Friday, June 12, 2009

Molly Evans and the Author-Editor Relationship

Petit Fours and Hot Tamales wants to welcome the delightful Molly Evans to our blog. For those of you who don't know Molly, here's a brief look into her life.

Molly Evans has worked as a nurse for 26 years. (And yes, she started when she was 10!) Having worked as a travel nurse for over eight of those years, she has a multitude of experiences from across the United States that she can use for inspiration when she writes medical romance for Harlequin Mills & Boon. Her current release, The Greek Doctor's Proposal, is out in July and is available through the website:
Click on medicals on the left and you'll find it.

Molly is active in her local chapter in New Mexico and will be attending the RWA conference in Washington, DC, so stop at the literacy table and say hi.

The Author-Editor Relationship
Molly Evans

Relationships, and the search for them, are what we write about, isn't it? What I'd like to talk about today is another sort of relationship; the kind we have with our editors.

You may lament that you don't have an editor yet, you don't have a project sitting on an editor's desk waiting for edits, but I'm going to go on anyway. This is a topic that I wish I had known about before I was at the end of my unpublished career. Maybe the information was out there, but I didn't know enough to even look for it.

The relationship I'm talking about is one that can get your career off to a great start and guide you through the process that occurs after you have a manuscript accepted for publication.

I give a talk at my chapter called, Ruthless Revisions. In that talk, I tell the story of how I began the published side of my career, but I'll abbreviate it here. When I received the email from an editor at Harlequin Mills &Boon, she requested revisions, which I attempted to make and sent it back to her. She responded that some of the revisions were good, some weren't, and there still needed to be more work done on the story before she could make an offer. This back and forth request-and-submit went on for several painful weeks. There was pain and frustration (on both sides), because I just couldn't make sense of what she was asking me to do. Eventually, I got it and submitted the final revisions to her.

The end result was that I cut approximately 75 pages of a 200 page manuscript and rewrote it. I am eternally grateful to my editor for sticking through this process with me. Her energy and excitement about the story, once it was finished to her satisfaction, gave me such confidence, that I wanted to run right out and write another book for her. Which I did.

My editor is a gem. She took the time to coach me through a very painful, confusing, and emotionally difficult process. The beginning of my writing career was totally in her hands. Thankfully, she saw something in my writing that she could work with, and wanted to cultivate.

The other part of this relationship was that I listened to what she said in phone conversations and in the emails. Part of me, the ego part, wanted to disagree and argue with some of the changes that she was asking for, because I thought it took the story in a direction I hadn't intended. But another part of me that knows this is a business and that understands that I don't know everything, listened to what she said and did it.

If an editor finds an author whose voice and writing style she likes, but the author won't make changes or is too difficult to work with, the editor may pass on the project and the author. This is especially true with beginning authors who don't understand that editors play an active role in the final product that is your manuscript. An editor is setting up what can be a long-term relationship with the author, and she truly wants someone she can work well with. Your job as the author is to reciprocate.

Your editor will help you create the best book you can, and is your partner in your projects, not just simply someone who picks on your grammar and spelling.

Warning: harsh, but honest, words coming here. If you are more interested in satisfying your ego than you are interested in getting published, then you may need to look outside the publishing industry to satisfy your desires. This business is difficult enough for everyone in it without making your professional relationships harder than they have to be. Put your ego aside and write the best book that you can. Your relationship with your editor will blossom because of it.

Each publisher, each line within each publishing house, each editor, has a set of very specific guidelines and/or ideas about what they want in a story. (There are some publishers that know what they like when they see it, and they don't have specific guidelines, so your best bet is to read, read, read what they publish.). If your writing is close to that ideal, then the process is much easier to accomplish, and you are likely nearer to getting published.

What the editor is doing when she asks for revisions is trying to bring your story closer to that ideal of what they publish and what they have promised to the reader. If you don't or won't make those changes, then the editor will likely pass on your work, no matter how hard you've worked on it.

So, put your ego aside and get those revisions done. This is a relationship that can potentially last a long time, and you want it to be good and to cultivate it. I belong to an online group of authors who are all published and many have been for years. Even the authors who have 75 books published still get revisions from their editors. Each story is different and each editor has differing requirements, so each manuscript is looked at individually. As the market changes, so do the requirements for each new book.

Because you get revision requests does not mean your writing is inadequate or is bad. This is not personal. It means that there are things in the story that need to be fixed, simple as that. Think of your manuscript as one long memo that requires some fine-tuning before it can go to press.

I wish I had understood the editor-author relationship prior to heading in to it. I value the input of my editor, and I know that she knows what's best for the story and what HER boss will and won't accept. There are many layers to your relationship with your editor.

Each manuscript I've submitted since the first has required revisions. I attribute some of that to me being new to writing for the line of medical romances, some of it is the line itself, which is very specialized.

My current release is out in July and it's a story near and dear to my heart. The Greek Doctor's Proposal was inspired by a patient that I took care of many years ago. Of course I changed many, many things about her story, but caring for her was what inspired this story, which I think has become one of my best books. As you move forward in your writing career, each project should be better than the last, right?

