Some time after receiving the first round of edits, a writer may wonder whether or not her editor hates her. Surely, the theory goes, if her editor liked her, the suggested changes wouldn’t be so terrible.
The good news is that receiving extensive edits from an editor does not mean that an editor hates a writer or her story. One can assume that the editor has perfectly warm feelings towards both. Most likely. Probably. Though it is best not to think about it too hard. It is an editor’s job to edit, after all, regardless of how much he appreciates a manuscript.
But if you are a writer who is concerned about maintaining a good relationship with your editor, I have a few suggestions to facilitate that process.
— — —
1. Meet Your Editor in Person
Some people may disagree with this tip, but I suggest that an author try to meet her editor in person at least once during the publication process. These meetings help both parties build a good working relationship and gain a better understanding of their respective personalities. Even for talented writers, nuances of communication can be lost via email. Meeting with an editor helps to eliminate some of that awkwardness.
And, of course, it can simply be rewarding to see a person with whom you have worked closely.
2. Expect Extensive Edits
Most books could benefit from extensive edits. An author will be the least distressed if she expects her editor to muck up her manuscript in red pen. Know that even if an editor suggests large changes to a draft, that doesn’t mean that he dislikes the work. He is just trying to make the final product as good as it can possibly be.
3. Use Efficient Technology
First, a cautionary tale. Once upon a time in a far away land where I worked in an acquisitions department, an editor was practically pulling his hair out in response to one of our authors. This author didn’t particularly trust email, so he didn’t want to send his manuscripts that way. He also didn’t want to pay the postage required to send the draft through the mail.
His solution was to mail CD-ROMS containing the draft file to the publisher’s office. In 2014.
Needless to say, this method was sub-optimal. The editor was constantly afraid that the CD would go missing, get broken, or would contain a corrupted file. The entire process slowed down the publication schedule considerably. The only reason the editorial department allowed this to continue was that the author had been successful in the past, and they suspected his next work would be a bestseller as well.
All of this is to say that you will make your editor happiest if you use his preferred method of sending drafts. These days most editors accept edits via email, but some publishers use web portals, and others prefer different methods. Following the standard protocol for these things will keep your book’s progress moving as efficiently as possible.
4. Meet Your Deadlines
This is probably a given, but a writer should attempt to meet her deadlines. Let’s say you are an author who is publishing with a small press that releases about 100 titles per year. There are three full editors and several editorial assistants who work there, and your editor – let’s call her Susan – is one of the full editors. The work load likely isn’t even distributed in the editorial department. Because the editorial assistants are still learning their craft, full editors take the lead on bringing more titles to fruition. This means that Susan is editing at least 25 other books around the same time she is working on yours. If you miss a deadline and send a draft late, Susan may not have time to review it as closely as she would like to.
I’ve heard people complain about how long traditional publishing takes, but considering the work that goes into a finished manuscript, it is a miracle that books get published as quickly as they do. Though editors may be patient with wildly successful authors like George R.R. Martin when they miss deadlines, less popular authors don’t receive the same leeway.
So meet your deadlines. And if you can’t…
5. Communicate with Your Editor
Communication is what keeps the entire editorial process moving. If you are having trouble with a particular revision or if some disaster occurs in your personal life, tell your editor. He may be able to offer suggestions or adjust your book’s schedule. He can only do those things, however, if you communicate with him. Even if you aren’t having trouble, it is good to keep in contact with your editor. He may have suggestions about speaking engagements or other activities that will help make your book a success. Feel free to send your editor an email or give him a call.
— — —
Though these tips aren’t necessary to having a book published, following them will likely smooth a writer’s relationship with her editor. If you’ve worked with an editor and have any wisdom to offer, please share it. I’m sure there are some things that I’ve overlooked.
— — —
Image Attribution: “Seattle Daily Times Editor-in-Chief Room,” Seattle and the Orient, ed. Alfred D. Bowen, Times Printing Company, 1900.