Working with an editor is a unique experience that differs for every author. However, from fiction to nonfiction to children’s books, each author/editor relationship has the same goal: to publish the best possible version of every book.
With that in mind, we asked a broad group of Random House editors where they start when they first lay eyes on the rough draft of a book.
Top Five Things Random House Editors Look for in a Rough Draft:
1. A Well-Realized Voice: “I look for strong writing with a well-realized voice that’s hard to ignore; this goes a long way in keeping my attention, even if the subject is a total surprise.” “The voice needs to be authentic and I should want to come back to it again . . and again . . and again.”
2. Singularity: “What is the one thing this book does better than any other book?” “Its uniqueness needs to shine through its pages early on.” “For nonfiction books, the advice and lessons need to feel new and surprising. Ideally, the content is completely fresh and in some ways counterintuitive.”
3. Gripping Writing: “I want to be engaged by a rough draft’s early pages, and I want the sense of anticipation to either sustain or grow as the work unfolds.” “It should be an immersive experience.” “For a novel, if I come out of it sure I’m another person (I’m on trial for murder, or I’ve spent three days in a bombed-out hospital hiding a little girl from death), and it takes me a while to shake off that other life, I am hooked.”
4. A Clear Audience: “I look for an immediate sense of who the reader is for the book—there needs to be a reader!” “It’s even better, if, when reading, I can think of more than five people to whom I want to hand the book and say, ‘You must read this.’ The earlier that feeling is apparent, the better.”
5. Great Structure: “Organization hugely affects the reading experience.” “I look to make sure that the overall structure makes sense. There should be a central theme or idea and each theme/idea needs to contribute to the larger theme/idea of the book. In other words, the sum of the parts should make up a successful whole.”
Andrea Bachofen is part of the Random House Digital Publishing Group team.