An Important Note on Autobiographies
An autobiography exposes the author to his/her readers and invites their judgement on the writer. It must be as good as the author and the editor can make it, and it must show the author in the best possible light. People who write autobiographies have a special story to tell and it is absolutely right to want to share their experiences. A book is the best way to do so because the author can speak at length about events, people, influences, highs and lows, and can express thoughts and opinions. There is time to develop themes, to fashion messages that are powerful and will strike home with the reader.
The editor’s job is to ensure that the author’s motivation and message are described in language that leaves no opportunity for misinterpretation. Authors need to be careful that friends stay friends after reading the book. That’s why a fresh eye on the text is essential.
It is a difficult point in the publishing process, since the editor will often suggest changes, seemingly ‘treading the author’s toes’. All authors are protective of their work and none take easily to the editor’s red pen. Months, possibly years have been spent writing the story. There have, doubtless, been sleepless nights and long hours, wracked with doubts about what to say and how to say it. Authors and publishers speak of ‘gestation’ periods for books. The analogy is telling – the book is your ‘baby’ and has been just as painful to create and to hand over to the nurse/editor! Please be assured that we will treat it kindly.
However, the author always retains control and does not have to accept any changes that are proposed. In the final analysis, we will print whatever the author wants, but we ask that the author reads the edited text with an open mind. The editor will be happy to discuss the edits, most effectively done on the phone.