I'll randomly select someone who responds to the blog and send them an autographed copy of The Greek Doctor's Proposal, so leave some comments and ask some questions!

Enjoy the writing process, but when the writing is done, put your emotions aside and revise like an editor.


Sandy Elzie said...

Good Morning Molly,

What you've said is true, very true. I recently sold my first and I enjoy a great relationship with my editor, Chelsea Gilmore at Avalon Books. Yes, she asked for a few changes on that book and on the 2nd one that she said they will be making an offer on in the near future. As to the changes, I thought a couple were....questionable, but she knows that side of the business better than I do, so I rewrote...and they are publishing. Hummm, sounds like a win-win situation. :o)

How long did it take you to publish after you started writing?

Do you only write for one publisher?


Marilyn Baron said...

Thank you for blogging with us today. The information you provided was invaluable and your honesty about the business is refreshing. The author-editor relationship you describe is similar to the relationship I have with my corporate clients in the PR field. When they make changes in my copy I may not always agree but it's a give and take process. They are in the position to understand what's best for their business and we're all after the same goal, producing a better product to meet the objective. Thank you again. I can't wait to read your new book.

Marilyn Baron

Debbie Kaufman said...

Morning Molly!
I got over the "sacred words" thing by creating an edits file where I can move my deleted material in case I ever find a need for it. So far, I haven't needed any of them :)

Susan May said...

Thanks for being with us today. Great words of wisdom. I've written a medical that I plan to send to Mills & Boon before I head to Washington. I'm published in nonfiction about my son who had a heart transplant. You can count on me to stop by and buy a book in Washington.

CiCi Barnes said...

Wow. Thanks, Molly, for giving us the inside info on relationships with editors. This article is a keeper. We appreciate you being with us today and are truly grateful that you shared your expertise with us.

Thanks for stopping by.


Molly Evans said...

Thanks for being the first to comment! Sounds like you're well on your way if you only had a few changes and you're about to have your second book contracted. Congratulations.
At this point I write for Mills & Boon, but I write under another name (sexy stuff) for an e-pub. I'm working on getting into another line at Harlequin in North America. I want to see my books on the shelves here.
I believe it took me about ten years to be published after I seriously began writing. I dabbled in several areas of writing because I read everything. It took a while for me to focus on one area and really learn how to write THAT particular style of book. Then I became published with two years of that.

Molly Evans said...

You are so right about the give and take aspect of the editor-author relationship. I guess with any relationship that applies.
If, as an author, you feel very strongly about a change the editor is suggesting, then you need to talk to your editor about it and about WHY that part of the story is essential (not just important). Perhaps you simply need to go into more depth regarding that point and the editor will see the value in your vision. They are open to negotiation, especially if you feel very strongly about a certain area.

Anna Steffl said...

Thanks for your invaluable advice!

I read that one of my favorite big-name literary authors had to rewrite his entire novel because the editor wanted it in a different POV. That really blew me away, finding out that it happens to the biggest of the big boys, too.

Molly Evans said...

nice to your face after talking with you on email so many time! ;)
I used to keep the same "sacred word" file when I first started revising (i.e. whacking the crap out of my manuscripts) but you are SO right. I haven't needed ANY of those passages because what I learned was that what I rewrote was so my better and more emotional than the first that I didn't need it. What I did learn from the original part though, was where I needed to get to because this part wasn't taken far enough.

Molly Evans said...

sounds like you've got some first hand experience to draw from to write medicals! That's always a bonus. You have an inside scoop to the behind the scenes aspect of medicine.
Hope your son's transplant went well and he's going great. I'll send good vibes for your story.
I'll also hope to see you somewhere at National.

Molly Evans said...

thanks for dropping by. Glad you found the information helpful. It's definitely something I wish I had known prior to that first painful revision leter from my editor! What are you working on in your writing?

Molly Evans said...

you are so right! It really warms my heart to know that that big authors are subject to revisions, too. There HAD to be a really, really good reason to rewrite the entire manuscript with a different POV. But I'm sure it worked out just fine.
What are you writing?

Dianna Love said...

Hi Molly -

Wonderful blog on the author-editor relationship and so true. I have to admit I haven't read your books yet but this is a great introduction thanks to the PFHT, one of my favorite blogs.

I'm particularly interested in the July release - I love to read stories that were inspired by something close to your heart.

Molly Evans said...

Hi Diana,
thanks for stopping by. Since you and crew will be coming to NM in Nov, I'll save a book for you. Unfortunately, the medicals are not distributed in North America, but they have a massive readership in the UK, Aus, NZ. Can't convince TPTB to distribute in NA.
Can't wait to see you in Nov.

Linsey Lanier said...


Thanks for being with us at PFHT today. And thanks for some great advice. Glad you mentioned talking it over when you really feel strongly about something.

Actually, I think most of us would be grateful for an editor's input, even if it meant more work. Yes, it may sting, but we're used to that and if it will sell more books, do it!

