How to work with an editor: Part 2

Last week we talked about commissioning an editor and what’s involved in establishing the author–editor connection. This week we’ll be talking about what to do when you’re actually there.

Supply the absolute final version
If you’ve not quite finished your work, or you’re co-authoring and need to send your manuscript to other people for comments, don’t  send it to edit at the same time.

An editor can only work on one version

An editor can only work effectively on one version – the final one. Several different versions flying around causes confusion and unnecessary extra work all round.
This is avoidable, so collate all your corrections into one document, then release it to edit.

Don’t treat manuscripts as rolling documents
Unless you’re working with a development editor or structural editing is involved, avoid rejigging your text during the process. Editors work painstakingly, imposing good grammar, stylistic consistency and cross-checking other elements, all of which need to be kept intact.

Rewriting interferes with editing and can compromise the quality of the end result. So just bite the bullet: sign off your manuscript, and let go of it.

Let them know if it’ll be late
When you commission an editor, you will both agree a delivery date and your editor books your project into their schedule.  If there is any slippage, they need to know ASAP.

Do bear in mind that your editor may have turned down other offers to honour the time they’ve set aside for you.

If your project is going to be late, let them know

So, if your project is going to be late, respect their schedule and let them know, because they might need to make arrangements to fill the gap with other work.

Use Word comments for queries
At some point, your editor is likely to come back to you with queries on the text. Don’t worry – this doesn’t mean anything’s wrong, just that there are some minor things to clarify!

This shouldn’t be a complicated process, but it does require you to do one thing: leave the text alone.

Again, going in and rewriting can inject new errors into the careful work your editor has done. It means they’ll have to go through the whole document again to recheck it, duplicating work unnecessarily – and rest assured, if they have to do this, they will charge you for it.

Generally, it’s better to let your editor work through all your comments and corrections, and have them take everything into the text. You’ll be able to see all of it, so don’t be concerned. They won’t do anything you haven’t approved!

Keep Track Changes switched on
During the editing process, both author and editor need to keep track of everything that has been done to the text. It’s best not to accept any changes in Word until the edited job is complete and released to you, ready for the designer. (It’s possible that during the query process, your editor may send the manuscript file back to you as a PDF for review, so this can be avoided.)

Consider the effect of jargon
There is a difference between complexity and jargon: even if your content is quite technical, the aim of publishing is to present it in a way that can be understood clearly, especially if your readership includes non-specialists.

Write for your audience

Here, it can be helpful to assume that your readers don’t have ‘industry-speak’ or ‘researchese’ in their working lexicon – you are the expert and understand what you are saying, but you may need to write using language that others can comprehend.

The first rule of writing for publication – technical, fiction or otherwise – is:

Write for your audience.
You aren’t writing for yourself. You are writing for them.

Editors analyse your writing from the reader’s perspective – they’ll raise a query every time something is unclear. So, rather than dismissing their queries as irritating or obvious, it’s worth taking a step back and thinking around your text to ensure it’s clear and jargon-free.

Work with the style sheet
As your editor works through your manuscript, they will create a style sheet to accompany it. This notes information on all the style and spelling forms that they’ve imposed consistently during the edit.

You’ll need to make a decision before work starts as to what styling and reference source you prefer, and discuss it with your editor.

For example, if you’re a fiction author looking to publish in the USA, you might agree with your editor that the language should be American English, styled to the Chicago Manual of Style, with Merriam-Webster for spelling and hyphenation.

If you’re an academic intending to publish in a journal, you might need to present your work in British English, styled to Harvard or Vancouver, with the Oxford English Dictionary as your reference source.

Look at the style sheet

Before you go through your editor’s queries, do take a moment to look at the style sheet – especially if you’re providing missing information such as notes or references – as it’ll give you what you need to present these aspects consistently with the rest of the text. (You’d be surprised at the number of authors who don’t do this – it’s a missed opportunity to really hone your text, as well as learn more about how editing works!)

Keep lines of communication open
Your editor is a specialist in language and publishing – they’re the ideal person to help you with any queries or concerns. Just ask if you’re unsure about anything, and they’ll be happy to walk you through it.

Similarly, if anything important has come up during the course of editing – for example, something which might affect the factual accuracy of your content, and especially legal,  such as copyright – be sure to keep them posted.

At its best, the author–editor relationship is a happy one with a mutual goal: publishing your work.

Good editors will always give their best to help you get your work into the world, to respect your voice and honour your vision.

If you reciprocate by giving them what they need, it’s a recipe for great success!

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


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