I tend to like projects that are guided by an author’s curiosity and that share new ideas, philosophies, and experiences in order to create a better understanding of human nature. I was drawn into nonfiction editing for these reasons, but also because I like the idea of being part of the book-crafting process from the beginning. To have that sense of collaboration with an author, sometimes for years. To obsess over revisions together.
The longer I work in this job, though, the more I ruminate on my and each author’s need for control over the editing process and the book’s reception. Especially for those writing about real events and people, I think the specter of the internet has created a feedback loop that has them doubting the veracity of the narrative they are telling. Writers worry that they’ll miss something or not explain their intention or even cause offense. I like to keep reminding my authors that they must approach the story they are telling in each book with purpose that is unimpeded by the possible reactions of others, even mine.
We get too caught up in controlling what might happen when a book is out in the world, in making sure that we are perceived as brilliant and important through our work, instead of simply focusing on executing our editorial vision. It is an incredibly vulnerable act to trust that a reader wants to understand you and your story. It is also an incredibly vulnerable act to trust that it doesn’t matter how anyone interprets your work as long as it is your vision.
—Maddie Caldwell, senior editor, Grand Central Publishing