Thursday, October 24, 2013

How to Work with an Editor

Editors can be scary, we know. We know how attached you are to your work and how intimidating it is to let anybody read it, let alone someone who is paid to criticize it. Today's blog is all about how to help you navigate your relationship with this scary person so that your work comes out the other end nice and polished and ready to publish.

Know What to Ask For

When you first submit your manuscript, make sure you know exactly how much editing you want your editor to do. Didn't know there were different levels of editing? Here's a quick rundown:
  • Substantive editing (sometimes called structural or content editing) is the heaviest level of editing. This involves potential rewriting or restructuring on the editor's side, which is done to ensure the highest level of comprehension and consistency. Expect to see significant changes to your work.
  • Copyediting aims to achieve accuracy, clarity, and consistency in a document. This may involve reworking sentences to make them more effective.
  • Proofreading includes checking for grammar and missing punctuation, ensuring that elements are in the proper order, etc. You will likely not see content changes.
Editors will also frequently include "queries," which are pretty much exactly what they sound like. Any questions the editor has regarding your work will be presented as a query. Sometimes they will ask your preference on certain changes or ask you to verify an aspect of your project.

Hopefully your MS doesn't look like this when you get it back.
But it might! Credit:
(Normally, editors at publishing houses will do a comprehensive or substantive edit of your work, so just expect that level of edit. But if you hire a freelancer, you will be able to specify what type you'd like. When you've gone through your freelancer and submit to a publishing house, expect it to go through another round of more intense edits.)

When you are ready to have your project edited, make sure you have these facts in mind and know what you want, otherwise what you expected to be a light proofread could come back with stricken paragraphs. Editors don't want to overstep their bounds, so make sure you tell them exactly what those bounds are.

Challenge Queries and Changes

Now, odds are you're going to disagree with some of the changes your editor is making. That's okay! It's your work, and we recognize that. If you think a change is not appropriate, let your editor know. He or she can explain their reasoning, and you can explain yours. This opens up a dialog that allows you to get what you  need while still improving your MS. Win-win!

Credit: Forbes

That said, of course, be polite when you dispute a change. Starting your objections with "I think..." or "I feel like..." is always a good way to go. Don't accuse your editor of shredding your manuscript or ruining your work. That's a good way to get your MS back without any improvements and without a refund. Realize that your editor is trying to help you get your manuscript in the best possible position before you publish, not trying to impose their own perspective.

Be Objective

On that note, sometimes it's best to trust your editor. After all, they're looking out for you and the success of your project. They also have a lot of experience working on different types of projects, and they know what needs to be done to a manuscript to really make it shine. Even though it's hard, try to let go of your feelings toward your work and see it from an outsider's perspective. You might realize that some changes you thought were too much are truly for the better.

Many authors make the mistake of allowing their egos to get in the way of editing, and this is almost always a guarantee for a shoddy product. Be humble and allow your editor to do what they do best. Working together will turn out the best version of your work you could have hoped for!

See, now, that wasn't so scary, was it?

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