I’ve been editing for a while now and the majority of my clients have been an absolute joy to work with – open to advice, professional, and just downright nice. That said, I’ve had a few not so pleasant experiences over the last few months and felt it was time to address some issues that unfortunately seem to be becoming quite common.
So here’s my advice on having a professional and constructive relationship with your editor.
I have many hats. Editor, writer, reviewer are just some of them. I have a full schedule and am usually booked in advance (for which I am very grateful). I have to stick to my schedule to avoid infringing on the time set aside for my next project. So if you agree to get a manuscript to me by a certain date, please make sure you do so. I work hard to stick to deadlines I’ve agreed to, and to make sure I bear my client’s own schedules in mind, so please grant me the same consideration.
I’m clear about how I would like you to format your manuscript before sending it to me. Please adhere to this – and if for some reason you can’t, then just let me know. Which leads to my next point.
I appreciate that sometimes things happen, that there are circumstances beyond our control, and I try to be flexible as much as I can. But please communicate. Send me an email. Call me. Just let me know what’s happening. I recently agreed to a client deferring payment of her deposit. I kept that spot for her. She didn’t pay, ignored all my emails, and I couldn’t fill that space at such short notice, so I had a week where I had no income. Unprofessional and totally unfair. It also means that I’m now wary of being that flexible for other clients. If she had just been honest and emailed me to say that she could no longer use the space I may have been able to reschedule or find another client.
This is probably my biggest bugbear. I appreciate that editing costs money. But if you have decided to hire an editor, then please make sure you have the money in place to pay them for the work they do. I ask for a deposit when a client books a place, but I have had several occasions recently where a deposit has been paid, but the client has then either delayed or not paid the balance once the edit is completed. This isn’t because they are unhappy with the edit – in fact on all these occasions the client has been very pleased with my work. On one occasion, the client emailed to say they were very happy with their edit, and then simply ignored every request for payment. Other clients have deferred and deferred. While I appreciate that some circumstances are beyond people’s control, please do remember that your editor may be relying on your payment. It isn’t fair to expect someone to wait for a payment from you because of circumstances that are nothing to do with them. Without naming names, one of my clients didn’t pay because he had to fund repairs to his car. But what if I’d needed to pay for repairs to my car and was relying on his payment to do that? If you’ve booked a service, agreed to a contract, and the other party has fulfilled their obligations, then you should pay what you owe. It really isn’t fair to expect to do otherwise and it’s completely unprofessional – you wouldn’t tell a plumber you couldn’t pay once he’d fixed your tap, so why is it ok to not pay your editor?
Don’t take it personally
I get it. I’m a writer. It hurts to have our work criticised when we’ve put our heart and soul into it. But if you want to be an author, if you want to be taken seriously as an author, then you need to be able to listen to feedback. I’m not out to be nasty or unkind, but I am honest and I will tell you what isn’t working. Please take that criticism and advice in the spirit in which it’s intended. I would be doing you a disservice and wasting your money for you if I just told you your book was wonderful.
Understand the role
A client recently complained that while I had pointed out places where things needed reworking and had provided examples of how he might do this, I hadn’t actually rewritten those parts for him. This is not your editor’s job. Your editor is not there to write your novel for you. I can guide you, advise you, restructure things so that you can see how they might be improved, suggest how you might improve things, tell you what needs developing and where things don’t work – but I cannot, will not and should not rewrite your manuscript. An editor isn’t a ghost writer.
I’m sorry if this feels like a rant – honestly, 99.9% of my clients are lovely, friendly, professional people and I love working with them. I can’t tell you how lovely it is when they take the time to tell me how my work has helped with their book. However, these bad experiences seem to be becoming more commonplace and it’s a worrying trend. But to the clients that do make my work a joy – thank you!