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on publishing > Ten Tips on How To Make Your Editor Love You

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message 1: by Michele (new)

Michele Torrey (micheletorrey) | 8 comments Through the years of working with my editors, I've learned plenty of what to do, and what not to do to ensure a healthy relationship. It's been stewing in my head for quite a while to share my insights with others. So here goes . . .

1. Be personable, yet professional – It’s a fine line. If you met face-to-face with your editor today, you’d probably have lunch, coffee and dessert, laugh, talk shop, and then leave feeling like you’ve discovered the secrets of levitation and everlasting bliss. But remember you are also in a professional relationship: you have deadlines to deal with, differences of opinion regarding character motivation, a new contract to negotiate. . . . It is important that you keep your relationship on a professional level. Don’t be a contractual automaton, but don’t be a fawning groupie either. Treat your editor with friendly respect and she will return the favor.

2. Honor your commitments -- Whether it’s a manuscript due, a rewrite, copyedit, or galleys, turn it in on time. Your editor will love it if he knows he can count on you to finish your projects in a timely manner. If you truly can’t make a deadline, contact your editor and renegotiate the deadline before it comes and goes. Promptness also applies to communications. Answer your phone messages and emails from your editor as soon as possible.

3. Be thorough – You’re up to your eyeballs finishing book number four, due next month. Meanwhile, the copyedits for book three arrive in the mail with a letter from your editor asking if you could get it back to him in a week. While it might be tempting just to skim through the copyedits, don’t. You’re a professional, remember, and professionals only produce work that is worthy of their rank. Make sure you give each project your full attention with the thoroughness and thought it deserves. Again, if you truly can’t complete it on time, discuss other options with your editor as soon as possible.

4. Resist the urge to give excuses – Your dog dies. The baby has diaper rash. You just got back from the Bahamas. Your muse is dry as stale biscuits. You were in a fender bender and hurt your pinkie and it wasn’t your fault. . . . Okay, enough already. Giving excuses can be habit forming. They can make you sound unprofessional. Instead save your excuses for when you really need them (such as your mother dying). And since you rarely, if ever, give excuses, your editor will completely understand.

5. Don’t pester – Your editor’s had a long day. Just when she thinks she’s on her way out the door, the phone rings. It’s you. If she could shoot daggers through the phone, she would. It’s the third time you’ve called this week, asking where the copyedits are, and whether there’s been a decision yet on book number two. Earth to author: There won’t be a book number two if you don’t cut your editor some slack. Phoning your editor is fine, but only if there is a real reason to call. (Sorry, nagging doesn’t count as a real reason). When you do call, keep it friendly and conversational, yet brief and to the point.

6. Realize editors are people too -- Their dogs die. Their babies get diaper rash. They take trips. Honeymoons. They have hopes and dreams and someday will bounce grandchildren on their knees. They do not work for you. Get this out of your head.

7. Listen to your editor – Probably just a coincidence, but your editor actually knows a thing or two. So when your editor recommends doing X and Y to your beloved holier-than-holy manuscript, instead of screaming, crying, cursing, picking up the phone and saying God knows what, or zipping off a quickie your-wrong-and-I’m-right email, try listening. Hear what your editor is saying. Chances are, they’re right.

8. Share your opinions – Listening to your editor does not mean that you forsake yourself and your art. You are a writer for a reason. There was a story inside of you that begged telling. You were the one who wrote that particular story, with your unique insight and voice. While it is essential that you listen to your editor, at the same time do not deafen your ears to your own creative power. If something feels wrong, off balance, say so. Professionally, of course. And if you’ve been listening to your editor all along, when the time comes for you to share your opinion or even to insist upon your way, your editor will listen to you. After all, she’s a professional too.

9. Encourage your editor – This editor-writer relationship thing isn’t a one-way street. It’s not just about the editor gushing about how wonderful you are, it’s also about you bolstering your editor, giving him encouragement in what is a very challenging profession. (After all, he’s working hard on your projects and has cheered you on so many times.) So take opportunities to tell your editor how much you appreciate him. He’s fantastic. He’s one-in-a-million. If editors were cheeses, he’d be Brie . . .

10. ENJOY YOUR JOURNEY – Hey, that’s what it’s all about, isn’t it? If you’re not enjoying yourself and your career, then you’d better rethink this whole writing thing. Editors love to work with writers who truly enjoy what they do. It becomes a shared joy. So enjoy your journey. Everyone will benefit.

message 2: by Paul (new)

Paul Michele,

Re most of your points, that assumes you have found a good editor. Many aren't. If you find a good one, they are like gold-dust. But I think most should be treated with a degree of scepticism until they've proved their worth.

message 3: by Michele (new)

Michele Torrey (micheletorrey) | 8 comments Hi Paul,

Thanks for weighing in. For me, treating someone with skepticism when they've done nothing to deserve the skepticism is a fearful way to approach what is supposed to be a long-term relationship. I'd rather treat someone with trust (and give them the assumption that they've earned their position), and then if they prove untrustworthy, deal with it at that time in a professional manner.

Like you, though, I've had experience with the not-so-good. But not-so-good editors tend to crop up when we sell our manuscript to a publishing house that *deserved* a degree of skepticism, based on the quality of their books and their reputation. In general, we can avoid this by doing our marketing homework and not letting our "baby" go to just anyone.

message 4: by Paul (new)

Paul Oh, Michele, that's not just editors. I treat everyone with reserved scepticism. Including total strangers (about 7 billion at last count). I am pleased to relate though, that when I meet a stranger, that person is usually nice.

message 5: by Michele (new)

Michele Torrey (micheletorrey) | 8 comments Funny how that works. :0)

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