By the time you’ve finished writing your masterpiece, whether it’s 10,000 words or 90,000 words, you are attached to those words and want them handled with care. I promise you: A good editor wants the same thing! Regardless of the type of editing you’re paying for, the author-editor relationship is a special one.
The Author-Editor relationship is a special one. (Tweet)
Once you’ve spoken with a few editors and found the right person for your project, here’s generally what you can expect from your book editor:
First and foremost, your editor must know how to edit. That’s the primary function you’ve hired her for! If you’re working with an editor who utilizes Microsoft Word’s “track changes” feature (as I suspect you are), you’ll be able to see just how many errors your editor catches. I would be remiss, however, if I didn’t mention the dreaded “p” word when it comes to editing: perfection. No book or ebook is perfectly error free. It’s simply not possible. Science tells us that human eyes catch, at best, about 96 percent of errors. Now, the more times (passes) your editor goes through your manuscript, the fewer errors she’ll find each time. The same goes for you or anyone else reading, by the way. One more reason not to rush the process! She’ll find errors she missed the first time through on a second pass as well. I tell my clients not to be alarmed at the markup; it’s SUPPOSED to be messing during the editing process. (Think of it sausage making: The end product is yummy, but the making of it? Not as appealing.)
Queries/Rewrites for Clarity (Not Full Rewrites of Entire Paragraphs/Sections)
If your text is confusing from a reader’s standpoint, your editor will let you know. Some editors will simply query you; others will offer a suggested rewrite. Know that any edits are coming from a good place — a place of wanting clear text, not a place of the editor wanting ownership of your work. I’ve written books and been edited, so I know it can sting to hear that something you thought was clearly written was, in fact, not. Remember that your editor is on your team and wants you to publish the best, most clear text possible. If she’s raising an issue, consider whether she might be right.
Your editor is on your team, and wants you to publish the best text possible. (Tweet)
Respect for Your Work
An editor won’t suggest or make a change to your text just because they think another (read: their) wording “sounds better.” It’s your work; not theirs. An editor will treat your words and project with care.
There are editors out there giving the profession a bad name by not telling clients when a manuscript needs more work before it’s ready for publication. Countless times a client reaches out for a copy edit when I KNOW they need a developmental edit but either don’t have the budget for one or are in a hurry to publish. My job — any book editor’s job — is to be truthful about your work. If you’re trying to publish a first draft, for example, my job is to tell you the book needs more work before you should publish it. If I don’t do that, I’m doing neither of us any favors. Even a well-copy-edited first draft is still just that. So solicit this feedback if an editor does not offer it.
There may be instances in which an editor suggests a change that you don’t want to make. That’s okay. As I said before, it’s YOUR work. If it’s a case of right versus wrong (say, a grammar rule), I’d advise you to trust your editor. If it’s a style issue, then trust your gut — and trust that your editor will accept your decision and move forward without trying to browbeat you into thinking her way. You may become friendly with your editor (I consider lots of my clients friends now), but remember that the relationship for this project is a professional one. There is no place for lateness, rudeness, or bullying.
Is there anything else you’ve experienced when working with an editor? I’d love to hear from you. Are you ready to talk to a book editor?