Your editor is not your ninth grade English teacher (at least I hope not) and is not there to rap your knuckles for forgetting some arcane rule. Editors are professionals who are accustomed to interacting with authors in a mutually respectful relationship.
– Dick Margulis (Editor)
We authors need editors to edit our fiction because we are too subjective with our stories. A fresh pair of eyes and brain can see what our tunnel vision misses. However, many authors have tunnel vision in how they deal with their editor. Sadly, so do editors with their authors.
I should know as I work both sides of the fence as a writer and an editor. And I also teach writing and coach clients in writing. And balancing on that fence (not barbed wire, although sometimes it feels like it), I have seen some strange situations. So, from my personal experience, here are a few tips (with a few weird anecdotes) to help smooth your relationship with your editor.
1. Be professional. You are hiring the editor to evaluate and edit your writing. So no prima donna activities such as insisting the editor can edit but must not change one comma.
2. Realize that editing takes time. You are not going to get a good edit in a few days or a few weeks – even if the editor works 18/7.
3. Realize that editing costs money. Editors do not all charge the same rates. I once had an author include me in his extended fishing expedition to find an editor. He was looking for dirt cheap for editing his book-length manuscript. He told me some of his “contacts” charged as low as $300 and I charged the highest. He didn’t go with me, but I wonder which editor he chose. You get what you pay for. However, it is a good idea to check out a few editors.
4. Choose an editor who actually edits in your genre. I do decline work in some areas I don’t edit in (children’s books and erotica to name a couple, but I do edit young adult books. The first one is not in my area of editing expertise – I don’t have the mindset here and the second I just prefer not to edit). But I will sometimes take on other areas I seldom edit in. Maybe the story interests me or maybe I want to help the author. Or maybe the publisher is my client and the author is the publisher’s client.
5. Both editor and author need to be somewhat flexible with time. As they say, stuff happens and the editor might get behind. Ditto the author when he or she has to answer questions about unclear novel content or make changes. (Note: the author is the copyright owner of the novel, not the editor, so if there are major structural changes I suggest them, especially if I am evaluating, not editing, the manuscript).
6. More on time: don’t bombard your editor with constant emails asking how it is going or worse, sending unasked for changes in your novel for the editor to add in while the editor is still editing. I had a client do the latter, but she found it difficult to follow my requests to please source the references she quoted from.
7. There should always be a contract, or at least a written agreement, between editor and author. This keeps both on track re the editor’s tasks, time-lines, fees, etc. I use the contract suggested by the Editors’ Association of Canada.
8. For the editors – when editing or evaluating a manuscript, do not be sarcastic. Be honest but polite. Keep it professional. Do not play school marm. You are there to help the writer not wave the big stick.
9. And here is the latest bug-a-boo. If you have made an appointment to meet with an editor before hiring him or her, keep the appointment or at least treat it like you would any other business appointment – if you have to cancel, contact the editor and reschedule. The same goes for editors. I had a would-be-client on a constant change-the-time-and-date spree. He would phone up and ask to do so. That would be okay once. Stuff happens. But when the would-be client agreed to a certain time-change and then changed it to something else without telling the editor… Or one and a half hour after the appointment the author called and said he got tied up and could he come to my home office now? You can imagine my answer to that one. On the other hand, people get sick and have family emergencies. One writing client I tutor has medical issues and I respect that. We work around them. I do not dump clients or refuse clients because of health issues; I have enough of my own to work around
I could go on and on but you get the gist.
An author-editor relationship is a business one. Both should be professional in their dealings with the other.
Sharon A. Crawford
You can read about my characters and their stories in my short story collection Beyond the Tripping Point (Blue Denim Press, 2012). Click on the book at the top and it takes you to Sharon A. Crawford’s profile – including book reviews – at http://www.amazon.com.
More info on Sharon A.’s upcoming gigs, workshops, guest blog posts, etc. at http://www.samcraw.com/Articles/BeyondtheTrippingPoint.html And keep checking http://samcraw.com/Articles/BeyondBlood.html for the latest news on the release of my first mystery novel Beyond Blood, also published by Blue Denim Press http://www.bluedenimpress.com More info on the Beyond Blood page as we get closer to the date.