Top 10 Ways to Make Your Editor Love You

Writers are often told that they need editors to help make their work the best it can be, but the idea of working with an editor can be a bit intimidating, particularly for first-time writers.

So, after getting input from a number of colleagues I recently compiled a list of 10 ways writers can make an editor want to go the extra mile for them. I shared this list at the July meeting of the Ventura County Writers Club, and it was included in the August newsletter of the Small Publishers, Writers, and Artists Network (SPAWN). I’m sharing my list here, but anyone who wants to know more about working with an editor should also check out the August SPAWN newsletter, which includes tips from several different kinds of editors.

Hiring an editor can be a big investment of money, time, and emotional energy. The best way to maximize that investment is to create a good working relationship with your editor. So, take some time to consider these Top 10 Ways to Make Your Editor Love You.

10. Submit the cleanest copy possible. Yes, you are paying to have your work edited, but you do yourself no favors if you send your editor a manuscript full of misspelled words, sentence fragments, and nonsensical plot twists. If your editor spends hours wading through such blatant errors, she won’t have time or energy to deal with issues that can transform an adequate book into a good one—or a good one into a great one.

9. Learn Microsoft Word’s Track Changes. Most editors prefer to show corrections or suggest revisions through the Track Changes tools. They aren’t difficult to master but can be a little intimidating. Learn how to use them so you can work seamlessly with your editor.

8. Stick to your agreement. Don’t submit your work late or turn in a manuscript that is thousands of words longer than your editor expects.

7. No surprises! If you have scattered French dialogue throughout your novel and want your editor to check all the accent marks or need her to format 245 footnotes, say so up-front.

6. Be reasonable and polite. Don’t call your editor at odd hours. Don’t expect her to work every weekend or to answer all your e-mails immediately. Say please and thank you and make requests rather than demands.

5. Communicate clearly and fully. If you want a particular ungrammatical phrase in your book, tell your editor before she spends hours correcting it. When your editor asks you questions, respond promptly.

4. Trust your editor. An editor’s job is to make you look better. Don’t question every suggestion or battle over every comma or word choice. And if your editor doesn’t understand a passage, don’t immediately assume he’s the only one who could misread it. If your editor is puzzled, it’s likely readers will be, too.

3. Say thank you. If you’re happy with your editor’s work, offer to write a blurb for her website or Linkedin profile, recommend her to friends and colleagues, mention her on your website.

2. Respect your editor as a professional. Good editors study their craft; they read books, participate in discussion groups, and attend conferences and classes on writing, editing, and publishing. When you hire an editor, you’re not paying just for the hours she spends reading your manuscript—you’re buying those years of study and experience. When you look at it that way, your editor’s fee will seem like a bargain!

1. Treat your editor as a team member. Editors work hardest for the writers who view them as trusted consultants, not human spell-checkers. Look for ways to let your editor know you value her input and opinion. Let her know when the work is published and provide a copy of the finished product. These little steps can make an editor eager to work with you—and to work with you again. You don’t need anyone’s help to be a writer; you can do that all on your own. But you need a team to become an author. Teaming up with a great editor will not only help you become an author; it can also help you become a better writer.

August 21, 2013

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Personally, I feel the editing process is the most important aspect of writing–it can be a nightmare if the editor and the writer are not on the same page. … Tammy knows what she is doing, she is easy… Read more
Phil Ward, Author, Raiding Forces Series

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  1. This is spot on, even though I work primarily with science and food system manuscripts for academic audiences. Of course, I’d love to edit articles for popular audiences on the topics I deal with in those academic papers, but even so, you’re absolutely right about valuing our experience, our capacity to be a proxy reader, and our interest in making your work better!

    • Bethann, I’m glad you find this helpful. I think these suggestions should work in pretty much all editor/writer relationships. Regardless of the subject matter, we all work better when there is mutual respect involved!