A recent article by Harriet Evans on the Guardian Books blog made some thought-provoking points about the changing relationship between authors and editors. As ever in the online arena, some of the thoughts it provoked were less considered than others, with one commenter opining: ‘Editors were perhaps once useful, for encouragement, for…test readings etc, but now they’re irrelevant.’ A more constructive view came from a reader who said: ‘The ebook / codex debate is only about form and irrelevant to the points raised in this article. The issue of the text deserves more attention in such debates.’

This, of course, is the heart of the matter: it’s all about the writing. But the one point on which I disagreed with the article was Harriet’s suggestion that the editorial process is inevitably an adversarial one. As a former editor herself, she is ‘passionate about the process. And yet I cannot tell you how much I hate it.’ The mortifying experience she goes on to describe in which she is on the receiving end of harsh criticism of her work is not one I recognise from my own working life. The author / editor relationship is a collaborative one, which requires honesty on the part of the editor, but tact and discretion as well. Above all, it’s about creating an atmosphere of trust.

That’s why I don’t believe any reputable freelance editor would either withhold constructive criticism or flatter an author simply because they were being paid by the author rather than the publisher. For the record, I seldom work directly for authors, but as the landscape of publishing changes I can see this happening more often in future. I’d like to think that whether I’m working on ebooks or p-books, I’ll apply exactly the same level of professionalism to the task.