Get to Know Your Editor

Sunday, December 01, 2013
If someone is pulling out the red
pen for you, get to know your
editor. Photo | EKHumphrey
I've been fortunate as an editor that I have a number of repeat clients. Authors who are writing or planning their second or third book in a series and want to hire me to edit for them. I'm flattered and thrilled when that happens. It's a win-win for everyone because it provides consistency for the writer and the editor, which can strengthen series.

I started wondering how a writer will decide to come back to the same editor. In the first go-round, the clients who I've gotten to know better than the others are the ones who return. They also appreciate or understand my editing style. I think there are at least three major ways you can get to know your editor and re-hire them:

Don't haggle over money. You just finished your book. Not a walk in the park, was it? Editing can be intense as well. Your editor will live with your manuscript longer than most of your readers. Believe, if they have the credentials, they are worth the money. I'm not saying that you should pay anything asked, but if you think the rate is too much, ask for a lighter edit, which should save you some money. If your editor has shown his/her worth and you've returned to them, consider their worth to your work.

Talk to your editor. One of my favorite clients asked to speak with me. Sure, we emailed back and forth fine, but he wanted to speak to me. We set up a time and spoke via Skype. He asked about what I liked to write and read. He got to know me better as an editor so that I wasn't just a distant email. I was a person he could trust with his writing. In fact, I think I should request more regular calls with him as I continue with his projects. Just to keep in touch and put a voice to his words.

Tell your editor what you want. A friend recommended me to a woman who wanted an editor. But she didn't want someone to mess with her story. Her story was important to her and she let me know about it. She was new to writing and it was important for me to know her comfort level. Other clients haven't taken the time to understand the different levels of editing an editor can provide. Or if an editor is different from a proofreader. Start the discussion about how you want your work to be shaped. You know how you want it done--just let the editor know about it.

Talking to the editor and understanding the editor's voice and vision can be useful in determining how to work together. At the end of the day, your name is on the manuscript, but, as your editor, I take pride in the work I've done on your manuscript. I feel like I'm a part of your team. Isn't that the kind of long-term literary relationship you want?

Elizabeth King Humphrey is a writer and editor living in North Carolina. She's just getting geared up for the holiday season and wondering about great gifts for writers...and editors.


Margo Dill said...

I could not agree more with this post. It is SO important for the editor to understand what the author wants from the edit job. I really try to pin down what my clients' goals are, their genre, their comfort level with Microsoft Word editing tools, and more BEFORE I start editing. Good ideas here!

Anonymous said...

This post provides great advice, particularly for less experienced writers. Communication is critical. I've worked with clients whose mandate was "fix it so it works" and others who insisted on editing that was scarcely more involved than proofreading.

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