Tips for Communicating with Editors

People have different strengths. This statement shouldn’t surprise me, yet I’m still taken aback by the real-life examples demonstrating this fact. As a professional editor with years of business and project management experience, I take good communication skills for granted. The inspiration for this post came from an insightful author who pointed out to me that professional communication does not come naturally to everyone. Since I have a soft spot for helping writers, I’ve pulled together tips for communicating effectively with editors.

Initiating Contact

Breaking news – like some writers, editors can be introverted too! How you reach out to editors should be determined by their preferred methods of communication. If the editor’s website has a contact form, use it. If their Twitter profile says, “no DMs,” then respect that. If you or the editor prefers written communication over phone calls, stick with email. While I think a discovery phone call is fantastic to learn about goals and set expectations, I protect my time carefully by vetting potential clients via contact forms and email first. Efficient use of time is critical for a freelance editor who gets paid by the hour.

What to Communicate

So how do I efficiently deduce if an author is a good fit for my editing expertise? Or maybe more importantly, you want to know how to evaluate if an editor is a good fit for you, your book, and your budget. See my previous post for where to find professional editors and what questions to ask. Once you’ve connected, here’s what information you should expect to provide to an editor: the genre and blurb or synopsis for your book, your target audience, estimated word count, and desired timeframe to complete the editing project. Be prepared to pay a rush fee in some cases. Plan ahead to avoid this and be aware that experienced, professional editors book months in advance. When discussing what types of editing you want, be knowledgeable about the options and use the editor’s vocabulary to be clear about what you want. But still ask questions! The definition of what is included in a developmental edit varies from editor to editor.

How to Communicate

If you “interview” several editors to make a selection, don’t be shy about letting them know. For anyone who avoids confrontation it might feel dreadful having to give bad news but be diplomatic and professional. Don’t leave them hanging after you got an editor excited about possibly working with you. Politely say, “No thanks, I selected someone else.” If there’s a chance of maybe working together in the future, say so. But there is no need to disclose the great deal you got from someone else. Most professional editors set their rates within the industry standard range based on their level of experience. See the Editorial Freelancers Association for common rates per editorial service.

Setting Expectations

Once you’ve selected an editor that best fits your needs, how do you ensure they will deliver what you expect? I like to align expectations right at the start with an agreement documenting all that we’ve agreed upon concerning the type of editing to be done, when work will be completed (especially if we’re talking multiple rounds) and how payments will be handled. It’s like a contract but less intimidating. For me, it’s helpful to discuss and agree on the manuscript format for editing, the way changes will be tracked, and the number of rounds between author and editor. Editorial style is a fuzzy concept, but just like an author’s voice, it has a subtle impact. You may be able to discern the editor’s style from a sample edit. Are you looking for a coach who points out what works well along with what needs to be improved? Do you want only the indisputable errors to be touched? Should the editor only identify problems or also suggest solutions to resolve those problems?

Ongoing Communication

Sometimes the process is as simple as a sample edit, editor’s full edit, author’s review of feedback, accept/reject changes and revision if needed. Other times it’s a bit of back and forth with explanations and brainstorming. Do you know how to follow up on their progress without hovering? You should if it was discussed in the initial discovery call or documented in the agreement about expectations! Align early on communication preference and frequency and then trust. Trust that you’ve done your due diligence to carefully vet professionals and selected the best fit for you. If you asked other writers for referrals and checked references, then you need to trust the editor to handle your manuscript with care and get the job done on time. Give them space to do the work. I offer weekly progress updates for bigger editing projects that span multiple weeks. It’s fair to ask for a status update on occasion but be cognizant of impeding progress. Don’t distract them with requests for reassurance or questions of “How are you liking it?” Recognize that you’re on the same team. Your editor wants your book to be a success almost as much as you do.

Final Communication

Editors like reviews just as much as authors. I encourage my clients to give me feedback about my edits because I take pride in delivering value promptly. I want to hear about how my suggestions were received. Did I meet or exceed expectations? All of my clients are asked to share a review of my services. Keep it professional and diplomatic. Share how you as the writer felt about the process and the final product. Did you learn something? Is your book better for it? If yes, then I did my job well. And as an editor who loves romance, I’ll call that a satisfying “happily ever after.”

Kimberly Hunt of Revision Division has worked with authors of both fiction and non-fiction, as well as had experience with project and business management. Connect with her at the following places.

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