This week I am teaching classes on writing for children at the Maranatha Christian Writers’ Conference in Muskegon, Michigan. The theme for this year’s conference is Every Writer Needs A Team. I am happy to be a part of the conference because I whole-heartedly agree with this theme! Publishing a book takes teamwork, even if you decide to self-publish.
When I explain to writers that they need to be willing to work with editors and allow them to polish their story, I often get a deer-in-the-headlights look. “But these are MY words!” The trembling writer utters in self-defense.
Getting a book published is a process. The writer gives birth to the process by offering a creative idea and putting words on a page. The story begins to take shape with colorful characters and an exciting storyline. The writer makes revisions along the way and produces the best story he or she can create. But that doesn’t mean it is ready to go. An editor is the author’s friend—not the enemy! Editors have a different set of skills than the writer. Editors have a critical eye and can zero in on something that needs to be changed for the better. Editors can see things that the writer misses. An editor will make suggestions for better ways to say what the writer is trying to say. An editor will make grammatical and punctuation corrections.An editor’s job is to polish the story and make it better.
When a writer says to me, “But I want control of my book.” My answer is, “No you don’t.” We all have different gifts and abilities and no one is good at everything. I love the creative process of turning an idea into a story word-by-word. But the editors I have worked with over the years have made my stories better. It’s like putting icing on a cake. Cake is good. But cake with icing is better.
Once a story is revised and completed, it then goes to an illustrator who is selected by the publisher. Many writers are shocked when I tell them I have little to do with the illustrations. “But it’s your book!” they say. “Well, not really,” I reply. “It’s ‘our’ book.” The publisher can do a much better job of selecting the right illustrator for my story. The design and layout people are experts in their field. Why would I want to be in control of something that I know little about?
The author usually gets one final look at the completed pages before the book goes to print. At this point, small word changes can be made or typos can be corrected, but it’s pretty much a done deal. When the book is finally published, the author needs people to help with marketing. From radio or blog interviews to press releases and book signings, the author is dependent on others to help with the “birth announcement.”
Even if you are not a writer, you are part of a team. We were put on earth to live life with others. We are called to serve our friends, neighbors, relatives, and church family. A Christians, we are part of the body of Christ—here to serve one another for God’s glory. 1 Peter 4:10 (NIV) says, Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.
We need each other. We need a team!