A few years ago, this blog would have been a no-brainer.
The few-years-ago editor might have helped to shape your book, offering an objective, educated opinion as to why the orthodox Jewish dragon wasn’t moving the plot forward, why the 300,000 word sex scene might be overtaxing the average ten-year-old, whether an entire novel narrated by a diseased kidney was a good idea.
Of course no editor is infallible, but the few-years-ago editor might really have helped to shape your limping ragged butt-ugly duckling of a manuscript into a beautiful swan.
Nowadays, the job of the editor is to suggest that you travel to Gabon on a pogo stick and write a comic memoir featuring the sexual encounters you have on the road. (Hands up if your editor has never suggested a book you might like to write.)
So my question would be, how many of these editorially-inspired books actually end up successful? Successful, as in big sellers or award winners or brilliant reads?
One in a gazillion? Fewer?
My guess is that they mainly provide cannon fodder for publishers, and a sense that the editorial staff is in control of the creative process.
But you see, they’re not, really.
Real writers write about the strange off-centre stuff that piques their strange off-centre little brains. That’s what occasionally produces a really really fantastic/successful/memorable/popular book. Not someone on the editorial floor thinking “Hang on… Ponies. And hair brushing! That’ll make us all fabulously rich!” (OK, I grant you. Once in a blue moon, it works. But 99% of the time, it’s a colossal waste of everyone’s time and talent.)
All you hard-working editors out there searching for the prequel to the Old Testament that’ll leave Jeffrey Archer’s sales in the dust — please feel free to correct me.
P.s. having said that, one or two of my editors are good old fashioned geniuses.