[Podcast] Book Coach Lisa Tener on How to Navigate Feedback from Editors

3 honing the writing craft 4 publishing your writing May 27, 2024

All you see is red. A bloodied marked-up manuscript.  You’ve finished writing your manuscript and were excited to share your book with the rest of the world. But after your book editor’s feedback, you’re shocked.

Oh no, you think. What do I do? I thought I was done! I’m overwhelmed.

Navigating feedback from book editors is daunting. What’s the difference between constructive feedback and bullying? How do you determine which feedback to implement and which to ignore? Where do you even start?

Lisa Tener, author of Breathe. Write. Breathe., worked with three different book editors throughout her writing journey. And she knows a thing or two about how to navigate feedback from editors.

Her number one tip when working with a book editor? Choose an editor who’s ruthless but not a bully.

Tough Love. Not A Bully.

A book editor is a bridge: connecting you with a publisher or agent. Book editors are responsible for improving your manuscript—making it both readable and marketable. Depending on their role—there are different types of editors, from developmental to line to copy—a book editor will help you with the structure, organization, pacing, and voice of your manuscript.

As their job entails, a book editor should be ruthless. You want your manuscript to be in tip-top shape, right? But there’s a fine line between ruthless editor and bully.

“The best editors will build you up before giving you the bad news,” Lisa says. A book editor will tell you what they loved about your manuscript, and their feedback will be constructive. Not unnecessarily cruel.

If your book editor constantly knocks you down or belittles your writing, they’re not a good editor. And navigating their “feedback” isn’t worth your time.

Remember: The best editors want to bring out the best of you. They will provide honest feedback in order to improve your manuscript, but they will do it in a supportive way. Another way a book editor will help you improve your manuscript is by determining your writing strengths.

What Are Your Writing Strengths?

A book editor’s job transcends grammatical corrections. Book editors recognize that each writer has potential. They want to help you find your potential and then hone it.

When Lisa hired her first book editor, she was in the early developmental stage of her manuscript: developing her main idea, finding her voice, identifying her major themes. To help Lisa progress on her manuscript, her editor did two things:

  1. Helped Lisa find her writing strengths; and
  2. Provided feedback that allowed Lisa to develop those strengths further.

The editor’s constructive feedback did two things for Lisa: 1) it boosted her confidence in her writing, and 2) it provided insights into what made her writing unique and engaging. “It wasn’t about making big changes,” Lisa says. “But rather finding what I was good at.”

Your book editor should provide an unbiased assessment of your writing. Part of this assessment is determining your writing strengths and then teaching you how to leverage those strengths to your advantage. Another part of the assessment is identifying areas where you need improvement.

How to Navigate Feedback from Editors

All book manuscripts must undergo major edits. Including those written by the best authors of our time. Editing is a natural part of the book writing journey. But that doesn’t make receiving feedback any easier—and trying to navigate the feedback is an even harder task to accomplish.

Upon completion of her first draft, Lisa sent her manuscript to a second editor. Lisa expected numerous edits. But, when she received her manuscript back, she was shocked by how numerous those edits were.  “I had to grieve a little before taking in all of her edits,” Lisa admits.

Lisa’s second editor recommended major cuts: cutting personal stories that Lisa felt attached to but didn’t move her idea along, removing entire chapters. It took Lisa four months to read through her editor’s feedback.

Here’s how Lisa navigated feedback from her editor, and how you can, too:

Take an Objective View. The best way to review an editor’s feedback, according to Lisa, is to put yourself in the editor’s shoes.

Your editor should be knowledgeable in both your genre and the market you’re writing for. As such, their feedback is a direct reflection of what they’ve seen across the market.

Remember: An editor’s job is to make your manuscript both readable and marketable. Their feedback is not only an unbiased assessment of your work, but it’s also based on your editor’s hard-earned expertise.

Relax Before You Read. To navigate feedback from editors, Lisa recommends entering a relaxed state of mind.

When you’re relaxed, your mind is free from stress or tension. This allows you to approach feedback with a clear and open mindset. And it enables you to focus solely on the content of your editor’s feedback without being overwhelmed by defensiveness or self-doubt.

Relaxation also enhances your ability to discern the value of feedback. Instead of reacting impulsively or defensively to constructive criticism, you can calmly evaluate each suggestion and determine its merits. Discernment can help you differentiate between constructive criticism that can improve your work and feedback that may not align with your vision as a writer.

Once Lisa had overcome the shock of her editor’s comments, she realized that she agreed with most recommendations. Some of her stories were rambling and didn’t get across her point well enough. The chapters her editor wanted to remove didn’t contribute to the book’s structure and organization. Reading through her manuscript with an open mindset allowed Lisa to discern the merits of her editor’s suggestions and implement those changes where she saw fit.

To learn more on how to navigate feedback from editors, listen to the podcast episode. Lisa shares a few book editor red flags, and additional tips for navigating feedback from beta readers.



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