Developing a relationship with a new editor takes time and effort. Over the years, I’ve worked with many editors, and all of them had my interests at heart. One editor, however, asked me to make changes that didn’t mesh with the purpose of my book or the research I’d done. I refused to make the changes, and, after a phone discussion, the publisher respected my decision.
Before production begins, you may need an attitude adjustment. Years ago, when I was new to book publishing, I thought every word I wrote was cast in stone. If someone criticized my writing I was hurt. Deeply hurt. Thankfully, I’ve matured as a writer and know a sharp editor can improve my work.
Editors and authors have the same goal—to improve the product. It’s a worthy goal, and these tips will help you reach it.
- Get some info. An experienced editor will probably be more helpful than a brand new editor. What are the editor’s qualifications? Is she or he a published author? Has the editor worked on other books?
- Prepare yourself for rewrites. In addition to correcting mistakes, you may be asked to move copy from one chapter to another, revise a chapter, or add new copy. Being mentally prepared for these changes will make them easier.
- Make notes for the editor. I have a manuscript that is just about to start production. My list includes some questions and explains some of the writing decisions I made. There are nine points on my list.
- Always be courteous. In our fast-paced, high-tech world, courtesy still counts. Business letters, emails, and phone conversations should all be courteous. Respect the editor’s commitment to your book and the hours she or he is spending on it.
- Talk with the editor. Other than meeting face-to-face, the phone is the most personal form of communication. You could also arrange a Skype call. Make a list of comments or questions. Don’t rush the call and be open to suggestions.
- Try some suggestions. Do they improve the manuscript? Is the flow still good? Are the points clear? If the answer to any of these questions is negative, talk with the editor or send an email. Be careful about your word choices and tone. Don’t use caps because they are interpreted as shouting.
- Work out compromises together. Start gently. “I wonder if this might work . . . .” Be brief and state the reasons for your suggestion. Do everything you can to keep your book on schedule. You don’t want to accidentally change the release date.
- Thank the editor. Finishing a book is something to celebrate. You need to celebrate your editor too. Send an email thank you to your editor. Again, be brief and be sincere. You never know when you will work with this editor again.