Publishing Institute Post # 3: Of Tea and Editors

28 Jul

Tsunami Tea

Imagine miles of tea! Stacks of cups everywhere! Every type of tasty tea you could possibly imagine! The water of which is like a tsunami of delicious warm beverage barraging your senses with soothing thoughts and boundless comfort!

If the above sentence made you shudder with excitement chances are you love tea… or have a certain proclivity toward exclamation marks. (I won’t judge.)

If it’s the former, you’re probably a tea enthusiast and that’s okay. Tea, as I’ve learned, is a wonderful drink that can be enjoyed by people of all ages. Why, ask my friend Lauren. She likes tea…

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Scratch that… my friend Lauren LOVES tea. Before I met her in person she introduced herself on the DPI Facebook group. She fit right in with the rest of us, detailing her love of social dancing, Doctor Who, and all things English on our massive “Get To Know Us” post.

Seriously, I think the whole thing, comments and all, is over 50,000 words.

We had our first major conversation over lunch one day, and I can tell you it won’t be one I forget anytime soon. In the brief period of exchanged words I learned that she seemed to have the delicious brew understood from the inside out  And she could tell you about it too! From where it comes from, to what goes with which. From the types of food best eaten, to why it even exists. So deep is her passion that, when she’s not working to become a publisher, she’s co-managing her own tea business. If you have time I suggest checking it out here and here.

So why all the praise? Well, if I must be honest, without her I wouldn’t have a post. Not today, heck not even for a while.

See, I don’t drink a lot of tea. I know less about tea than my ten year old cousin (he thinks Instant Coffee/Tea is the best *shudders*). To me, the brew was not much more than tasty hot leaf juice, but that’s like saying Cake is just surgary bread. Much to my enjoyment Lauren taught me that tea was so much more than that, and since then I’ve been enamored with the stuff to an almost unhealthy extent.

At the same time, I’ve learned a lot about Editors in the publishing profession. Unlike the Freelance Editors I described in an earlier post, these are the people who are employed by a Publishing House. If/When your manuscript is approved, these are the people with whom you’ll deal with until you have the finished project.

Now when I say deal with I don’t mean it as a “these are the threshold guardians threatening your chance for fame and fortune.” Instead I’m referring to them in the sense that they exist to help bring your manuscript to it’s fullest potential. In a sense they are become not only your teacher, but also your partner, and student, for you both have much to gain from interacting.

You may be wondering why I refer to your Editor as “they” rather than “he” or “she.” Well the thing is, like many people, before I came to DPI, I thought there was only one person who does the job. .After several editing workshops I discovered this is not the case; inf fact, like tea, they come in all of flavors. On a rudimentary level they all perform the same job, but what exactly they do is different depending on the department. Daunting as it sounds, if your manuscript is good chances are you’ll only need three with which to work.

So, in an effort to shamelessly show off my new found tea knowledge, and help you all get to understand these editing types. I put together the following list.


1) The Aquisition Editor – Green Tea

At the front line of the Publishing world, it is the Acquisition’s Editor’s job to make sure anything that gets accepted is worth publishing in the first place. In a sense these editors are the jack of all trades, for they have to think of the manuscript as a whole. This will be made clearer with the other two types of editors.

The reason I liken them to Green Tea is because of their diplomacy. In countries around the world, Green Tea is used both for energizing and relaxation the drinker. It does not contain as much caffeine as black tea, which is why it’s often used for nerves, but if you’re calm and need a pick me up then this is your drink.

What does this have to do with editing? Well, the Acquisitions Editor doesn’t just work with the author but also answers to the various sects of the Publishing House. As such, a good Acquisitions Editor must be visceral in both demeanor and energy. They know how to put their time to good use and are capable of changing to suit both the author and market. All the while they manage to keep to their principles, for flexibility is inherent in who they are.

Also because the ones I’ve met seem to like sugar. (Edit: Don’t drink your Green Tea with sugar. Honey tastes a bajillion times better.)

2) The Line Editor – Black Tea

One of the newer types of Editors, the Line Editor is tasked to seek out anything problematic in the manuscript. These are the people who will likely tell you when a plot device falls flat, or when a character is unneeded. They’re the ones who look at your story like it was a puzzle, and all the while they make sure the pieces fit the right way.

In some senses, Line Editors are the ones who will get the most out of your story. Like you, they invest their creativity and taste into the manuscript so it can be told in the most appropriate manner. This, however, makes them heavily opinionated and even a bit pushy. Sometimes they’ll suggest making drastic cuts to your story, and sometimes may ask you to rewrite entire arcs.

Harsh as that may sound, if you can convince them the flaw has a purpose (not fully explained, or necessary to a theme, etc.) then they may be willing to work it out. It is for this reason I liken them to Black Tea, a beverage known to be high in flavor and caffeine. No matter how good you are, a Line Editor will make you think, make you work, and will do so while coaching your every word. While you can add milk to the mix, and soften a line editor’s mood, the fact remains that the tea is black and your manuscript may need work.

3) Copy Editors – Oolong Tea


Strong, Oolong Tea does not go well with sugar. It is not softened with milk, and is a very specific type of tea with a very specific type of stigma. Unlike the other two, which are made with leaves, Oolong comes from specific herbs. Yes the flavor may vary, but ultimately Oolong tea is Oolong tea, and enjoying it means taking it as it is.

The Copy Editor is a lot like that. For them, they don’t have the luxury of being flexible or diplomatic. They don’t have the honor of speaking to the author and asking if certain changes are alright. What exactly do they do? Why, the answer is simple: They proofread.

See, while the Line Editor handles ideas and the Acquistions Editor talks the talk, the Copy Editor has a specific playbook by which their job is done. Armed with countless dictionaries and reference materials, theses are the people who make sure you dot the i’s, cross the t’s, and hope to whatever God they worship that you use the Oxford comma.

I could speak more about this brew of Editor, but I think i’ll save it for the next post.


So that’s the Editing Profession in a nutshell. Believe it or not some places have more than 6 types of editors, all of whom are either offshoots or freelancers. However, all of them will always answer to these three, for they are the backbone of the creative side of your manuscript.

That being said, I hope this was as informative to you as it was for me. Should you wish to go into editing as a profession I recommend picking up the following books:

  • The Chicago Manual of Style: ALWAYS get the latest volume of this one. All manuscripts in America are judged by the Chicago Style, so knowing this will be half the battle.
  • Editors on Editing (Gerald C. Gross) : Self explanatory, but it serves as a fantastic book on the insights of publishing. Do no miss this one, lest you feel going into the profession blind is a good idea.
  • The Elements of Style (William Strunk and E.B. White): A classic guide to writing style. Usually referred to in the publishing world as Strunk and White.
  • An Excellent College Level Dictionary: No that isn’t the title, I mean actually go get a good dictionary. Try to find one that is a 1,500+ paged hardcover. If it comes with an etymology even better. However, no Editor would be caught dead without a handy dictionary.

And with that you are on your way. Remember, education is an important tool. For those who work with books this fact remains truer than ever, especially with the advent of E-books and Self Publishing sites. It never hurts to glean more from your desired path, and if you learn to enjoy something new in the process then so be it.

That being said, it’s time for me to put down the laptop and pick up that hot cup of tea beside me. This one’s for you Lauren.


Until next time.


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One response to “Publishing Institute Post # 3: Of Tea and Editors

  1. mvjoyb

    August 5, 2013 at 4:41 am


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