Max Perkins: “His genius was his ability to inspire writers to do their best work.”

By Jack Limpert

My sense of how an editor should behave was shaped by reading Max Perkins: Editor of Genius, by Scott Berg. Perkins was a book editor at Scribner’s and his authors included F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Thomas Wolfe, James Jones, and many others.

His genius was his ability to inspire writers to do their best work. He often had a big impact on a book—the length, structure, and title—but to the outside world the finished book always was the author’s; it was the author’s genius, not the editor’s.

I translated that to often just saying, “Writers are more important than editors,” and always believed it.

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