Tips for Working with Editors

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Receiving edits is hard. Which is why this week’s post is about tips for working with editors.

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Book signing at The Muse Writers Center, Norfolk, VA

Did you know I am an editor?

Freelance, academic, fiction, etc. I’ve done some interesting gigs in my time helping others best craft their words. It is often tedious, but can also be such satisfying work. I still get a thrill when clients talk about how their confidence has grown just by being encouraged and not beaten down over their mistakes.

The best editors really care about your work. Some of us take on your work for the dollas, and I won’t argue with that. But an exceptional editor, the kind you want on your side, is someone who believes in your craft. Having said that, there are ways to make our job easier. So as you consider working with editors, keep these things in mind.

Edits are invitations, not insults.

I’ll never forget the first time someone cried over my edits. It was in college and my friend struggled with grammar. Nothing in my comments said anything about her; yet when we next spoke, big, fat tears were streaming down her face over what I’d written. I get it- I’ve been there. Looking back on it now, I realize she took my corrections as big signposts of failure rather than the care I showed in wanting to help her improve. And edits aren’t that. They’re meant to help you grow.

This is a difficult concept to digest. Edits always feel personal. And that’s because we, the authors, have poured blood, sweat, tears, and beverages into our writing. But friends, if you hire an editor, you’ve asked for help. So when they write out a comment about improvement, it is not a reflection of your worth as a person. Again, an editor takes on your work because they’re willing to invest in you. It’s a compliment. So see edits as invitations to improve yourself, and not as insults to your very being.

If you say you don’t need edits, you actually do.

In a more recent commission, I had a first-time author tell me they probably didn’t really need my services, but just wanted to be extra careful. This was a red flag that engulfed my vision as we spoke. And, true to my gut feeling, there were a lot more edits that needed to be made than originally thought.

Let me be clear: everyone needs edits. I do not care how fancy you think your word-processing program is, you will still need an extra pair of eyes on the manuscript. And frankly, more than one person looking over your work is a great idea. Without a doubt, I still need an editor and always will.

Friend, big-name authors like J.K. Rowling need editors like whoa. I own a first-edition copy of The Order of the Phoenix that’s filled with type-os. Being fair to her, these mistakes should’ve been picked up during the publishing process. Authors make mistakes all the time. I’m sure the mad rush for the next Harry Potter book downplayed the need for careful editing, which is why that happened. When you’re on an international stage, you really want to be certain your editor does a great job. I honestly sympathize with her every time I think about that copy I bought.

Respect editorial pricing.

An editor is very different from your gifted highschool bestie. Editors have extensive experience in identifying the numerous types of errors that occur in writing. Because it’s not all grammar. There’s style to consider as well. And context. Continuity. Fact-checking. And this all takes TIME.

I repeat: editing is a highly repetitive, time-consuming, at times soul-crushing job. In addition to all of the obvious work, we also are a kind of teacher in some ways. I know that all of my clients get various detailed notes about the things that don’t work and why they don’t work. Which is even more time. If you’re curious about standards of pricing for editors, here’s a quick guide from the Editorial Freenlancers Association. You may get sticker-shock from the pricing, but once you understand the time and work put into the process, you’ll be glad for every penny spent.

I know not everyone on this blog is a writer. However, I wanted to make this post to help everyone better understand the value that goes into editing work. The average ratio is about 10 pages/hr. If you’re editing 500+ pages, you’d want to be compensated appropriately as well. A good editor is an integral part of your team. Don’t ignore the massive value they add to your work. They believe in you, too.

With Courage & Care,


3 thoughts on “Tips for Working with Editors

  1. Donald Knowlton says:

    I’ve learned a few things from my editor. such as conventions for quotes, name first then said, Naming conditions I use that don’t work, etc. I did do something she did like, on a reread I made a list for each chapter with highlights, (half-sentence,) for each major action, ‘Bill starts fight..’ ‘fight ends on good terms..’. For a 600K word 4 book series this proves invaluable. for me and the editor. It is 40 pages for the 4 book series. I got F’s in writing in high school but now I am learning the craft. My editor cut 30K words on book one, which I whole heartily agree. I have contracted for 50 copies of the first book and will have another aspect to learn. there are electronic aspects of promotion I desperately need to learn. The two bigest take aways are I personaly cannot seem to get commas right and I like gramerly. Unfortunaly Millisa my editer will not be able to continue her work and I will need to find another editor.

    1. S.A. Borders-Shoemaker says:

      Sounds like you’ve really benefitted from your editor’s expertise! That’s excellent! I’m sorry to hear you’ll have to look for a replacement. Hoping you find a good fit who you trust and believes in your work.

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