Author’s note: I currently have three posts ready to go, but all of them are somewhat controversial, and I’m having trouble finding the courage to hit the publish button, so I thought I’d write this one as my second book, The Blood Mage, is headed to the editor on January 30th (11 days, eek!)
In the end, what makes a book valuable is not the paper it’s printed on, but the thousands of hours of work by dozens of people who are dedicated to creating the best possible reading experience for you.
~ John Green
I’ve written about the importance of professional editing before. Recently, however, as I slog my way through edits for my second book, I’ve come to appreciate the relationship I have with my editor much, much more.
You see, as I did some quick research for this post, which was originally set to be a piece on why professional editing is so important for indie authors, I came to realize a lot of writers have a contentious relationship with editors. Some of the things writers have said about editors is… less than kind.
I can’t help but wonder if this uneasy relationship is created more by the writer or by the publishing house. I do understand it’s difficult to have your work critiqued (you can check out a short retelling of the temper tantrum I threw when my manuscript came back from the editor in the blog I linked to above). But I also have to wonder if some of this unease comes from the traditionally published author being forced by his publishing house to work with an editor he doesn’t click with.
Not every professional relationship in your life needs to be the perfect fit. It doesn’t matter so much if you like your accountant, for example. It helps, to be sure, but as long as everything is done properly, there doesn’t really need to be chemistry. There are some professional relationships, however, where chemistry is extremely important. Editors fall into this second category (therapists, doctors, and teachers also come to mind).
And I’m not talking about chemistry in terms of you and your editor are BFFs, although some writers do share that relationship with their editors. I’m talking about professional chemistry which, in my experience, is premised upon mutual respect and, most importantly, trust.
Trust, especially in the self-publishing world, is incredibly important, because let’s be honest, there are a lot of people out there trying to scam indie authors (and succeeding at it). We don’t have publishing houses behind us to protect us from these people. A lot of us don’t even have agents. Publishing houses and agents will protect traditionally published authors because it’s in their best interests to do so. But, as in all things indie, we must fill that void and step up to protect our own interests, which means finding an editor we can trust not only with our money, but also with our writing.
All this leads me to a few bullet points which are indicative of a good relationship with your editor:
- Your editor is enthusiastic about your work. If your editor isn’t proud to put his or her name on your book, something is wrong. My editor was as excited about my book launch as I was. She shared my book on her social media platforms and put it in her newsletter. If she hadn’t been excited to put her name on it, I would have been very, very worried. Your book is not only a reflection of you but also your editor, and if your editor doesn’t want to claim it, you might have a problem.
- Your editor takes time to listen to your concerns and questions surrounding her suggestions. The editing process should be a collaboration. We are indie authors for a reason. This is not the way it used to be where editors in publishing houses were handed the manuscript and a red pen, and the author was handed a blindfold and handcuffs. All right, this is an exaggeration, but you get where I’m going. One of the nice things about being an indie author is increased creative control. This means that your editor should never be steamrolling you. Improving your manuscript should be a conversation, and your editor should be happy to participate. My editor is very intuitive about my characters and my writing, so to be honest, I don’t usually have a ton of questions for her, but when I do, her responses are always thoughtful, and most of the time, I end up coming up with something that is a combination of my vision and hers that works better than either of our original ideas.
- Your editor is interested in your long-term success as an author. This actually is just good business sense. Your editor should want you to be successful so you keep coming back. Also, the more successful you are, the more their reputation grows. An editor interested in maintaining long-term relationships with clients is an editor who is vested in the success of their clients. My editor helped me answer questions related not only to writing, but also to the industry. When she didn’t have the answers, she would point me in the direction of someone who did. She wants me to succeed, because it will help her succeed. This should always be a symbiotic relationship. An editor who couldn’t care less when your next book is coming out, is an editor who isn’t invested in you or your career and by extension, your writing.
If you have these three things in an editor, you’re probably well on your way to a good relationship. And trust me, in this industry, you’re going to need it.
For a list of editors to consider, I will refer you to Joanna Penn’s: http://www.thecreativepenn.com/editors/
For information on my editor, the fabulous Katie McCoach, visit her site here: http://katiemccoach.com/
Have any other advice for a happy and healthy relationship with an editor? Add it to the comments!
Happy editing everyone!