7 Ways to Make the Most of Your Editor’s Time and Talents

If you’ve written a book (or anything else for that matter — let’s travel back to English class for a few, shall we?), you’ve probably gotten at least a little bit familiar with the idea of working with an editor. Not yet? Hey, that’s okay, too. No matter where you find yourself today, these seven tips will help you to make the most of your time with your editor, which in turn will make your book its absolute best.

Editors are not only busy people, but their work is very mind-intensive… and exhausting! Hours upon hours of remembering plot points, staring at a screen, correcting one letter, one mark, one word at a time… all while bearing the author’s personality and writing style in mind and affecting it minimally.Yes, that is a lot to keep in mind while working at the same time, but editors do it every day. I’ve personally spent the last seven years or so editing for other indie authors, and the work can be immensely satisfying at the end… but grueling and tedious during the process. Of course this depends partially on the editor’s perception of their work, too, but this is how it has been for me.As with most careers and specialties, the editor in me has developed a list of pet peeves that totally got on my nerves about certain clients or authors. Not so much that it ruined the professionalism or anything, but certain things drove me crazy ;). Suffice it to say that some aspects of this list are based on those pet peeves, but these suggestions could help others when they work with an editor, so I will share =).

An established editor has probably been editing for years, otherwise they wouldn’t be calling themselves an editor. Editing requires a few really specific attributes, and anytime these slip, the manuscript tends to suffer. Some of the attributes of a good editor can be read about in a previous post about hiring an editor.

As far as your responsibilities are concerned, here are seven ways to make the most of your editor’s time & talents.

1. Trust that they know what they’re doing. Even if someone has just begun editing professionally, chances are that they’ve had an interest and inclination toward it for a long time, possibly even since childhood as was the case for me. If someone has a natural talent for editing, chances are that they’ve been working without getting paid for years.

2. Follow their instructions, especially if they have experience. Chances are that they’ve streamlined their process to coincide with how much they charge, so deviating from what they ask you to do and how they ask you to do it can mean countless hours of additional tedious work on their part… and, depending on the editor, additional cost on your part.

3. Don’t edit mistakes back into the manuscript. If your editor corrected or changed something and you don’t know why, select the text, click on “new comment,” and ask your question pertaining to the change. We editors usually have a pretty good reason for changing things a bit ;).

4. Don’t send your editor a first draft! Traditionally published authors don’t do it, and neither should you. If you’re trying to build a career as an author, this is especially important. Take pride in your work; if you don’t, no one will.

5. Don’t be a pest. Emailing, calling, and messaging multiple times a week does nothing for a person’s ability to focus on what they’re doing, especially if you ask the same questions over and over, don’t remember the answers, and then spend 45 minutes on the phone with your editor rehashing the same questions she already answered. It’s a waste of everyone’s time, energy, and motivation. For me, if I feel like I’m being unnecessarily pestered, it literally makes me cringe to even think about working on that person’s book, so that presents its own additional challenges to overcome, all because someone is too insecure to let a professional work.

6. Work collaboratively with your editor. Not only does this help to make the process more fun, but you will be able to learn a lot from the entire experience if you’re open to it and pay attention. This will help you to improve your writing and English knowledge over time.

7. Learn as much as you can so you can save money next time. The cleaner and more well-presented your manuscript is, the less in-depth your editing process needs to be. If you can learn enough, you may be able to hire someone to do a basic proofread or copyedit instead of a full developmental edit and/or multiple passes.Editing a book is the most tedious and time-consuming part of the book production process after the writing and revising has been done by the author. Think about it… whereas many people read somewhat quickly by skimming the pages, an editor has to thoroughly read each word, each sentence, each line, each paragraph. An editor must determine whether the sentence makes sense, is structured properly, all of the words are spelled correctly, usage is consistent, plot doesn’t deviate (in the case of developmental editing), quality feedback is given (also developmental editing), and all manner of communication/dialog in the book is structured and punctuated correctly.

You can’t keep track of all of that and skim a page.

Then it’s time to make each of the corrections. If there are ten corrections on every line, each one must be made separately (find and replace does not work for everything like people tend to think it does… if you choose to find “CIA” and replace it with “FBI,” you’ll wind up with broken up words such as “espeFBIlly” all over the document, meaning you will have to go through again manually to fix all of the errors you just put in unless you click “undo” right after find & replace) before the editor can move on to the next line.

In a book that needs very heavy editing, a 6x9 size page takes me roughly 7–10 minutes to correct. That’s one page. And not even a full-sized page. Meaning that, per hour, I can get between 6–10 pages done in that size. If the pages were full sized, it would be less.

So, let’s say a 66,000 word manuscript is turned into a 6x9 size novel (I like to get ahead on my print formatting while I’m editing, unless editing is all I’m doing, which is rare; I usually follow a book project from start to finish). It would come out to roughly 200 pages. That means that this book would take roughtly 20–33 hours just for the first pass of editing, and I have to do this two or three times, making the hour count rise up to 40–90… just for editing.

That’s a lot, especially for a job that requires so much (preferably) uninterrupted focus, concentration, and staring at a screen. That “uninterrupted” thing is rare in our household of me, my three kids, my boyfriend, our three cats and dog, my brother, sister-in-law, and their three kids, plus their cats and kittens, and other people’s kids coming in and out at random intervals for various reasons, so I generally have to bring my laptop into the kitchen and work there so I can also watch over everything going on and yell if necessary ;). I am writing this from my spot on the kitchen counter right now, cooking dinner at the same time.

I have a funny feeling that this will be where I work for a while because I’m working on a couple of extremely ambitious projects, and I will need all the 8–16 hour days I can manage to squeeze in without dropping dead. Stay tuned… we’ll see how this all goes =).

If you enjoy reading these insights and information, please share! I hope you found this useful & I’ll be in touch again soon.

Happy self-publishing!

— ​Jen

Originally published at www.nobullselfpublishing.com.