|The Relationship between Editors and Authors: A Lit Review Page 1 of 8|
|Written by Kelly Shackelford|
The stereotypical relationship between editors and authors is one of antagonism. Editing seems to naturally produce conflict between editors and authors as they vie for authority over each piece of writing. Often, editors feel unappreciated and believe that authors are over-sensitive to changes, while authors feel threatened and believe that editors are taking away ownership of their writing. No one is surprised when the two sides disagree, and their conflicts have become a source of humor.
Editor/author conflict raises the question of how exactly editors should respond to problems with authors. How far should editors go to appease authorial feelings when authors seem to assume that editorial improvements trample on their intellectual rights? The tensions between editors and authors have forced the former to develop many coping strategies to help them achieve and maintain harmony with authors.
Research indicates that the often antagonistic relationship between editors and authors arises from their differing expectations of the editing process and their different levels of power within their organizations. The editors intend to comprehensively edit the authors’ work, whereas authors merely want the editors to make them look competent. And in the tug-of-war between who gets the final say, do the editors win as those hired with an eye for detail, or the authors as the originators of the writing? From a "power" standpoint, it would appear that a powerful editor makes for a weak author, and vice versa.
Research also describes the different techniques editors have developed for dealing with authors so that both sides are happy with the process and can work together peacefully. Strategies range from focusing on relationships and collaboration to actual actions editors take to ensure that authors retain control of their writing and trust the actions of editors.
In this article, I examine the reasons for editor/author conflict, mainly in the scientific and technical worlds, and the coping mechanisms editors have developed to improve the process. After researching work conducted by editors and authors among other editors and authors, I describe two issues between the opposing sides and then five editorial strategies for developing harmony. After reviewing the literature relating to the relationship between editors and authors, I suggest that contrary to stereotype, the editor/author relationship should be collaborative instead of antagonistic, and also that editors are responsible for developing and maintaining good relationships with authors.
Editors and authors have traditionally been at odds. But where does this antagonism come from, and must it remain? Researchers have studied both questions, concluding that the conflict arises from two particular sources, and that editors have at least five different ways of dealing with it.
Reasons for Conflict
Research suggests that the frequent (or reputed) animosity between editors and authors arises from two main factors: different views on the nature of the editorial process, and different levels of power between editors and authors. When the two sides disagree over how comprehensively editors can edit, the relationship between editors and authors can quickly become hostile as each attempts to assert control. This problem leads into the issue of levels of power—in a power struggle between editors and authors, whichever side wins often depends on the type of organization in which they work. As Lanier says, a journal environment will likely support editors over authors, whereas a scientific or technical environment will probably support authors over editors (“Creating Editorial”).
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