How to work with an editor

When you’re looking to work with an editor, there are two things you need to think about.

The first is trust, and the second is forging a positive two-way-relationship. The reason I say this is because the authoreditor rapport is a collaboration, not a masterservant situation. When both show up in the process, are sensitive to each other’s needs and deliver their A-game, the results can be amazing.

Editors will know what to expect of you as an author: they’re professionally trained for this. Here’s a guide to what they need from you, and how to get the best out of your relationship with them.

Trust and relationship
Taking that first step and handing over your project to a complete stranger is a big deal. It’s only natural that you might be feeling a bit nervous about it.  You’ve taken time and put a lot of effort into your writing  it’s your literary baby  of course you want it to have proper care and attention!

Find someone with solid experience

A good editor will understand this. The best way to deal with any concerns you might have is to find someone with solid experience.

Look at their website: is it visually clean, typo-free, reassuring? Does it mention their training and experience? Past and present clients, publications they’ve worked on, any testimonials?

If necessary, you can always ask the editor to complete a short sample. And by this, I mean short avoid asking them to edit whole chapters before giving them the job (because bona fide professionals don’t work for free, and they don’t appreciate being made to jump through hoops to get a gig either).

A few hundred words from a clear brief should be enough to give you a feel for their approach, whether a connection is there and likely to be productive and friendly, and whether they’re the right person in terms of skills and experience for the job.

Think ahead: allow enough time for editing
This may seem obvious, but proactivity plays a big role in avoiding stress and confusion when you’re commissioning an editor.

Think about your requirements well in advance, and avoid crisis management: frantically trying to find someone at the last minute is not a great way to secure the ideal person for your project. Why? Because good editors are usually busy and booked up in advance; and the worst decisions are often made under pressure!

If your project has taken weeks or months to research and write, it is just as likely that an editor won’t be able to clear it in 24 hours for you.

Factor editing into your publishing timeline

Factor editing into your publishing timeline, and allow sufficient space for your editor to physically (and mentally) get through the material. They want to do justice to your writing, because it deserves the very best attention!

Brief your editor
When approaching editors with a potential project, think about the following:

  • manuscript length – be realistic about this, because it’s counterproductive to tell your editor that the text will be a 150pp Word file, when it’ll actually be much longer! (Also, don’t give them the projected printed length: they need to know what they’ll be working on, not the finished product.)
  • the delivery date to edit
  • your deadline – i.e. the real date you need it back, not an artificial construct
  • the type of work you need: copy edit, development edit, beta read, full structural edit, proofread or ‘proof-edit’ (for more on this, see the SfEP’s guidance).
  • any special notes or requirements – for example, style preferences and reference sources (e.g. Chicago, APA, Harvard, Merriam Webster, OED, Chambers, etc.)
  • providing samples,  if available.

Next week we’ll be talking about what to do when you’re in the editorial process, and how you can make it run super-smoothly.

If you’re looking for an editor, I can help.
Visit my website and get in touch!


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