Clarification is lightness

Image: Unsplash

Dear Reader,

It’s been a while since we’ve written an Ask the Editor letter. So often, the editorial team, much like every other colleague, is constantly consumed by various day-to-day tasks—whether it’s poring over a manuscript thinking over the most constructive thing to say to an author or sifting through our ever-growing submissions pile (yes, we read every submission, this is why, like Sisyphus, we are always trudging up a hill lol). But I’m thankful for these attunement letters, these moments to slow down and ponder questions about editorial process. It clarifies the ‘why’ and ‘how’ in what we do, and sometimes this act of clarification is lightness, a way to lighten the load of the everyday. 

What's an important thing you look out for in every story that comes your way? — Isaac @chongyyyyyyy

Personally, a gripping and compelling voice. I know this is so subjective, and most consumption of literature is that way anyway. What I find compelling may not be so for another reader. And this is why I’m not the only one making the decision to publish books at Ethos! That being said, I think a lot of what I look out for as an editor in this particular press is aligned with the publishing mission and values of Ethos—is it a fresh take on a perspective that we haven’t really seen before? Is the narrator compelling enough to persuade most of us to follow along? Is this a point of view that is underrepresented in the mainstream media? These are just some of the many questions we reflect on during our manuscript evaluations with the team. What we value as a press can be so different from another independent press, and if you’re thinking of submitting your work to a publisher, I’d encourage you to get to know a press’ publishing mission and consider how your work may complement and enrich their catalogue.

How do editors draw boundaries between showing their own voice vs the writer's voice? — Lily @ketchupchipz

I think the only way to test this is through collaboration. Most of the time, authors are receptive to editorial direction and feedback, but they do have a choice to decline an editorial direction if they don’t align with it, or if they feel that it doesn’t fit with what they want to convey in their work. In these cases, it is always resolved with respectful, constructive negotiation and maybe sometimes letting my own expectations or assumptions of a work take the backseat. Understanding that we are both working towards the same goal—a publication that we are happy with—helps to clarify the way forward.

Do writers ever send multiple versions of parts that they can't decide between and want your opinion on? And would you rather have these different options on hand? — Sylvia @aivly.s

I’ve not really received multiple versions of different parts of a manuscript, but I have worked with authors on multiple versions of drafts, often with very different endings, plot and character developments and stylistic evolutions. I don’t necessarily think it’s useful to be presented with different options of how a book or story can go (unless it’s a choose-your-own adventure story I suppose). I think it’s more useful to work with an author to clarify what the core essence of the work is, why it exists, what its purpose is. I think the most interesting transformations happen in the developmental editing process when both author and editor are receptive to possibility while being grounded by the central crux of the work. 


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