Help! I Have a New Editor! 10 Tips to Help You Cope

writers-blockSo, you have a new editor? Depending on how much (or what kind) of contact you’ve had with the editor who acquires or develops your book, the news might strike you with total elation . . . or utter dread. What’s going to happen to your “baby”? Are you going to have to totally rewrite the whole thing? Are you going to get lost in the chaos?

Try not to worry. This kind of thing does happen. Depending on the house, the person who acquires your book (helps you to develop your proposal) may not be the developmental editor (the person who shapes your manuscript). And editors do move on to other career opportunities (as my Ave authors recently discovered). So . . . what can you do to help the transition go smoothly? Here are ten suggestions to help you cope.

  1. Try to trust the process. Although the players may change, each house has a similar basic process for book development (with some minor variations), and once a book has been acquired it is the new editor’s job to carry out that original vision for the book.
  2. Remember editing is more of an art than a science. The author-editor relationship is based on mutual trust and respect, which frees both sides to do their best work. Like any other relationship, consistent and considerate communication is important. And chocolate never hurts.
  3. Try to be patient. If your new editor is a recent hire, she (or he) will need some time to get up to speed on production schedules and acquisition procedures. Your book is important . . . and so are the other twelve books she is handling this season.
  4. Let your editor know how you work best. If you write on Fridays, or are planning to be out of pocket for a month, or appreciate the editor’s help in smoothing out tricky passages (rather than simply commenting), let her know.
  5. Early in the transition, forward any crucial emails or project notes  from your previous editor. Your new editor may already have these things, but duplicates are better than gaps. You want your  new editor to understand the development history of your project.
  6. Ask for next steps. I try to give my authors a target date, after which they are welcome to drop me an email as a “gentle reminder.” (These dates work both ways, and I’ve been known to send “gentle reminders” myself as deadlines loom!)
  7. Remember to read the “blackline” before you read the “redline.”  Of course you’re curious about exactly what the editor changed … but examining each page under a microscope will prevent you from seeing the “big picture.” When you finally get your edited manuscript back for review, read the whole thing through quickly without trying to figure out where all the changes are. As you read, make a small margin note if something seems ‘off’ in terms of tone or flow. Then go back and fix or resolve those issues in a second read-through.
  8. Try to see the change as a gift. Each editor (like each author) has particular strengths and insights. Try to be open to the possibilities as you pray for your new “partner in crime.”
  9. Having trouble coming to agreement on the “macro” issues of the book? Ask for a phone conference, first with the editor alone and then (if needed) with the editor and someone on the editorial team who originally acquired the book (such as the editorial director or marketing director).
  10. Be strong and confident . . . but not stubborn. Have confidence in your message and your own unique voice . . . but pick your battles.
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