Social media talks about what it means to ghost someone, which is simply vanishing from their sphere (not answering texts, not responding to emails, not commenting on platforms). In the old days at the job I loved more than any other except this one, we used to talk about “going turtle.” Pulling one’s head and arms and legs into one’s shell and not communicating. If we had a freelance designer or editor who went turtle, it was always a red flag. Always. Most of the time, we didn’t use that person again; we couldn’t afford to work with people who were uncommunicative and unreliable.
Editor-Author Partnerships Require 2-Way Communication
Partnerships require two-way communication. That’s true whether it’s a romantic partnership or a business one. As soon as one partner stops talking, there’ll be trouble.
It should be a simple thing. You talk to your editor (or client), come to an agreement about the scope of the project, the deadline (when it will be turned over either to the editor for editing or the client afterward), and the money. There’s always money involved (or there should be!). Then, you just stay in touch so no one feels forgotten or ignored or left out.
Not always. Granted, most of my issues come from clients; I’m a chatty one, y’know. Such a surprise. Anyway…I usually send a poke via email or maybe a Twitter DM about a month out from the expected start date, meaning the date I’m supposed to be getting the file(s) from them to edit, just to make sure everything’s still going as planned.
Most of the time, I get what I expect: “Sure thing! You’ll have it on time!”
Sometimes, it’s a little less cheery: “Glad you asked. I’m having trouble.” (Doesn’t matter what the trouble is; the point’s the same. The work is going to be late.)
And in the worst case—crickets.
Then I send another one, after a week or so, gently asking again if the work will be on time. That usually elicits a response.
Back and Forth
As for holding up my side of the partnership, because this is a partnership, after all, I do my best to send emails or DMs or even tweets (if we have that kind of relationship) to the client to keep them apprised of my progress or lack thereof. Just a week ago, I sent three of them emails because I literally could not work on their writing; my copy of Word in Office 365 had ground to a halt, and I wouldn’t be able to continue working until the situation was corrected. One asked if I would work in Google Docs. My answer was honest. “I can, but I would rather wait to see if we can fix this. Docs is far less elegant and far clunkier than Word, and I’d rather avoid it if I can.” That was acceptable. A day later, I was back in business. Literally.
(Please note, that’s not an invitation for readers to send me their opinions on Word or Google Docs or to suggest I use Libre Office. I have the latter. I don’t like it any more than Docs, frankly. I’m an old woman, I'm set in my ways, and there's a reason that Word remains the gold standard for editing. And that’s the end of that.)
For Best Results, Be Neither Ghost Nor Turtle
Keep the communication flowing between you and your client or editor. Don’t ghost. Don’t go turtle. Be honest and straightforward, and remember that sending up a flare is better done sooner than later.
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