Unsolicited: Why We Can't Be Friends

Ok, authors, I admit it — the editor/author relationship is a weird one. I mean, there is something inherently . . . intimate about working together closely on a book, especially when it's a novel or a memoir. In a way, it seems natural for us to be pals. Maybe we even have some things in common! I mean, we both sure like words. But there's a thin but absolutely necessary line between professional and personal. And the thing is, editors and their authors should pretty much NEVER be Real Friends.

Reason 1: You can't trust me. My loyalties are inherently divided. Look. I care about your book. I do! I mean, I wouldn't have acquired it if I didn't. (Uh, probably) But there will come a time in the near future when I will have to put the publishing company's interests before yours. After all, you don't pay me — they do. You will inevitably feel betrayed by my sudden businessy 'tude. And I will feel bad, and secretly resent you for putting me in that position.

Reason 2: I can't trust you. Some authors are only chummy for as long as it takes to get the book published and selling. This is annoying and transparent. It will also get you a bad reputation. There is nothing more telling than an author who has four books published by four different publishing houses. I don't want to be the first of those four, and I'll be on the lookout for anything that indicates that you might be headed in that direction.

Reason 3: You don't respect my boundaries, and since it's my job to be nice to you, I can't ever really tell you off. I once had an author come by the office to pick up a manuscript. This in and of itself is highly unusual. We employ messengers and have a UPS account in order to avoid this sort of personal contact. But whatever, right? WRONG. So the author stops by, soaked in sweat having just biked down from his apartment about 100 blocks away. He proceeds to cheek-kiss me, leaving trails of sweat on my face, and then won't stop talking. He is completely oblivious to the fact that I do, in fact, have other things to do, and I finally told him this—in as nice a way as possible—he acknowledged it briefly, but continued yapping as if my schedule was inconsequential.

Lesson learned: this kind of familiarity MUST BE AVOIDED AT ALL COSTS, and if I give you an inch, I know you'll probably take that kind of mile.

Earlier: Unsolicited: So Hard To Find Good Editorial Assisting Help These Days