acknowledgment in there while still maintaining her integrity. If the editor had ruined her book, that would be a different thing.