Your medical romances sound interesting with your real life background. I'll have to pick one up.

Like you and Debbie, I always keep a file called SCRAP for every ms I write. Whenever I cut something I'm not sure about, which is often, I dump it in there. I rarely put anything back in. I've done that maybe two or three times and only because I accidentally cut essential information.

I'm wondering if, due to the structure of their lines, does Harlequin require more edits than other publishing houses?


CiCi Barnes said...

Thanks for asking.

I'm a light paranormal romance writer and currently I'm working on the first book in a series. My heroine discovered how to open wormholes to other worlds and is now on a journey with her cohorts to rescue her boss. Lots of unknow dangers.

I hope there's an editor out there who loves parallel worlds. I've got a million of them in my mind. Even one world where doctors have been outlawed. Since I need some medical knowledge, I look forward to reading to reading your books.


Nicki Salcedo said...

Molly, thank you for stopping by PFHT today. I love you and have had the lucky pleasure of reading your first book. You are a great writer, friend, and mentor.

You advice is great. I'll remember to tuck away my ever expanding ego when I get the call! Thanks again for joining us today.

Molly Evans said...

You're probably right about Harlequin requiring more edits than other houses. They have promised a certain thing with each of the lines, but that includes a "deeply emotional read." If they don't think it's emotional enough, they will ask for more depth to it. A friend publishes light paranormal for another house and has almost no edits. (Yes, I hate her) Could be she's a better writer, could be her publisher gives the writers more free rein.
But I do know that the HQN editors are always willing to listen to us, even if they don't agree with us. In the end, it comes out to be a great project.

Molly Evans said...

your story line sounds intriguing. Keep up the craft and get that thing submitted. Tor or Dorchester would be a good place to submit for that type of story, I think.
At this point my books are only available at the Mills & Boon website in the UK or The shipping is cheaper from M&B ($4 for as many as you want) if anyone is interested in ordering.
And the outlawed medical help sounds very interesting. email when you get that far and I'll see if I can help you.

Molly Evans said...

so glad to see you! You're such a sweetheart. And I don't think your ego is big at all. You're one of the most down to earth, friendliest people I've ever met, so thanks for being someone I call friend.
I'll have to get on the stick and send you my newest book!
And thanks for asking me to participate. This is great fun.

Ana Aragón said...

Hi, Molly,

So glad to see you here! And what great advice! I am never tied to any word, any scene, or any chapter. There are times I wish I would have "questioned" authority (in this case, the editor) but I gave her the best book I had in me. And I got published!

Looking forward to seeing you on Saturday at the Land of Enchantment Romance Authors (LERA) tomorrow!


Nicki Salcedo said...

Ana, you're still in NM?! Lucky you. Please give hugs to Molly, Gabi, Barb and the rest for me. LERA is the best. I'm jealous. :) Have fun and happy writing.

Molly Evans said...

your advice is "spot on" as my editor would say. Give them the best book that you can. If there's something in your writing that speaks to them, they'll work with you.
I'll see you tomorrow!

CiCi Barnes said...

Thanks for the info and addy on Mills and Boone. I'll certainly check into it. And thanks for offering to help. I'll let you know.


Angel Barbin said...


Hi there! I enjoyed your blog but kind of surprised by all the talk of pain. Can I skip that part when I finally get the call?

See you tomorrow at LERA,

Lynne Marshall said...

Hi Molly! Great and honest post. These words are so true. Revisions require shedding of blood, and restructuring of stories. It is hard to fathom how gut wrenching it can be, but it is always worth it to see that baby published! And I always feel my books are better, much better, after the editor's sage input. One must trust one's editor to succeed in this business.
my 2 cents!

Sally Kilpatrick said...


Thanks for your advice. I feel that I get a little closer to publication each time I shove my ego a little farther into the box I'm trying to stuff her in. I'll remember your words, and I hope to have a revision letter soon.


Molly Evans said...

please feel free to skip the painful parts. I think I suffered enough for all of us in that first go-round, which is what helped inspire this blog topic.
See you tomorow.

Molly Evans said...

as a fellow medical romance author, you know exactly what I'm talking about. But you are so right that the final product is much better with that joint effort of the editor with the author.

Molly Evans said...

keep working on the craft and focus on one type of story, unlike what I did in the beginning. You'll soon have a story that an editor can work with.

Tami Brothers said...

Wow!!! Great stuff here. Thank you so much for the insight into this scary world. I, too, am one of those looking forward to experiencing this "pain.".....grin....

I'm copying this post into a Word document to add to my save file.

And thank you for sharing your experience for us newbies/unpubbs to learn from!


Molly Evans said...

glad to help out in my little way. Having a file full of articles, insights, etc is really helpful when you're having a lack of confidence in your writing or career. You can always pull up a file, read it, and get back on track.
Happy writing!

Molly Evans said...

Just wanted to say thanks to everyone! I had a great time, enjoyed your comments and hope that things helped in some way.
Now, I'm off to wash some Llama wool in preparation for spinning! Oh, what fun. Gotta take a break from writing sometimes, don't we?