March 14, 2016

3 Quick Tips for Interviewing an Editor

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There’s a blog post going around this week about how copyeditors are almost always evil dementors whose sole aim in life is to suck the soul out of a genius writer’s voice. In fact, according to this particular rant, many editors have no idea what they are doing—even editors working for the Big Five; and there are so few decent line editors in the world that they aren’t worth hiring, especially if you are an indie author. Well. Just spit in my eye, why don’tcha?

I don’t even want to link to the post I’m referring to because, frankly, it was so mean-spirited that I don’t want my fellow editors to completely lose heart when/if they read it; likewise, I’d hate for writers to be turned away from the idea of editorial help entirely. I won’t deny that author/editor relationships can be rocky and hard to work out, but the point I carried away from the post is that writers and editors alike could use a quick, healthy reminder about the ideal writer/editor relationship and what it ought to look like. This literary dynamic is too complicated to examine in a single entry, so today I’ll start with some tips for how an indie author can know he/she is teaming up with the right editor.

  1. Ask your editor about his/her editorial philosophy. A good editor will be able to explain what he/she wants to accomplish when approaching a job. When we describe ourselves, our values, and our processes, listen carefully to see if the responses sound compatible to your own values and ideas. Ask as many questions as you can think of, and don’t be intimidated by the conversation. You, the author, are in the driver’s seat here!
  2. Make your wishes clear to the editor. Ideally, your potential editor has reviewed dozens or even hundreds of manuscripts, so it can be easy for him/her to fall into rhythms or habits that may not always suit their individual customers. Every writer is unique, so if you’re persnickety about your punctuation choices, say so! If you’re concerned about your plot’s pacing or the quality of your research, say so! A good editor will consider everything you say as they review your book—and clear communication will exponentially improve the quality of your book and the relationship behind it.
  3. Ask for a sample edit. Many writers I’ve spoken to are concerned about spending money on editors without any idea of what the outcome will be. That’s a prudent concern with an easy solution: Ask for a sample edit. Many freelance editors are happy to do this for free, or for a small fee at most. (One company I work for charges $100 for an introductory call and a thousand-word copyedit, whereas I’m happy to do those things for free for new clients.) A thousand-word edit should give you a strong sense of your editor’s skills and style, which will help you decide whether the work is worth the investment. If your gut is roiling after reading through the sample you receive, then a simple “thanks-but-no-thanks” will save you money and heartache in the long run.

No editor is perfect, but who is? The relationship you build with your editor is more than a transaction, but less than a marriage. There is always room for improvement, and hey—sometimes two people are just not compatible! It doesn’t mean that one of you is bad at what you do . . . but it might mean you both should be seeing other people.

What about you? How have you chosen editors in the past, and how did you decide upon a good fit?

Cheers,

Jocelyn / The BH

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