It Takes a Village: Why Books Are Like Children

The editorial department at Lerner has a company-wide reputation for producing lots of babies. A little more than a year ago, when I transitioned from an internship in the marketing department to my shiny new job as an editor, I was warned not to drink the water on the third floor, as there seemed to be no other explanation for all the babies happening over there. Lately we’e had a lull in baby arrivals (in other words, we have a lot of parents of toddlers with very intense caffeine preferences), and the other day someone joked that, for those of us who don’t have kids, “Our books are our children.”

So ignore the angle from which that sounds creepy/unhealthy, and focus on what an apt comparison it can actually be.

This book began life
as a Microsoft Word document.
Seems like only yesterday.
Look how far it’s come!

Books are like children. They need care and nourishment and understanding, and they need guidance to become the best possible versions of themselves. Much like the raising of children, this process is a tricky one.

In this scenario, of course, authors are the parental figures. They’ve created something unique and precious that they want to protect and nurture…and hey, Honor Roll and varsity (*cough* starred review *cough* award with prize money *cough*) would be nice too. If I were allowed to give authors only one piece of advice that they were required to take to heart, it would be this: It’s not about you, it’s about the book.The worst authors are those who think first of themselves–their own feelings and expectations and wishes–rather than of what’s really best for their books. A good author understands that a book is its own entity, existing separately from its creator despite the shared DNA. The things that help the book are not necessarily the things that help the author’s ego. But when everything comes together, an author has every right to be proud.

It’s a dangerous world out there
for a book.
Only the strong survive.

If authors are the parents of books, editors are the godparents. We’re there to help authors raise good books. A good editor recognizes that her job is not to showcase her own cleverness but simply to make sure the book is living up to its full potential. (As my colleague Sara Hoffmann once brilliantly put it, good editing is invisible.) Illustrators, designers, production editors, photo editors, and the rest of the publishing team also play crucial roles, acting as the teachers, coaches, mentors, babysitters, and neighbors-willing-to-pay-for-lawn-mowing who’ve helped that gangly manuscript become the book it is today.

So while I’m not an actual parent (normal amounts of caffeine for me!), I am a proud godparent of many books and hope to have the privilege, along with the rest of the Lerner village, of ushering many more of them into the world. 

We take good care of our books here.