Today we welcome writer and editor Freida Kilmari. She’s put on her Editor hat and is sharing with us top 10 tips for working with an editor.
No matter what route you take, traditional or self-publishing, you will (should) be dealing with editors so check out this invaluable advice.
Working with an editor can be tough, stressful, and sometimes painful, but it doesn’t have to be. It can be beautiful and rewarding if you let it.
As an editor who specialises in working with indie authors and small-time publishers, I’ve had a range of personalities come my way, from the “please just take it and make it a best seller” author, to the “I only want minor changes but a brilliant story” writer.
There are a few things you can do when working with your editor that will make your life 100% easier (and probably make your editor less stressed, too).
Work with the Right Editor
This one is pretty obvious, but you’d be surprised how many people don’t make the right choice in the very first step.
If you want to leave the editing process feeling positive, refreshed, and driven, then you need to work with an editor whose personal style and personality matches your writing style.
For example, I take an encouraging and teaching approach, taking the time to point out what I liked, comment my general thoughts and feelings while reading, and cheering on my authors from the sidelines upon publication.
This is because I love having a friendly relationship with my authors. But not all editors are like that. Maybe you respond best to a bit tough love? Maybe you’d rather not be chatty and friendly but straight-up professional and just get it over with?
All those scenarios and styles are okay, but you need to find the one that works best for you, and then the editor with the perfect style to match that.
Be upfront about what you want from the editing process. Some people just want someone to fix their grammatical errors, while others want someone to help make them a bestselling book (well, try and create that).
If we don’t know what you want from the editing process, we can’t deliver our best service, as our best service is always tailored to the author.
This is actually a question in my pricing quote form on my website, because I really don’t like going in blind. And I know other editors feel the same way.
Be Open to Change
This is the age-old, “Why hire an editor if you don’t want the feedback?” question. This still happens. All. The. Damn. Time.
If you come to me with a manuscript that hasn’t really been self-edited or put through any beta readers, but you only want a minimal proofread, that just isn’t going to be possible, because a good book comes from hard work.
Great authors are great self-editors. And the more effort you put into your manuscript, the less work the editor has to do, therefore, the less intrusive suggestions they’ll have to make. So, be open to your editor’s suggestions.
Don’t say no straight away just because they deleted an unnecessary sentence that you really love.
Ask yourself, “Does the paragraph actually sound better without it?” You write for yourself, but you edit for your readers.
This means that the time for your personal opinion is over; it’s time to get in the heads of your readers and make the best choice for them.
Understanding Suggestions vs Corrections
Sometimes an editor will make a correction that you should probably just accept (like deleting an incorrect comma), but other times they might make a suggestion that they want you to think about.
But we honestly don’t have the time to mark each and tell you which is which. So, the general rule of thumb is that most copyediting and proofreading edits will be corrections, but most line editing and development edits will be suggestions.
If they’re working with style, readability, tone, and prose, then they’re going to be suggesting enhancements to your writing, but if they’re correcting grammar and working on technical style (adhering to CMOS, for example), then they’re going to be suggesting a correction that’s probably just best if you accept (especially if you don’t understand grammar).
The difference between the two is likely to frustrate you, but if in doubt, just throw your editor an email and ask. And remember, all our corrections are only suggestions (grammatical or stylistic).
I recommend accepting most of the grammatical corrections, but you don’t have to. It’s your work, not ours.
Contrary to my previous points, there does sometimes come the type of writer that will just accept everything no matter what, either because they’re scared, unsure, or just trust their editor.
We do NOT want you to do this.
There comes a moment in life when it’s time to learn how to say no. It’s okay. We’re not going to be upset or angry. It’s our job to work WITH you, not against you. And most of the time, I’ll just say okay and move on.
You are allowed to disagree with your editor. When it comes to the small things, the editor will likely move on, but when it comes to the big things, they’ll try and explain again and suggest an alternative fix that is more closely related to your vision.
Working together is the key, and that means saying no when you feel a suggestion isn’t working with your vision.
Again, this is one of those obvious ones that 99% of authors will totally understand, but there’s always those rare few that just don’t get it. We’re human.
We have feelings and emotions and lives. It doesn’t take two seconds to read over what you’ve written and check to make sure it isn’t too harsh or overly unprofessional.
While we want to know how you’re feeling, so we can make sure we’re working well with you, we also don’t want to be bombarded with nasty emails telling how sh** we are.
Yes, it happens. Just remember to be polite. Being an a** is the number one way to make us drop you and your manuscript, no matter how great your project might be. It’s actually the only reason I’ll ever drop an author.
Speaking of being human, we tend to like chatting with our clients, even if we are slightly unsocial normally.
Ask us how we’re doing, tell us about that amazing review you got, chat about how nervous you are for that book signing event.
We love to be included in our author’s writing world. Or at least, I do. And I’m sure your editor will love reading those emails.
Be on Time!
Whether it be paying that invoice or delivering that manuscript, please be on time.
An editor’s schedule is crazy, and every time you’re late, we have to shift things around. I’ll be honest, a late-paid invoice makes us internally groan—we have bills to pay and mouths to feed, so please don’t make us get frustrated with you.
Some editors are really strict on this, and won’t continue working with people who frequently pay them late, so it’s actually pretty important to you, as well, if you want to keep that editor.
Arrange Meetings or Video Calls
This will depend on the editor, as some aren’t comfortable with this, but one of the best ways to go through feedback is in person.
While I don’t do in-person meetings, I do offer Zoom video calls. This allows me to chat about things in more detail, answer loads of questions at once without writing an essay of an email, and I get to meet you (which is always lovely).
There are some authors that do this after every round of feedback, because it’s how they communicate best, and there are others that prefer not to because speaking to someone makes them nervous.
Both of those situations are fine but do give it a go, because a lot of authors say that it makes their experience that much more personal and tailored.
We Are Not Attacking You
We love what we do. Believe me, we wouldn’t spend every day of our lives correcting grammar and helping authors build great stories if we didn’t love it.
It’s our job to tell you the truth—that’s what you’re paying us for—so trust me when I say it isn’t personal.
If we do have to give feedback that might be hard to hear, then we’re only saying it because we care, about you and your work and our job, so please don’t take it personally.
Some people struggle accepting feedback more than others (I know I do!), so a great way to practice is to grab some beta readers.
My biggest tip when dealing with hard-hitting feedback is to take a couple weeks and process before doing anything drastic (or anything at all, really).
Just mull everything over, keep rereading it, have a look at your work and see if you can understand. Because once it’s sunken in, you can usually see where the editor/reader is coming from, and then you can make an informed choice, rather than an emotional one.
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About Freida Kilmari
Freida Kilmari, an author and editor from south-west England, has been reading fiction since she was a small child, and has a passion for fantasy, romance, science-fiction, poetry, and children’s fiction (including young adult) that has fuelled her book-filled career.
If she’s not reading, she’s editing, and if she’s doing neither of those, she’s writing.
Man VS Happiness
The Mental Health Disaster has destroyed half the population of Earth.
Humanity is at a crisis point.
It’s the chosen Legacy Scholar’s job to document the journey, but when his only window into the outside world breaks, he’s in a race against time to fix it before the Library of Time is lost forever.
Take a read through his adventure, and through humanity’s journey, in a beautiful collection of short stories and poetry.