Looking to build a healthy relationship with your editor?

There are few working relationships as close as the one between an author and their editor. Authors have described the editing process as a “dance,” a “learning experience,” as well as “having their words polished to perfection.”  Alternatively, authors have also described the editing process as “stressful,” “disheartening,” and in the worst cases, “as if the book itself is being compromised.” Maybe you’ve also felt this way about having your book edited?

The good news: it doesn’t have to be this way. While there are no guarantees, applying our advice below should get you closer to having an editing experience that keeps you motivated.

Here are our cherry-picked tips to get the most from your book editing experience:

Tip#1: Do You Have (Copyright) Permission?

Copied pictures or text from Google? Get permission first, before editing starts. Copyright clearance and obtaining licences are not part of the services most editors offer and can hold up the editing process if not addressed early on. There are editors who offer this service and would happily include it in their quote; simply ask. Don’t assume that your editor will take care of your copyright responsibilities.

Best practices for copying images or text from Google.

Have you used ChatGPT or similar software in your writing? I recommend owning up to any AI usage in your manuscript upfront so that your editor can advise accordingly. It would be a pity to be blocked from publishing on a platform such as Amazon, if plagiarised text was detected within your manuscript.

Tip#2 The Best Time to Begin the Edit

Only start the edit once you’re satisfied you’ve done all you can with the wording. Once started, adding new text to the manuscript will result in additional charges. Just as you wouldn’t expect a builder to add a new room to your dream house for the same price after they have started their work, don’t expect your editor to edit new chapters or sections of text without being willing to pay them for the additional work. Feel strongly about adding new text to your manuscript, once the edit is already underway? First, chat with your editor.

Tip #3: Money Matters

Editors normally charge per word. Like all professionals who offer a high-quality service, editors expect to be compensated according to the amount of work your manuscript requires to make it the best it can possibly be and will thus quote accordingly – most often on a per-word basis. While there are professional guidelines for editing rates, these are not set in stone and freelance editors often determine their own rates according to their experience, the level of edit the manuscript requires and other business considerations.

Avoid choosing editors based solely on cost. While most editors are open to some negotiation, trying to undercut them is best avoided, since this mostly leads to starting the working relationship off on the wrong foot.



Tip#4: What Type of Edit You’re Paying For

Not all edits are equal: Understand the level of edit you’re paying for before starting. There are various levels of editing services that an editor can offer, from an initial manuscript evaluation all the way to a full developmental edit, each involving different aspects of your writing, each having their own rates. Determining what level of edit you need and will be paying for upfront helps avoid any disappointment later on.

This also goes for any specific design, or visual styling that you want shown in your final book. Most editors will only do basic text formatting, anything more should rather be discussed with your book designer. 

Tip#5: How Many Rounds of Changes Are Provided?

Ask upfront how many rounds of feedback the editor will allow after delivering their first edited draft. Extra rounds of feedback requested by the author normally results in extra charges. Most editors allow a maximum of 2 rounds of feedback. Many first-time authors assume that the editor remains available to address queries for as long as the author has questions. False.  

The number of rounds of feedback offered, differs between editors. If, after your edit has been completed, you realise you still want additional changes made, I recommend asking your editor to quote you for the additional work.  

Tip#6: Communicating with Your Editor

Poor communication is one of the most common – and at the same time, easily avoidable – stumbling blocks that risks derailing an editing process. Miscommunication or misunderstandings often result in frustration and time lost for both the author and the editor.

Avoid after-hours communication with the editor. As with any other professional relationship, keep communications respectful and professional. This includes being respectful of your editor’s personal time as well by avoiding after-hours messages or calls. While many editors do work freelance and set their own work hours, it’s best for everyone involved to establish acceptable hours during which you will both be contactable at the start. 

Don’t take manuscript edits personally. When discussing changes suggested by the editor, don’t accuse – rather openly discuss why a specific change was made. Remember, you’re on the same team.

Avoid large gaps in time between comms with your editor. Editors are often in high demand and many plan their projects months in advance to ensure every manuscript they take on gets the attention it deserves. When there are long gaps in comms, it can prevent an editor from starting their next project when planned. This delay impacts cashflow for the editor, including their ability to keep the lights on and the coffee pot warm.

Summarise your feedback. Nothing makes life more miserable for an editor than sorting through several emails where one would have sufficed. Keeping feedback summarised and in a single email thread ensures that nothing is missed and that both your inboxes don’t begin to bulge. After all, less time spent on emails means that your editor has more available time to spend on your manuscript.

Tip #7: Accepting Nobody’s Perfect

No single editor will find ALL mistakes. This also applies to any author tempted to rely solely on self-editing. Whilst a thorough self-editing helps ensure that your manuscript is clean and tidy, one set of eyes is never enough to catch all mistakes and inconsistencies. Most times, you as the author are too close to your own words and have gone over them too many times to pick up on every typo.

Find a mistake in the manuscript returned by your editor? Please consider this is likely not a true reflection of their editing skills, but rather more likely the result of exhaustion, or a momentary lapse in concentration caused by a curious cat padding across a keyboard. It would help your relationship with your editor if you accept that your editor will overlook some mistakes, despite their best efforts.

Did you know that most best-selling authors will have multiple edits done by more than one editor? Even then, some mistakes tend to slip though. Most big traditional publishers expect a certain number of errors will make it into the final manuscript. Once found, these errors can be flagged and corrected before the next print run takes place and largely go unnoticed by most casual readers.

A Note on Validation

 “Is my book good enough?”

A common question many editors have heard or will hear throughout their career. Often authors, and especially first-time authors are seeking validation on whether their book is “worth it” before investing in getting their work published. Sound like you?

Keep in mind that your editor wouldn’t have taken on your manuscript if they weren’t interested in your book and believed it had potential. No editor wants to spend hours upon hours polishing a manuscript that they think they won’t enjoy working on or that they feel is a lost cause.

Rather than asking this question of your editor, consider asking: “How can I make it better?”

A Final Word

There you have it, dear reader. I hope that you now feel better equipped to tackle the editing process head-on and are ready to thoroughly impress your editor. Remember that, in the end, it’s all about making your book the best it can possibly be. Your editor is, after all, your sage advisor and comrade-in-arms, not unlike Gandalf or Yoda (which ever you prefer).  Happy editing!  

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/Dedicated to Tebogo, Jane, David & Martin