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Sunday, June 14, 2020

Editing Jacqueline Susann

     There was a time when editors like Maxwell Perkins of Scribner's and Sons played a hands-on role in getting a book ready for publication. Those days are long gone. In the 1960s, editor Don Preston had the almost impossible job of getting a glitzy, gossipy novel by an amateurish writer named Jacqueline Susann into publishable form. The manuscript, entitled Valley of the Dolls, became a national bestseller thanks in large part to Don Preston's editorial skills. This is Preston's evaluation of Susann's manuscript:

     "She is a painfully dull, inept, clumsy, undisciplined, rambling and thoroughly amateurish writer whose every sentence, paragraph and scene cries for the hand of a pro. She wastes endless pages on utter trivia, writes wide-eyed romantic scenes that would not make the back pages of True Confessions, hauls out every terrible show biz cliche, lets every good scene fall apart in endless talk and allows her book to ramble aimlessly. I really don't think there is a page of this manuscript that can stand in present form. And after it is done, we will be left with a faster, slicker, more readable mediocrity."

Don Preston as cited in Barbara Seaman's Lovely Me: The Life of Jacqueline Susann, 1987


  1. I was a teenager when that came out, and it was fine for me. My first "real glance" into adulthood except for all the adults I knew!

  2. Oh, yes! My friends and I used to pass her books around. The paperbacks always fell open at the "dirty parts"- which would probably seem pretty tame these days...