Since I started blogging here, I’ve seen people come and go. Happily, it seems a good percentage of other reviewers leave the bookblogging world because they end up with positions within publishing companies, and it seems often it happens that it’s in an editing capacity.
It got me thinking. Do book reviewers make good editors?
Good reviewers certainly do have discerning tastes, and they (I’m not going to say “we” here because that feels just a touch arrogant, assuming that I consider myself to be that good) know what works in a book and what doesn’t. The reviews that I read on some of the more notable blogs have commentary on plot, pacing, character voice, development, pacing, tone, the whole shebang. I’ve seen good reviewers make the distinction between what’s good and what they like, and admit that the two don’t always go hand-in-hand.
I’ve also seen some reviewers have their reviews consist of little but, “Squee, I totally want Heroine and Hero to hook up because their romance is so hot, yay!” That certainly does convey what the reviewer thought, but it’s not exactly… constructive.
But even being able to give constructive commentary and criticism doesn’t mean that a reviewer would be a good editor. A person might be really good at pointing out flaws but be lousy at suggesting ways to fix them. It’s still constructive, in a way, but not quite as useful as being able to offer suggestions and improvements. So there’s that to consider, too.
But being able to look at a book with a critical eye is definitely a good skill to have when it comes to both reviewing and editing. It’s something that can be developped by doing exactly what I and tons of other people are doing, simply reading and reviewing books.
But the most critical eye and the best suggestions in the world aren’t going to do anything unless a person’s got the guts to actually say them. Just from my own experience, I’ve found that it can be really difficult to say something negative about a book when I’ve developped a relationship, even a casual one, with an author. Being an editor means you’ve got to quiet that inner voice that tells you to not makes waves and to just let things slide and occasionally be brutally honest with someone. That’s tricky. It’s difficult. It’s the part of the job that nobody really enjoys doing.
But it’s the part that can turn a good book into a great one, and so it’s vital. Reviewing books on a blog, with the safety and partial anonymity of the Internet on your side, is a step or two removed from having the author sitting right across from you and you know you have to tell them to change what they’ve already confessed is one of their favourite scenes, because it doesn’t work with the rest of the book’s pacing. Good reviewers know how to take ownership of their opinions too, but that doesn’t mean it’s an easy thing to do by any stretch of the imagination.
I won’t deny it. I’ve got some serious envy of the people who’ve gone on and managed to snag a position as an editor. I think that’s pretty high on my list of dream jobs, if push comes to shove. Do I think I have the skill to do what they’re doing? Possibly. It’s hard to say. I’d love to think so, but I long ago learned that I’m a lousy judge of my own qualities, so I won’t even really go there right now. But it’s enough to say that in many ways, I’d love to be in their shoes, and I think it’s an amazing thing that they’ve gone on and been able to do something that’s already an extension of what they love.
It’s not a given that a good reviewer will make a good editor. But it’s definitely a good first step to take, and one that, happily, is available to anyone with a computer and an Internet connection. Undeniably, simply being able to do this has opened doors for people, and it’s a wonderful thing to be able to see people advance themselves not because they bought their way up the corporate ladder, not because they begged and begged and begged, not because they kissed the right butts, but because they demonstrated that they had the skills and they had the chance to catch somebody’s eye.