How to Approach an Editor

When your book is ready for an editor, you’ve reached the next stage in your book’s development. If you’ve never done this before, it can be exciting. Daunting. Intimidating, even. How do you go about it?

Here are my recommendations based on how I like to be approached.

Don’t be afraid to make contact. Most editors will have a way to contact them on their websites. Mine is here: Contact me. Fill it out and tell me about your project. Be honest about what kind of editing you feel you need. If you’re not sure, look through the editor’s site… most likely, they’ll have a page that describes the type of editing they do (mine is here). Sometimes they’ll even list their pricing here, like I do. Sometimes they won’t.

Usually, the editor will get back to within a reasonable amount of time (I try to respond to emails within a day or two at most). This can begin a dialogue about your project, your budget, and the time frame your project will take.

Some editors only work on one project at a time, while others (like me) work on multiple projects at once. While this can slow me down at times, it also keeps my prices lower, since my budget costs are spread across several clients instead of just one. It’s up to you to choose an editor who works the way you want them to work.

Once an agreement is reached with your editor, your manuscript needs to be sent in the type of file you’ve both agreed upon. I like to work with Microsoft Word files. I find that most people have a version of that program and most platforms for publication or submission accept them in some form. If you use one of those cloud open source word processing programs, they can transfer to Word, but be aware that sometimes not all of the formatting will transfer and you may have some things lost in translation between you and your editor or you may end up with lots of artifacts in the file that have to be removed. Every program is different.

Some editors will go through the entire file before they return it, others prefer to work in chunks. I’m pretty flexible and will do it either way you choose.

Remember that you’ll probably fly through your edits faster than the editor… you’re mostly accepting changes while they’re carefully considering what needs to be changed and why. If you have a question or comment, make them. You don’t have to accept everything blindly and you shouldn’t. If you don’t understand why an editor suggests a certain change, ask. If you don’t agree, challenge them. If they can back it up with the Chicago Manual of Style, they probably have a point. If they’re changing it just because they would write it differently and it changes your voice, you don’t have to accept it. There’s a difference between following accepted publishing guidelines and changing the author’s voice. That being said, there’s a difference between blindly accepting the author’s voice and disregarding accepted publishing and story telling guidelines. It’s a two way street.

The relationship between an author and an editor is intricate. One is changing the creative work of the other. At the same time, those changes should be for the better. These changes should tighten the work, bring out the strengths and eliminate the weaknesses. They should make the author look their best. The editor should be invisible. We’re the set dresser, the makeup artist, the costumer, all rolled into one as we prepare the author for their debut. The author is the star.

So choose your editor wisely. Not every pairing is perfect. Your editor has to be content to stay in the background. Sure, we appreciate a mention on Facebook or Twitter or Google+ (along with a link to our website and undying gratitude LOL). It may help bring more clients our way and help us pay next month’s bills. We appreciate a nice blurb to put on our sites from another satisfied customer. All in all, however, we remain behind the scenes. You’re the one in front of the audience. Your book represents you. More than anything, the editor you choose should care that your book reflects well on you.