Renni Browne founded The Editorial Department in 1980 and retired in December 2023 after 57 years editing fiction and nonfiction.
Before she became an editor for Scribner’s in 1966, she was a copy editor for Time-Life Books, co-author of a novel, and assistant fiction editor for Woman’s Day. When she left Scribner’s, she worked part-time for a paperback publisher and a literary agent while reviewing books for Kirkus, Library Journal, and Publishers Weekly. She interviewed to be a senior editor but was told by more than one publisher that although she was qualified, “women aren’t senior editors.” Then the literary agent she worked for told her, “Sol Stein is looking for a senior editor—you’re perfect for him.”
So in 1968 she became senior editor at Stein & Day, where a number of books she acquired and edited over her seven years there landed on the New York Times bestseller list. She next became a senior editor at William Morrow, where she was encouraged to spend a great deal of time helping market her titles and cultivating relationships with literary agents but very little time editing the manuscripts she acquired—a trend, she realized, that was beginning to pervade the industry. She left mainstream publishing in 1978 and in 1980 founded The Editorial Department, so named because it offered the services publishers had once routinely provided. In 1991 she and Dave King wrote Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, still the best-selling title on editing, now in its fifth printing and second edition from HarperCollins.
Over the years Renni has reviewed books for magazines, appeared on NPR, cofounded a writer’s conference, and given workshops and seminars around the country on self-editing, dialogue, getting published, and other topics of interest to writers.
Though no longer actively editing books, her unique vision for helping good manuscripts become great books remains central to our company’s vision and operations.
If you haven’t worked with Renni personally, you might enjoy having a look at The Editor Over Your Shoulder, which provides a peek at some of the sage wisdom, editorial guidance, and mentoring she’s shared with her authors over the years. For a closer look at her approach to helping a first novel brimming with promise realize its full potential, you can check out her initial manuscript evaluation for Scott Pratt’s AN INNOCENT CLIENT.
This evaluation, shared with Scott’s permission, represented the first step of an editorial process that helped launch the career of one of the best legal thriller writers in the business. The novel became a massive bestseller and currently holds a top-ten position in Amazon’s top 100 legal thrillers, which includes titles from the likes of John Grisham, Victor Methos, and Robert Bailey.
While Renni is no longer actively editing books, she’ll be staying on with The Editorial Department and working with us in an advisory capacity. You can reach her via our contact page or by contacting the Tucson office at 520.546.9992.