If you’re such a great editor, why don’t you write your own books?

We get this one a lot. There are many possible answers, and for some, multiple answers might apply.

  • The editor doesn’t want to. It can be as simple as that.
  • The editor realizes that there is more money in editing than in writing.
  • The editor knows that marketing is the difference between success and failure, and doesn’t like marketing. Or doesn’t mind it, but can’t or won’t do it well.
  • The editor has done so, either under a pen name or perhaps an unpublished work.
  • The editor takes more satisfaction in helping and guiding and teaching other people than in creating his or her own projects.
  • The editor doesn’t want the public engagement that could come with a reasonably successful book, at least not for the pittance s/he would likely earn from it.
  • The editor never got comfortable with the traditional publishing model (writer begs and begs, house condescends to accept the bulk of the revenue).
  • The editor isn’t neurotic enough to be a writer. (Okay, I’m sort of kidding. Sort of.)
  • Editing and writing require different skill sets and not everyone has both.
  • The editor hasn’t got anything original to share.
  • The editor is too busy helping others to focus on his/her own book.
  • A similar situation exists in many disciplines. Not everyone who can refinish furniture can build it. Not everyone who can repair a car can design and build a car.

Some of those apply to me to varying degrees. I’d bet some apply to most editors.

2 thoughts on “If you’re such a great editor, why don’t you write your own books?”

  1. Personally, I have never wondered this. I see the writer/editor relationship as an essential symbiosis. If every editor gave up editing to write, who would edit?

    I suspect the following observation makes moves in the other direction more likely: “The editor realizes that there is more money in editing than in writing.”

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    1. I suspect, Jason, that you did some thinking and were able to put yourself in the other person’s position. It doesn’t take a lot of effort, but some don’t make that effort at all. Some people ask whether I would hire an editor for any book I might author, and the answer is a resounding yes. The editor is there to see into my blind spots, teach me things, show me what I miss, tell me bluntly about my bad habits. I’d be afraid to publish without one.

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