Monday, May 3, 2010

Working with an Editor - How to make it productive!

It's time to talk about how you work with an editor. I know that some of you are still waiting for that big break, but you might as well get yourself ready for when that time comes. In fact, I think this is really important for those of you that haven't gotten that call yet so you know what to expect and know what is expected of you.

First of all, remember that, while you feel you are the most important person in the writing world (which you should do), remember that your editor does have other writers he or she is working with. Everyone is at a different stage of the writing process and you are just one of the many. This means that you cannot go demanding immediate attention all of the time. You may simply not be the person that has the most immediate needs at that particular moment.

Secondly, remember that your editor is also working hard on other elements of your project other than simply the writing. There is the marketing department, the PR department, the art department, the senior editors... the list is long but important. All of these people are hard at work to make your book look amazing. Again, you cannot expect your editor to be at your disposal at all times. He or she may be working on getting you a great publicity deal.

I am always very frustrated, and yes, anger does come into play here too when I see on loops of writers complaining that their editor isn't doing everything for them. In my humble opinion, these writers need to be dropped from the line and the editor should go find someone more professional.

I think you are getting the idea here. Your editor is busy.

But there is more that you can do.

Do all you can to make the work of your editor easy. This means to meet those deadlines and to take care of the revisions you have been given correctly the first time. I often talk to my son and daughters about the same thing when it comes to cleaning their rooms. If they do it right the first time, they don't need to go back and do it one more time. That is just a "time suck." So think the same thing when it comes to your editor. If you are asked to do something, do it right the first time.

But there is more that you can do. Pay attention to those comments. If your editor has told you to fix something in one novel, they don't want to see you do the same thing over and over again. You should be learning and growing with your editor. He or she is doing all they can to make your book look good. So follow those directions.

The next thing you can do is to keep in mind the idea of open communications. Keep that editor informed of everything you are doing. Do you have ideas of new projects? Send it on. Are you going to do a book signing? Let them know. Are you going to be in the neighborhood? Go and visit. You don't want to keep your agent in the dark.

I think the biggest thing to keep in mind is that this is a teamwork. Your editor is not your servant!


  1. This is valuable advice, thank you Scott.

    I think I will be so nervous of upsetting an editor, that I will work quietly in the background. Who wants to lose someone valuable to their future?

    I have a file of posts that will help me along this journey,mthis post is going in it for future reference.

  2. "Your editor is not your servant." Thanks for the laugh!

    I'm an independent editor, working with writers before they reach this point, so they'll already know when they get a publisher what an editor is and is not, as well as--of course--helping them understand what a good novel is and is not and getting their skills from the amateur to the professional level.

    I love this work. And I've been lucky to have wonderful, appreciative clients who take the craft seriously and use my advice to hone their skills. Maybe it's because it costs them up-front that I only get folks who understand this is not a lottery: you get out of it what you put into it.

    Glynis, don't be nervous. Your editor doesn't want you nervous. They just want you to understand this is a professional relationship. Your mutual goal is to produce a book so amazing you'll be high-fiving each other over margaritas when you plan your next project.

  3. Victoria, thank you for your guidance. High five and margaritas, sounds good to me. :)