The Thirty Minute Blogger

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Monday, March 28, 2016

How NOT to Work With Your Editor

You're a writer. You've reached the point where your manuscript is ready for the ministrations of an editor. Congratulations! Well done. This is an exciting moment. Linger on it for about one minute. After that, get over yourself (writes one who has been there ... and been the editor too, so I'm not trying to be harsh here, just realistic), roll up your sleeves and prepare for some more hard work.

  1. The first thing you don't do is break your word with your editor. You have joined in a contract with that editor's publishing house or you have entered into a contract with your freelance editor personally. You have agreed to work with this individual. You will NOT make up excuses for failing to fulfill your end of the bargain on time. Time is money for your editor. You will respond to all needed corrections and questions in the agreed upon time limit. Publishing schedules are tight. Delay the process and you may lose your book deal at worst, or your published book will come out in some later season, screwing up the promotional opportunities that were lined up for your title. You will lose any good will you have developed with your editor. Do NOT do this. Make no excuses. Get the work done on time. Life is complicated for everybody. 
  2. Do NOT consider your written words to be God's gift to readers. You are human. You will err. Your editor is there to catch as many of your mistakes as humanly possible so you will not embarrass yourself or your publisher when your book comes out and some reader points out a glaring mistake. Do not argue against the changes your editor recommends. If the turn of phrase you thought so profound and beautiful is mystifying and confusing to your editor, it's time to lose that turn of phrase for something mere mortals will understand. 
  3. Do NOT bring another editor you used early in your writing process back into the loop once you've handed your manuscript over to your publisher's editor. It is highly likely your first editor and current editor are using different style manuals featuring many small differences. Returning the edited manuscript back to your original editor will only make that person defensive over the edits "missed" and that person will attempt to justify their work by adding all sorts of contradictory edits that just make a real mess and leave you, the author in the middle, mistrustful of BOTH editors. Your relationship with your editors will suffer severely.
  4. Never ever turn your edited manuscript over to your buddies to defend your original work over the editors. They are your buddies for a reason. They will agree with you. They are not editors. In the complex world of manuscript editing, they don't know jack. Leave them out of the loop. If you have questions about what your editor has done, ask, politely, without defensive language. You're a writer. You know how to do this. Be a pro and treat your editor like one too.
  5. When the editing work is done, as a professional editor friend of mine says, "Pencils down." Do NOT succumb to the urge to edit again at the layout stage. It's over. It's done. Move on.
  6. Your editor, if he or she is worth their salt, knows the copyright laws, plagiarism rules, and precisely what is and isn't libel. If your editor tells you something must go or be changed for any of these three reasons, believe them!!! They are trying to save you from litigation. It's embarrassing when you find yourself in this position, but make the changes, learn from the experience, and know better for next time ... and you want there to be a next time, don't you? 
  7. Finally, remember, the professional editor deserves your respect and you deserve the editors. Never treat your editor the way you'd treat serving staff at a fast food restaurant (in fact never treat serving staff that way either). Give respect. You'll receive respect in return.
Avoid these disastrous mistakes and you will have a good working relationship with your editor. Remember, if your editor works for a publisher, that editor can recommend the publisher sign another contract for another book with you later, or can advise against that. You want the editor in YOUR corner.

With all this, you might be tempted to be your own editor instead. Here's a post full of good reasons why that's a really bad idea:

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