I’ve always been a big believer in the power of breakthrough ideas and stories to change the world in a big way. Over the past two decades, I’ve had the good fortune to work with a vast array of journalists, scholars, business leaders, health experts, novelists, media figures, and policy makers: former Vice President Al Gore analyzing environmental change; brain and movement expert Anat Baniel writing about vitality; fashion icon Marc Ecko defining authenticity; TV commentator Chuck Todd explaining presidential leadership, to name just a few. What draws me to these great thinkers and powerful writers is the originality of the seminal idea. But getting to the point where that great idea shines through takes time and focus. This is where high-level editing and idea development comes in.
My job—my joy—is to help your terrific idea become concrete and alive. To help your editorial vision evolve. I love helping writers figure out what exactly it is they want to write about—what they should be writing about. Sometimes this means a whole rethink of an original idea or argument; other times it’s all about honing your writing until it’s crisp, sharp, and clear. Sometimes it means getting a handle on how to express that idea in terms of voice, genre, and format. Without editorial clarity, even the best ideas can get lost and deserving essays, stories, and books don’t see the light of day. This is why I now offer many distinct editorial services, from idea-refinement consultations and manuscript critiques to book proposal development, developmental editing, and agenting.
A New Publishing Landscape
Traditionally, the best way to disseminate your great idea was to find a literary agent, who would then sell your book to a publisher. It often still works this way. But we’ve reached the tipping point where often self-publishing can be a more effective route to getting your breakthrough ideas out into the world. Sure, big advances are great and big-name publishers sometimes have the edge when it comes to getting your book into the hands of major media venues—but lately many traditional publishers have been dropping the ball in overall distribution (i.e. battles with Amazon, the demise of Borders) and finding the smaller, more committed audiences hungry for your perspective. This is one reason traditional publishers have come to rely so heavily on sure-bet authors with big media platforms, causing the traditional industry to contract greatly. The reality is that some of the amazing books I edited at Dutton two decades ago or sold to Random House or Penguin a decade ago wouldn’t be published by these publishers today.
I’ve always acquired books or taken on clients because I’ve thought that certain books simply needed to be available to readers, and now with so many cool self-publishing services and freelance marketing folks around we can get these important books out into the world without depending on these traditional publishers. But while self-publishing has radically changed the game—and I think we’ll end up going so much farther with it—remember: you still have to get the idea right. You need a clear editorial vision focused solely on the idea and the power of your writing. Whether you want to release a novel or an important health or business book, you need to truly develop your work. In other words, you need an editor.