Thursday, July 5, 2012

Editing as Interest-Based Bargaining

Thanks to Evidence Explained, I just came across this take on the editor-writer relationship from Carol Fisher Saller of the University of Chicago Press:

A good author-editor relationship involves working with the writer in ways that will tell you what he really wants so you can help him achieve it. A great deal of the time, you’ll find that what the writer wants, you want, too. And if you’re skilled, the writer will discover that he wants most of the same things you do.
That's from the introduction to her book, The Subversive Copy Editor (which I have not seen the rest of). But it rang a bell: the 1981 classic Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In by Roger Fisher and William L. Ury.

In any setting, creative negotiation need not be a zero-sum game or compromise that dissatisfies both sides. It involves listening, asking questions, and inventing alternatives that speak to both sides' interests (as opposed to stated opening positions). But I had never thought of editing this way.

Carol Fisher Saller, The Subversive Copy Editor: Advice from Chicago (or, How to Negotiate Good Relationships with Your Writers, Your Colleagues, and Yourself) (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2009).

Roger Fisher and William L. Ury, Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In, second edition (New York: Penguin, 1991).

Harold Henderson, "Editing as Interest-Based Barganing," Midwestern Microhistory: A Genealogy Blog, posted 5 July 2012 ( : accessed [access date]). [Please feel free to link to the specific post if you prefer.]

1 comment:

Rachel said...

Saller's quite right on this. Speaking as an editor, most of us do want authors to be all they can be. Comments, questions, and editorial changes are often intended to be the opening of a dialogue, not the opening salvo of battle. (Speaking as one who's been edited, I know it's not always easy to take it that way!)