If you’re an author or aspiring to be one, you’ll probably end up working with an editor at some point, whether it’s a freelancer editor in the process of self-publishing or an in-house editor at a traditional publisher. In a recent blog, we looked at what it’s like to work with an editor. Today, we’ll look at what it’s like for editors to work with various types of authors—the good and the could-be-better. Do you recognise yourself in any of these descriptions?
1. The Amender
This author is constantly making amendments to the manuscript. The editor will be mid-way through a critique of the contents when the author pops up with a major change. Or the editor is dealing with the finer points of a copy edit when the author replaces an entire chapter of the book. Or the editor asks the author to resolve a few queries and the author re-writes a whole section! In short, they’re never happy with what they’ve written and are always rewriting and adjusting.
Antidote: Once you’ve sent your manuscript off to an editor, put it away and wait for the editor’s direction. Don’t keep meddling.
2. The Adder
This author contracts an editor for a specific project, then keeps adding other things. The project starts off as a copy edit, but then the author asks the editor to check their blurb. Then their book cover. Then their author bio. Of course, editors are happy to check these documents, but it takes time, meaning it costs money.
Antidote: Be clear on what you need doing from the start so the editor can price the job accurately. If you realise you need extras later on, that’s fine, but ask the editor how much it’ll cost rather than assuming it’ll only take them 15 minutes so should be free.
3. The Delayer
This author takes weeks or months (sometimes even years) to do their bit of the work. When the editor sends back the critique, the author spends six months making the changes, then another two months checking the editor’s changes, then weeks to send over the cover to check. Every author works to different timescales, but delaying on a book project means you may miss the ideal publishing window. Also, your editor may struggle to remember the finer points if there are huge gaps between them seeing each draft.
Antidote: When you agree timescales with an editor, be realistic about how much time you can dedicate to making your changes. Don’t leave it too long before sending a draft back to them—keep it fresh in their mind.
4. The Abandoner
This author hires an editor with the expectation that they won’t personally have to look at the manuscript again. They’ve done the writing and now they want to hand it over to somebody else to fix it. While it’s tempting to think that this might be possible, editors need input—whether the author needs to make significant changes or resolve queries.
Antidote: From the start, have the expectation that you will need to get involved in the editorial process. Set aside time to make the changes and resolve queries, and try to enjoy the process of working with the editor—it’s a collaboration.
5. The Questioner
This author doubts everything the editor does. Instead of trusting them to do their job, they ask why the editor has moved a comma or capitalised a term. Not only does this undermine the editor and their knowledge, but it’s also time-consuming having to explain the reason behind every editorial change, so it slows the process down.
Antidote: If you genuinely think the editor has made a mistake, then by all means raise the issue, but otherwise trust their judgement.
6. The Checker
This author constantly checks in with their editor to see how things are coming along. They email daily for progress updates or to “check in”. This can be very distracting for the editor, and instead of spending their time focused on the edit, that time is spent updating the author.
Antidote: If the editor is focused on the edit, check in once a week or when necessary to ask or respond to questions. Otherwise, give the editor time and space to do their job and focus on making your book awesome.
7. The Partner
This author makes it feel like the editor is chatting to a friend rather than doing a work project. Whether it’s talking about what you did at the weekend or your favourite sports teams, the conversations feel personable and natural. You appreciate each other as human beings rather than two parts of a business transaction.
Pointer: While most editors love buddy authors, make sure you don’t overshare details from your private life or distract them from the editing project by talking too much.
8. The Organiser
This author runs like clockwork. They say they’ll get a draft back to the editor by a certain date and they stick to it. They set aside enough time to work on the draft after the critique. Their files are named with clear version numbers, and they know what’s happening with the project at every stage. They’ve read all of the business documents and asked all of the questions needed to understand the process, so everything runs smoothly.
Pointer: Ensuring the project runs on time is extremely helpful to the editor, but it doesn’t mean rushing to get things done. If you need more time to make your changes, just tell the editor—they’d rather you take the time needed than rush it.
9. The Energiser
This author takes great joy in the editorial process. They relish getting feedback from their editor, even if it’s a critique that may be hard to swallow. They get a thrill from crafting the book into something magical. They’re eager to learn, improve their craft, and hone their writing skills, so they find the process of working with an editor exciting and invigorating.
Pointer: Very little can go wrong here, but be careful you don’t enjoy the editorial process so much that you delay publishing the book. Editing is great, but publishing the book is better.
10. The Collaborator
This author sees the process as a collaboration between two minds with the same goal—to improve the book. They work with the editor at each stage to make the necessary changes, dedicating sufficient time to the process. While they might not relish feedback, they’re diligent in applying it and learning from it. Each step is done hand in hand, so to speak.
Pointer: Barely anything can go wrong here—and better yet, you’ll learn enough from the process that you might not need an editor in future.
So, which type of author are you? Is it a mix of two? Which would you like to be?
In our next blog, we’ll look at the various types of editor you might work with — and we don’t mean copy editor vs. content editor. We mean the type who are committed to helping you and the type who just want to get the project over and done with. Stay tuned!