The right editor is a gift.
With the Thanksgiving and Christmas craziness upon me, my brain is geared toward “finding” that special something, the perfect gifts for the men, women, and children in my life. After chatting with one of my authors, I realized that, for myself, I want to find that one editor that I can turn to for all of my needs. There are a few reasons why the one’s I’ve worked with so far won’t quite work. It’s not that they’re not good enough, it’s that they didn’t live up to some of my most important expectations. So I really put some thought into it, and I’ve come up with a few quick tips for finding the editor for you. This is the same criteria I’ll use from now on as well. Here’s hoping you learn from my mistakes. (Note: If you can find a great editor to exchange stories with, it’s an awesome thing. So, ya know, that’s a possibility.)
The editor will ‘get’ you.
My first priority as an editor is to ensure the story conveys what the author wants it to. I’ve recently realized that’s not every editor’s first priority. That’s a me thing, and that’s okay. We all prioritize a bit differently, and there are certainly other important aspects of a book an editor must take under consideration. But my ideal editor will have this at the very top of his or her list. Think about what’s most important to you. What is the one thing (aside from catching technical errors and having a professional attitude) you want to be your editor’s first priority?
When interviewing editors, ask them what their first priority is with each book they edit. If their answer is the same as or similar to yours, then you’re probably a great match.
The editor is easy to reach and responds quickly.
Some industry professionals will respond to your communications (emails, Facebook chats, etc.) within a few hours. Others may take a bit more time to reply. I won’t work with someone who takes days to get back to me. During the week, and not counting weekends, 24 hours is a reasonable turnaround time. If I can’t get back to my clients within one day of receiving their message, especially during the week, then I’ve bitten off more than I can chew and I need to re-assess what I’m capable of versus what I’ve scheduled. Communication is my second priority. All the little details can be worked out, assuming I’ve got a way to reach my editor.
When you send that first communication to each editor you consider hiring, pay attention to how long it takes them to respond.
The editor will not pitch you a curve ball half-way through the process.
I’ve actually had this happen, as an author. I hired an editor and got some feedback. Edited my story, sent it back for a final pass, and then finished the process with no issues. The next time with that same editor was different. Now, to be fair, this is a personal preference, but this editor changed the process, changed how I would receive the feedback, to a format I didn’t care for because it was more convenient for them. I get it, I really do. But if I had known beforehand that this is how the process would work with this editor, I’d have looked elsewhere. It’s not that it’s wrong, just that it’s wrong for me. I gave it a try, even kinda liked it at first. But as time went on and I struggled with recalling the feedback (that was offered in a temporary format), I realized that this process does not work well for me.
It’s fair and reasonable to hire an editor with clear expectations from both parties from the outset. Ask an editor you’re considering what their process entails, and try to avoid hiring an editor who uses a program or process that isn’t helpful to you.
(Personal note: As an editor, I do what I can to make the author’s experience with me convenient for them, even if it’s not what’s most convenient for me. Therefore, I expect the same professional courtesy from any editor I work with.)
This last one is just a rant, so feel free to skip right over it.
The editor will not complain about his/her authors and their stupid mistakes on social media.
As an editor, my job is to correct any mistakes I find in my author’s manuscript. Those mistakes might range from broad-scale structure issues to character development issues to suggesting scene rearrangements to seeking out and destroying each and every instance of to be verbs that aren’t strictly necessary. I don’t care what part of your book needs tweaking, my job is to help you tweak it. And you will never find me on social media or my blog “shaming” authors for stupid mistakes. We all make mistakes, and sometimes, when they’re pointed out, we think, “Gah, I knew better. Why didn’t I see that?” Well, because you’re the writer. The editor’s job is to see the flaws in your work you can’t see on your own. When researching potential editors, check out their social media pages. If they’re complaining about doing their job, that’s a big red flag.
Do not hire an editor who publishes passive-aggressive social media posts that demean their authors (that could be you one day).
Plenty of articles tell you what to expect from an editor, and even what to look for when hiring one. What are their qualifications? Do they have references? What level of editing are they experienced in? And those are all good questions. But there’s a more personal side to working with an editor, and I hope my quick tips help you avoid disappointing experiences with professionally well qualified but personally inept editors. Even if you find yourself in that predicament, keep your chin up. And keep looking for the one.