5 keys to a good author-editor relationship

5 keys to a good author-editor relationship

You send your book off to the editor, and a few weeks later your masterpiece returns. Where there was confusion, there’s clarity. Your prose has turned into poetry.

What’s not to love?

Unfortunately, not all author-editor relationships run this smoothly. Read on for our top 5 keys to enjoy a good author-editor relationship.

1. Deliver your manuscript on time

Few things are more frustrating to an editor than when an author books in a certain date for editing, only to email on the day saying, “Sorry, it’s taking longer than I thought. Can I send it in next week?”

Yes, writing a book is challenging. Yes, life happens. Yes, sometimes we miss deadlines.

But, consider the editor’s perspective: We only book in a certain number of books at a time to ensure the quality of our work (at Grammar Factory, each of our editors only works on one structural edit at a time). That means that, if you submit your book late, three things happen:

  1. 1
    Quality suffers: Your book will potentially run into someone else’s edit, meaning that not only will the quality of your editing suffer, but you could impact the final quality of someone else’s book.
  2. 2
    Schedules collapse: If your book runs into someone else’s edit, your editor won’t be able to give it their full attention. They will be working on it part time instead of full time. This means that three-week edit you scheduled could stretch out to four, five, or even six weeks.
  3. 3
    Cash flow stops: Messing with the schedule messes with an editor’s cash flow. If they only schedule a certain number of books at a time, that means they have a capped income. By not providing your book when you said you would, that income is lower than expected while they wait for you to send it through. While you might think that this doesn’t affect you, this does not make for happy, generous editors who will go above and beyond to make your book a masterpiece.

So how can you get around this?

To preserve your author-editor relationship, think about time frames carefully. If your draft is already finished, great – you’re good to go.

However, if you contact an editor before you’ve finished your draft, I recommend booking in a tentative date based on when you think you’ll be finished and your editor’s availability. Then, four weeks before, get in touch to let your editor know whether you’re still on track, or whether you’ll need more time (be very clear about this – when I recently checked in with a client he said “yup, I’m getting there”. Because it wasn’t clear whether that meant he’d make the tentative date we agreed on (and I didn’t press to find out – bad Jacqui), I ended up giving his spot to someone else, only to find out later that his book was ready on time).

2. Send your best work

You’ll get the best results from your editor if you send them your best work.

When you have a rough draft that you know is a mess and someone says “that’s what editors are for”, don’t listen!

Yes, an editor can turn a rough draft into a decent manuscript. Yes, you may even choose to publish your manuscript when it’s in that ‘decent’ stage. However, imagine the results you could get if you send them something that was already decent? You would publish something excellent!

The quality of the draft you send your editor directly impacts the end result you send to print, so take some time to go through it once you’ve written it. Notice issues that could make your book a less-than-ideal reading experience – have you made assumptions about knowledge your readers might not have? Are there gaps that could be filled with further explanation or examples? Are you covering each area in the same depth, or is your work heavily skewed to a particular chapter or topic? Is there a logical order, where Chapter 2 builds on Chapter 1, and so on and so forth?

The only exception to this rule is if you’ve been poring over your manuscript for months, reviewing and rewriting everything you’ve written, and you aren’t getting anywhere. In this case, give your editor the heads up, and know that you’ll probably need more than one round of editing to get the best result.

Need some help? My book, Book Blueprint has an entire section on structure that will give you the tools you need for a successful self-edit.

3. Be open to feedback

Your editor is going to change your book. If you get a structural edit, she is going to make major changes. She may reorganise your chapters, create new chapters, recommend that you add new content, and cut out some of your existing content.

While a good editor will be open to answering questions about why she made the changes she did, there’s a difference between asking questions because you have a genuine desire to understand her thought processes, and asking questions because you’re trying to convince your editor that ten thousand words on your story belongs in a book about teaching people how to invest.

Fortunately, the majority of our clients are very open to feedback, and their books end up much stronger for it. However, we’ve all had the occasional client fight over certain changes we’ve made, and spend a lot of time trying to convince us why they were right. While we’re open to discussing different approaches and ideas, if you’re simply trying to convince us of why your way is better, you’re not going to get very far.

Editors have very strong reasoning behind the changes we make and, while it’s your decision whether you accept or reject those changes (one of the benefits of self-publishing), you’re unlikely to convince them that they are in the wrong.

4. Pay on time

This should go without saying. When your editor invoices you for their work, note the payment terms and, if you can’t pay immediately, put a reminder in your calendar either the day that the invoice is due or a few days before to ensure you pay on time.

We know that you’re busy, and that you have a full life beyond the writing and editing of your book. However, this is our livelihood, and happy editors need to be able to pay for electricity and put food on the table to do their best work.

So when should you pay? Check the editor’s invoice for their payment terms. If it isn’t clear, ask them. Generally it will be within seven days or 14 days (or, if your editor charges 50% up front and you book them in at the last minute, you should pay before they’re due to start working on your edits).

If you know you’re going to be late, or something unexpected comes up, let your editor know in advance so you can organise an alternate payment schedule. Don’t make your editor chase you up – that’s just awkward for everyone.

5. Say thank you

If you’re happy with the shape of your book after the edits, say thank you! The best part about being an editor is the difference we make to someone’s book, and if that difference helps build your confidence as an author, creates more opportunities for your business, or just makes you feel all warm and fuzzy, we’d love to hear it. :)

Over to you – are you in the midst of self-publishing your book? How is your author-editor relationship? Do you have any tips to share?