10 Tips for Working Well with Editors #Tips4Writers

Book WhispererThe good news is that editors are just ordinary people.

That’s also the bad news. We work with dozens of writers at a time, each of whom is wholly focused on a particular project. Unfortunately, editors don’t have that luxury. We work with dozens of authors at a time. And so, I am grateful for the writers who manage to stay on my radar without becoming needy or demanding on one hand … or stalling or disappearing on the other.

Like any relationship, the editor-author relationship is built on mutual trust and consideration. Here are ten simple communication strategies some of my favorite authors have used with me — I’m always happy to hear from them!

1. Don’t be afraid to ask questions to get the information you need to do YOUR job well. This is especially true of first-time authors (including previously published authors who are publishing with us for the first time). Every house runs a bit differently in terms of schedules, policies, and author expectations. I may need to refer you, but I’m happy to help.

2. Keep emails short, and if you have several questions create bullets or lists. Editors get dozens of emails a day, and we tend to read fast. This one habit can make a big difference. Another important tip: If your question is related to a previous email, write your new email at the top of the previous one so I don’t have to go searching for the earlier post.

3. If you experience a lull, don’t read too much into it . . . but do check in (by email is best) to see if there is something more you can do. Sometimes when I get a proposal, the author has done such a great job all I have to do is present it to the team. More often, it needs some work and I need some time to ponder the next step.

4. Remember that ideas are living things that change and grow with nurturing. If you have been working with an editor on a book idea, and she has spent time developing it with you, DO NOT take it to another publisher until she’s had a chance to present it. Honor that investment. (If you don’t, we will often find out … editors talk to each other, too.)

5. Meet your deadlines. Having a project slip from the schedule is a major headache for all concerned. If your editor doesn’t give you a schedule, ask for one. Emergencies happen (one week I had two authors with a medical crisis), but failure to plan is not an emergency.

6. Pray for your editor and the rest of the publishing team. I pray for my authors every Friday afternoon, and am grateful when they return the favor.

7. Praise in public, reprove in private. I love it when my authors “pave the way” for me with other potential authors. Conversely, I’ve been known to pass up working with an author simply because of the way that writer talked about his or her previous publisher.  If there’s a problem, be sure I know about it before you “share” it with others.

8. Listen to your editor. Your friends and family won’t always be able to see the trouble spots . . . or be willing to tell you about them. That’s your editor’s job: handing out the tough love. Even the best writers need editors . . . and the VERY best writers will attribute their success in part to the editor-author partnership.

9. Love adds a little chocolate. The human touch goes a long way. An editor’s job is often a thankless task — no one enjoys dashing the hopes of obviously nice people. I have a “brag board” with notes and cards from authors who took time to thank me when their book was released. On bad days, I take down those notes and read them again. It helps.

10. Deliver what you promise. When you work with your editor on a proposal, be as realistic as you are creative — and be sure to deliver on what you promise. If the contract says “24000 words,” don’t turn in 12000 (or 50000). Be ready to work as hard to market the book as you did to write it, and do everything to meet or exceed the goals stated in your market summary. This makes your editor look good … and she’ll be glad to get your next book, too!

What other tips would you suggest?

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