Editors like to find errors and inconsistencies. They like to be right; all incredibly annoying traits in human beings.
I should know, I am one. I’m also a writer and a publisher. When I am writing or publishing, I take on the annoying traits of those functions as well.
But odds are, you are a writer. And, if you are a beginning writer, you will have your first interaction with an editor. If you play your cards right, this editor will make your work at least 10% better AND prepare the manuscript for both publication and PROMOTION.
That’s right: Your editor should understand promotion and press breaks and help build them into your book along with good grammar, proper word choice and a narrative velocity that keeps your reader on the page, then the next page, then the page after that.
That’s a great deal for one human to hold in their head over 300 or more pages, so respect the editor. Good ones are as rare as honest politicians.
Enter into the editorial relationship with an open heart and really open eyes. It’s still your book and the ultimate choices are yours, but the right editor can really make a work sing.
Here are some thoughts on the care and feeding of editors:
1. If you say “I don’t need an editor,” you are going against the smart thinking of everyone from Tolstoy to Hemmingway to Stephen King. EVERYONE needs an editor. If you don’t think you do, I hear egotism and not a love of writing.
2. Get clarity. Remember, editors are just as rushed as everyone else and some talk in a kind of short hand. If any editorial comment does not make sense, press your editor so you can get it right.
3. Don’t get defensive. Never forget, this person’s job is to make you better. That means they must point out where your work is weaker. You need this. It makes your book a stronger read.
4. Get other reads. Ask anyone you respect to read your manuscript. Discuss their comments with the editor to see if they brought up valid points. It takes a village.
5. Do not fear cutting. Some editors do not cut, just suggest it. I take a red pencil and make long horizontal lines. Books are ALWAYS made better by cutting and tightening. Or almost always.
6. Give your editor time with your manuscript. Many authors want instant feedback. The only instant feedback you should get is that your editor has received your manuscript. Let them read it through and think about ways to make it better.
7. Don’t bug your editor: They are not here to manage your anxiety. If you are a big enough person to write a book, you are a big enough person to give your editor space to do his or her work. Discuss your fears with your shrink. Work with your editor.
8. Insist on communication. Talking to your editor daily is not something you should expect to do. But you should expect your calls returned – WITHIN REASON – and your queries – yes, you’ll query your editor’s queries sometimes – are explained.
9. Talk to your editor about how to build press breaks in the book. If it’s non-fiction, finding stories to pitch is easier. Exploit what you have that the press, reviewers or bloggers may be able to really hang on to and write a story.
10. Send short emails and expect short answers. Again, reading manuscripts and editing is akin to needle work; quiet and time consuming. Don’t burn any time with issues that don’t matter.
Okay, that’s my editorial advice for the day. I have to get back to writing. It’s more fun anyway.