John McMurtrie

John McMurtrie – Editor

A veteran editor and writer who can help polish your fiction and nonfiction manuscripts.


​Hi, I'm John. As an independent book editor, I edit manuscripts for McSweeney's Publishing and individual authors. I'm also a contributing editor at the literary travel magazine Stranger’s Guide. My writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, and Literary Hub. From 2008 to 2019, I was the books editor of the San Francisco Chronicle, where I wrote, assigned, and edited thousands of pieces, including reviews, essays, and profiles.

I take great pleasure in helping writers shape their work, bringing out their best talents. That entails both the overall vision of a project and its sentence-by-sentence structure. I also like to view the editing process as a conversation with the writer; I enjoy going over individual edits by phone or video or, when possible, in person. At its best, editing is about the interplay of styles and approaches, and that sort of collaboration fosters creativity—and yields the best results.


“John is one of the calmest, most generous and most skilled editors I’ve worked with. He has meant a great deal to me and to so many writers at McSweeney’s. A great editor knows what you’re trying to do—because they ask—and then, through gentle suggestion and incisive interrogation (or is it incisive suggestion and gentle interrogation?), they help you achieve it. John is this kind of editor.”

— Dave Eggers, author of "The Circle" and "A Hologram for the King"

“John is a brilliant, generous, and gracious editor. His respect for a writer’s voice is matched with a keen eye for clarity and specificity. I have appreciated and enjoyed every time we’ve worked together. I highly recommend him.”

— Imani Perry, author of "South to America: A Journey Below the Mason-Dixon to Understand the Soul of a Nation"

“The project I was working on required my taking on a wholly unfamiliar voice, and I found that I didn't truly know what I wanted it to sound like until John began editing for me. He was as wisely ruthless with his line edits as he was intuitive about my larger vision for the book. It’s no overstatement to say that my novel as it exists today would not have been possible without John’s collaboration. He’s a smart, smart editor.”

— John Brandon, author of "Arkansas" and "Ivory Shoals"

"John is able to see an author's vision, understand where they've gone astray, and suggest in the most respectful terms how to find the path again. John is part coach, part surgeon, and always practicing a kind of diagnostic editorial sorcery that writers don't know they need till they need it. John is that great rarity among editors: a tactician with the heart of a strategist who bears a genuine professional curiosity about how to make writing better."

— Bill Cotter, author of "Fever Chart" and "The Splendid Ticket"

Biographies & Memoirs Humanities & Social Sciences
Contemporary Fiction Literary Fiction
English (US)

Work experience


Mar, 2019 — Present

San Francisco Chronicle

Oct, 2008 — Mar, 2019 (over 10 years)


Jan, 1990 — Present

Professionals similar to John

Get a range of offers by requesting quotes from multiple professionals.

Katelyn Turner

Katelyn T.

Professional editor here to help with all of your non-fiction copyediting needs, from trade to textbooks and everything in between.

Boulder, CO, USA

100% reply rate

View profile
Lisa White

Lisa W.

As an editor with over 25 years' experience specializing in nature and memoir, I can help you take your project to the next level.

Boston, MA, USA

100% reply rate

View profile
Leslie Budnick

Leslie B.

I'm an editor of award-winning children's books, with over twenty years of experience working on picture books, middle grade, and YA novels.

New York City, NY, USA

100% reply rate

View profile