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The Care and Cultivation of the Writer-Editor Relationship

Book Editing Associates




Freelance Network Coordinator: Lynda Lotman

Editorial contributors: Rachel Stone, Marlo GarnerKelly Lynne

  • Be honest—about everything: your comfort level regarding editorial input, your budget, and your deadline date. Your preferred editors may turn down your submission if your budget and deadline aren’t realistic. If you’re flexible, say so in your submission.
  • Put everything in writing. If you have questions about the wording of the contract and would like to make changes or need clarification, discuss this with your editor before you sign.
  • Be open to suggestions. The final product is yours, but don’t waste your money on editing if you’re too attached to your draft and will override all edits.
  • Don’t disappear while your editor is working on your manuscript. Give your editor all of your contact information.
  • Speedy replies. Respond to your editor’s e-mails and phone queries promptly. Don’t leave your editor waiting when he or she asks for additional information or clarification.
  • Let your editor work. Don’t call or e-mail each day to check on progress. It’s impossible to have an overall impression until the entire manuscript is read. If you have questions, concerns, or ideas, collect them and send them in as few e-mails as possible. Remember, time spent replying to numerous e-mails is better spent on editing. You’re paying for your editor’s time and might be charged for extended phone/e-mail exchanges.
  • Send your work to your editor on time. Let your editor know if you won’t be ready by your scheduled start date. Check the signed service agreement for your editor’s policy on delays and cancellations.
  • Remember that this is a professional arrangement. Pay the correct amounts on the dates specified in the editing agreement. Don’t delay payment dates or alter payment amounts.
  • Accept the need for retainers. Don’t question your editor’s ethics when prepayment or subsequent contractual payments are requested. This is standard operating procedure in cyberspace.
  • Don’t send in second takes. Don’t send in new versions of the “final” draft after your editor has started on your manuscript.
  • Voice your concerns early on. Let your editor know if you have concerns about the editing or the professional relationship. Your editor is going forth with edits based on prior approval of the sample edit. If you’re giving your editor e-mail kudos, the feedback that you provide at the end of the project should reflect your satisfaction. After the editing is finished isn’t the time to surprise your editor (and our coordinator) with negative feedback.
  • Don’t take edits personally. Look at the project review/critique with an open mind. It’s your editor’s job to identify problem areas as well as strengths in your manuscript. An editor who gives nothing but praise is not much help to you. Recognize that your editor is helping you to improve your manuscript and don’t take it as a personal affront if there are more changes than you’d anticipated.
  • Know your subject matter. Be willing to do the necessary research as requested by your editor to confirm facts, unless you’re willing to pay your editor to research material.
  • Be reasonable. Good editors are willing to provide a reasonable amount of follow-up, including a review of short passages or answers to specific questions. But don’t expect to rewrite the book after the initial edit and then have your editor do the job over again for free.
  • Ask before you re-edit. Don’t “correct” your editor’s materials without asking. You may think an editorial change is an error, when, in fact, there are rules you don’t know about (or have learned incorrectly). A good editor will tell you why a change was made and (in cases of grammar, punctuation, and spelling) might direct you to a definitive source for the rule applied (e.g., Chicago Manual of Style and Webster’s Dictionary).
  • Ask before using your editor’s name in your book. You mean well, but ask your editor before mentioning him or her in your acknowledgments. No surprises, please, especially if anything in the book was changed after editing.
  • Editing is subjective, and the more advice your editor provides on style and phrasing, the more subjective it will be. Editing is an art, not a science. In many cases, a “correct” edit simply does not exist; there are multiple ways of phrasing an idea. Your editor will do his or her best to match suggested stylistic edits to the style and tone of your manuscript, but the final choice of which edits to accept, reject, or modify always is up to you as the creator of the work.
  • Provide positive feedback when warranted. Editors have feelings, too. Take a moment to compliment your editor on a job well done. Editors need appreciation and recognition of their efforts just as everyone else does. Whether you sell your book to a traditional publisher or publish it yourself, make sure to send an inscribed copy to your editor, who worked so hard on it with you.

One comment

  1. Can I just say I love working with Kelly? Another critical point in working with an editor is finding mutual respect. After a start with another editor who criticized my use of “unusual” (to her way of thinking) names, it was so nice to work with someone who looked at the overall picture and found “real” problems rather than imagined ones. She points out the weak spots and the plot holes and balances it with her appreciation for the parts she likes. She has made my writing stronger, laid out ahead of time what I needed to do to make her job easier (which ALSO made my writing stronger) and doesn’t give me frivolous edits. I appreciate my editor!

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