So you’ve decided to work with a freelance editor on your book. Congratulations on taking the leap! If all goes well, you’ll wind up with not only a stronger manuscript and cleaner writing but also with a long-term partner for your current and future projects.
How do you make sure all goes well? Even if you’ve checked the editor’s experience, abilities, and compatibility for your project, how can you take that relationship from good to great? While relationships are two-sided and will also require some effort on the editor’s part, there are several constructive things you can do as you interact with your editor.
- Understand the terms ahead of time.
Misunderstandings are a huge strain on the writer-editor relationship, so do your part to make sure they don’t happen. Read the editor’s website and contract carefully before entering into an agreement. If they say something is required, it’s required. If they don’t say they’ll do specific tasks for you, like ghostwriting or formatting, that means they probably don’t do those parts of the process.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions ahead of time to make sure you’re on the same page. Your editor will be happy to clarify their policies, and you’ll get the chance to ask for your specific needs to be met and make sure they’re possible and expected.
- If you need more work done, pay more.
At the beginning of the editing job, you and your editor will agree on a specific price for a specific amount of work, whether that’s an hourly or flat rate. If, after the editor completes the work, you decide you need a little more advice or edits of updated portions of the book, don’t ask them to work pro bono on those extra hours. Some editors will allow for multiple rounds of revision or coaching, but remember point #1: you need to make sure it’s in the terms of your agreement ahead of time.
A good editor loves their job and wants to give you the best possible value on the work you’re paying them to do. Don’t stress them out by forcing them to choose between having to tell you “no” and losing work time that they could have put on the clock elsewhere.
- Trust your editor’s advice.
Ideally, you took the time to check out your editor’s credentials before you hired them. Do they have proper training and knowledge to help develop your book? Do they understand grammar, punctuation, and the specifics of a style manual well enough to give you a quality copyedit? Did you talk with them about your project and get a sample edit done to make sure they can deliver what they said they’ll deliver? If so, trust that they know what they’re doing.
One of the more frustrating things that happens to an editor is that an author hires them to improve their book and then doesn’t let them actually improve it. If your editor says the organization of your chapters isn’t clear, don’t tell them it’s “good enough” just because you don’t want to change it. Ask questions. Learn. Understand what they see, and then decide how to make use of it. In the same way, if you know they understand their style manual, don’t flip out at their corrections of your comma usage or parallelism. If something sounds strange, ask—a good editor will be able to point you to the rules they’re following.
You hired this editor because you believe they’re an expert; trust them to truly be that expert.
- Don’t make demands.
You retain all rights to your book; your editor retains all rights to their own time and processes. You’re coming to them as a client, not as an employer, so what you’re paying for is a service, not the right to be their boss. If there is a certain way you would like things done, it’s important to—you guessed it—mention it ahead of time! Good freelance editors are a friendly, helpful bunch on the whole, so there’s a fair chance they can work it in.
If they tell you “no” because something you’re hoping for goes against their policies or procedures, don’t conclude that they’re being unreasonable. They’re just doing what’s best for their business and clients as a whole, and a client who tells them how to do what they do isn’t going to help anything—or get any results. If it’s vital to you to find an editor who will chat via phone or edit using a specific program, don’t get upset at the ones who don’t—they’re not doing anything wrong. Simply look for one who does.
- Share your vision.
Why does your editor do what they do? If you’re not sure, ask them—they’ll likely be excited to share their passion. What you’ll discover in most good freelancers is a love for story and language and a commitment to come alongside authors to make their work the best it can be.
We want to partner with you! As you begin a job with an editor, whether they’re coaching you on your story or copyediting your late draft, share your vision. Tell your editor why you’re writing what you’re writing, what excites you about it, and how you picture the end result. Your love for and your commitment to your project will be contagious, and once your editor catches that vision and excitement, your book will have gained a partner for life.
It’s a relationship.
The way a writer and their editor interact is a relationship, and like all relationships, a strong one takes time and effort. When you put the time into sharing your vision, respecting your editor’s time and knowledge, and double-checking expectations ahead of time, that effort won’t go unnoticed.
As a freelance editor, if I see you acting that way as a writer, I’m going to return your respect and commitment to this partnership. I will answer your questions, get excited about your book, cut no corners in the advice and corrections I give you, and do my best to make the process smooth and convenient for you.
Your book is your baby, and a good editor is going to come alongside you to help it grow into a strong, healthy manuscript. To build up the writer-editor relationship from good to great, encourage an environment of trust and respect by implementing the five tips above. Your editor, if they’re worth anything at all, will reciprocate with their own time and attention. There will be much less stress in the process, and both you and your editor will be happier and healthier for it.