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How to make sure you and your editor are on the same page

At first glance, you may consider writing your book a solo endeavour. However, as John C. Maxwell once said, “Nothing of significance was ever achieved by an individual acting alone. Look below the surface and you will find that all seemingly solo acts are really team efforts.”

The key team members in your author journey (apart from yourself) are your editor, proofreader, and designer. Of these team members, the most important relationship to cultivate is with your editor.  

There are a number of different types of editing (discussed in more detail here), and the precise role of your editor will be determined by your decisions regarding the type/s of editing you require.

However, regardless of which type of editing you are looking for, there are some key decisions to make about your editor that will ensure they are a valued member of your team, rather than an afterthought brought in at the last minute.

How to choose your editor

For me, the author-editor relationship is one of co-creation. Although the author is clearly in charge, the editor can play a vital role in ensuring your book is completed in a way that aligns with your aspirations.

With that in mind, here are some factors to consider when choosing your editor:

  • You need to trust your editor’s ability to understand your vision and help you execute it. This will become evident in the questions they ask you (see below), and the enthusiasm (or lack thereof) they show for your project.
  • Try to avoid freelancer services that have no quality assurance protocols. If you are going for a freelancer service, stick with those that specialise in editing and can demonstrate that their editors are properly credentialled (e.g., Scribendi – I have gone through their credentialling process and can vouch for the fact that it is brutal!).
  • Although price is obviously an important consideration, try not to simply go with the cheapest option. Your book is a passion project, and you want to ensure it is in good hands. Look at your editor’s credentials and experience, but also their interest and enthusiasm for your project (as above).

What your editor should ask you:

If you consider your editor your support crew, it becomes obvious that, in order for them to be effective in their role, they need more than just a highly developed grasp of written language (although that is essential!).

Your editor should be asking you questions like:

  • What is the purpose of your book?
  • How will you know you have achieved your purpose (i.e., what reaction/s are you hoping to evoke in your readers?
  • Who is your intended audience (primary and secondary)?
    • What is their assumed knowledge?
    • What is their reading ability?
  • Are there any quirks about your writing that you want addressed?
  • Are there any quirks about your writing that you want left alone?
  • Are there any sensitive issues/topics that you need special attention paid to?
  • Is there anything about your book that could be confusing to readers that you want special attention paid to (e.g., do you switch between using someone’s full name and their nickname without meaning to)?

What you should be asking your editor:

  • How do they charge (i.e., by the hour/word count/project)?
  • If they charge per project – how many revisions are included in that fee?
  • Do they have content knowledge of your topic? (This is especially important if you are getting developmental editing but is also helpful for other types of editing.)
  • What is their typical turnaround time?
  • What do they need from you in order to be able to complete their task as quickly as possible?

When to choose your editor

When it comes to choosing your editor, it can be really helpful to start having conversations with potential editors quite early in your author journey. Here’s why:

  • Developmental editing needs to occur before the bulk of your writing has been done, so finding your editor early gives you the option of having a thorough developmental edit undertaken.
  • You can agree on a timeframe for your project that is mutually convenient. This is extremely powerful, because it serves as an accountability measure for you as the author, whilst ensuring that, when the time comes, your editor is ready for your manuscript.

It can be so frustrating when you have laboured over your book to get it to editing by a certain date (that makes sense to you), and your editor lets you know they have a backlog of work and won’t get to it for another week (or longer). Of course, your timeframe may need to remain flexible, but it is extremely helpful to have it as a guide.

Although your book is your book, having the right team to accompany you on your author journey will enhance both the process and the outcome.  

If you have any questions about editing, or any aspect of writing your own book, please feel free to send me an email: [email protected]

Here’s to writing fearlessly,

Xx Kate

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