That towering pile of paper

I’ll just give you a little insight into a day in the life of an editor. As I’ve already mentioned, I’m pretty swamped right now. I’ve got more than my normal load of books coming in, so I’m doing my best to make sure that everything stays on the tight schedule we’ve got them on, and that each author has enough time to look over changes and have time for revisions, get manuscripts to the copyeditor on time, turned over to typesetting, etc.
But sometimes in that frenetic pace you need to take a break. I’m also drowning in paper here at Chez Stacy, and it was time to answer especially the most languishing of languishness in my submissions pile.
But what to do when my brain is slightly fried, and I don’t feel like you can concentrate on a whole novel? After all, the reason I needed a little break in the first place was because I was working on a novel under contract already. I need something a little shorter, a break in the pace.
So I went to the partials, rather than the requested manuscripts. Sample chapters are always going to be answered a little faster, because they can be taken in small chunks, and sending out five or six responses in a couple hours feels like I’ve accomplished something. The requested manuscripts need more time and contemplation, obviously–for one, they’re larger, and for another, they’re usually, percentage-wise, better written.
Another thing about slowness of response on submissions: Sometimes, it’s the just-on-the-cusp work that languishes the longest. Not always, but usually. Sometimes the best work will languish because the editor wants to find a place for it and doesn’t want to say yes until she gets approval, but can’t bear to say no because then she’d have to let it go. But usually, for me, at least, it’s the work that’s pretty good, but I’m on the fence about, that stays around the longest because those are the submissions I want to give encouragement to. It’s those writers that I know that perhaps this submission isn’t quite there, but with this and that tweaked perhaps their next work might make it. That kind of response takes thought and time, which of course is always in short supply when you’ve got several contracted books in various stages of the editorial process demanding your attention, with several other books in various stages of writing whose authors need questions answered or whose marketing information is coming due or for which the map orders or cover art or cover copy needs to be concepted/written.
That part about coordinating authors is actually a part of an editor’s work that’s specific to writing for a series, which might be of interest. In our shared worlds, like Dragonlance: The New Adventures, or worlds that bring in coauthors due to the release schedule (Tiffany Trent’s Hallowmere has five coauthors interspersed among the later books; each coauthor will be writing from a different girl’s perspective, which allows us to bring in different authorial voices at the same time as different character voices)–in these worlds, a chunk of my job involves coordinating between authors for continuity.
So in City of Fortune, Ree Soesbee features a character who shows up in a later book of the Trinistyr Trilogy, and authors Dan Willis and Ree Soesbee both needed to know where Rina the elf was at particular times so that we didn’t have her showing up in both places at once. That doesn’t happen as much with the Hallowmere series because books 4-9 are happening mostly simultaneously, but the authors do need to know how the magic works, whether this can happen here or they should do that, and part of my job is making sure that the series bible is up to date and making sure that authors writing about the same character at different times know the backstory they need to know, know
what the other author is doing, etc.

So that gives you a little better idea of one short day in the life of an editor, and the thinking that goes into getting through submissions one one short day. On another day, the thinking might be, “Wow, I have a whole leisurely day ahead of me to read an entire requested manuscript!” but generally requested manuscripts are read on our own time, late at night or on weekends. So if your manuscript has been requested, patience is indeed a virtue. It probably means that editor wants to make sure to give it the time it deserves.