Cindy Spiegel of Spiegel and Grau Recommends...

I once edited a contemporary “vampire novel” set in an elite private school. When I asked the author to write a brief essay about her use of the vampire as a metaphor for the high school experience, she told me the novel wasn’t about high school—it was about writing. I suddenly understood why the editing process had been such a pain in the neck.

Another novel I worked on appeared to be about the interconnectedness of the lives of disparate characters in the Philippines. The author told me, to my great surprise, that the book was actually a condemnation of religion.

My role as an editor is to help each writer realize their book more fully—to help make their work more of what it most powerfully is and can be—by bringing out themes and strengthening connections and resonances. But I can only do that if the writer and I share a vision of the book.

My advice for writers: Before you sign on with an editor, make sure that editor understands your book the way you do. Only then should you take the leap of faith—unless, of course, faith isn’t your thing!

Cindy Spiegel, partner and co-CEO, Spiegel & Grau

Portrait: Mengfei Chen