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Spellcheck Cannot Save You! Author Do’s from Your Editor

Last time, I wrote about the five author don’ts to avoid when working with an editor. Here’s the flip side of that (literally, in one case): the top five author do’s when working with an editor. The short version is this: Send the right file type. Keep in touch during the process. Ask questions (It’s… [Read More]

Author do's when working with editor by Karen Conlin for BookWorks.com

Last time, I wrote about the five author don'ts to avoid when working with an editor. Here’s the flip side of that (literally, in one case): the top five author do's when working with an editor.

The short version is this:

  • Send the right file type.
  • Keep in touch during the process.
  • Ask questions (It’s all right to say “I don’t understand this edit. Can you explain it?”).
  • Pay on time.
  • Tell your friends.

Ready? Here we go.

Author Do's # 1: Send the Right File Type

Author do's when working with editor by Karen Conlin for BookWorks.comChances are very good that somewhere in the “how to work with me” materials you’ve read from your editor (whether that’s on a website or in an email) there’s a section about preferred software and file types. Pay attention to that. If they ask for a Word file, that’s what they want. Don’t send them an .rtf file and pray for the best. Few things put you on the wrong side of your editor faster than sending an incompatible file, especially when the information about the right type has been provided for you.

Author Do's # 2: Stay in Touch

I’ve blogged about this before. If, as I do, your editor requires a down payment before the slot is considered “booked,” expect to get an email shortly before the beginning date of your editing slot. Answer it promptly, by which I mean don’t wait a week or two. Within 24–48 hours is fine. It’s common for editors to overbook (just like airlines, but without such cushy seats), so we need to know who’s going to be on time and who’s going to miss the flight. If you answer promptly, you’ll go on the “nice” list, even if your answer is “Sorry, the cat exploded so I’m going to miss the turnover date.” We like to put people on the “nice” list.Author do's when working with editor by Karen Conlin for BookWorks.com

During the editing process, you might well get an email or three from your editor. They might contain questions specific to your work (“Which word should we be using: ship or craft?”), or they might be simply touching base (“Just letting you know it’s going well, and you’ll have it back before the promise date”). If you’ve been asked a question, please be polite and answer it in a timely manner. If you need time to check on the answer (it can happen!), drop a quick response to say so (“Hey, I don’t know right now but I’ll get back to you in a day or two”), and then follow through. Silence is tarnished, not golden, in this situation.

Author Do's # 3: Think for Yourself

Author do's when working with editor by Karen Conlin for BookWorks.comWhen you get your file(s) back, you’ll have questions. I’m sure of it. And guess what? Editors love to talk about grammar, usage, style, and all the rest. The clients who email or DM me with questions or comments are my favorites. And of those, the best ones are those who come up with their own edits after reading mine and thinking about the problem at hand. It’s easy to tell which of my edits address actual errors and which are for style. Usage falls between those two, because authorial voice and narrative voice make a huge difference in word choices. I always leave comments for my clients about style and usage issues, explaining my reasoning. If you disagree with an edit and want to discuss it, DO IT. Email your editor. Start a conversation. Both of you might learn something before it’s done.

Author Do's # 4: Pay on Time

This should be obvious, but it isn’t, necessarily. I am extremely fortunate in that I have only once had to write off a contract for nonpayment.Author do's when working with editor by Karen Conlin for BookWorks.com That author will not be working with me again, and I said as much in an email. (We can fire clients. You betcha.) Other editors are not nearly as lucky. I hear tales regularly about clients being months late on payments (granted, this is usually from corporate clients, but still). If the invoice reads “due on receipt,” that’s what it means. Again, within 24–48 hours is fine. If you’re going to be later than that, shoot your editor an email and say so. We’ve all got budgets to wrangle, and you know what a late payment can do to yours.

Author Do's # 5: Tell Your Friends

Of course, this assumes that your experience is a positive one, overall. For indie editors, much of our work comes by word of mouth. Remember that old Faberge shampoo commercial from the 80's? No? (See the clip below) Well, I remember it vividly. “Tell two friends. And they’ll tell two friends. And they’ll tell two friends, and so on, and so on, and so on.” It works.

Oh, and once you’ve told your friends? Send them a link to this post, so they don’t ruin their chances. Thanks.


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