If you only want to be told that your manuscript is perfect and wonderful and straight from God’s lips to your fingertips, show your manuscript to your mom. An editor’s job is to show you how your manuscript can be improved and what errors need to be corrected.
Most editors will mark two things: corrections and suggestions. So having a lot of markings on your manuscript doesn’t necessarily mean there’s a lot “wrong” with it. There may just be several little things the editor thinks might make it even better than it is.
When you’ve worked really hard on your manuscript, it can be upsetting to get a thorough critique of it. Rather like showing your newborn baby to someone and asking that person to tell you honestly what’s wrong with your child! So prepare yourself to get what you asked for: a thorough and honest edit.
After: What should you do after you get your edit?
First, try not to panic if you see more markings on your manuscript than you expected. If you do feel upset, set the edit aside for a little while. Give yourself time to absorb the shock.
When you’re ready to do so, analyze the edit. Determine which markings are “corrections” and which are “suggestions.” You’ll want to make every correction (unless you are 100 percent sure you know you’re right). You should seriously consider every suggestion.
But keep in mind, you don’t have to accept everything your editor recommends. This is your writing, your work, your baby . . . possibly your career. But if you took your baby to a doctor, and he said, “Here’s what’s wrong with your child and what you should do about it,” you’d follow his advice, right? (Unless you had a good reason not to, like a second opinion from another professional.)
What If You Don’t Like Your Edit?
Maybe you’re too close to the work or too sensitive. Try to develop a “tough skin” and see if you can accept the constructive criticisms without taking them too personally.
Maybe you were expecting too much (or too little) from the editor. You may want to ask the editor for another edit, this time with a different focus (for example, an overall critique rather than a line-by-line copyedit, or vice versa). You might even want to look for a new editor.
Maybe there’s simply a difference of opinion. A lot of editing, like writing, is subjective. If it’s a question of punctuation, usage, grammar, and spelling, look in the appropriate resource book to determine the correct rule. For everything else, realize that what one person likes another may not.
What if you’re sure the editor is wrong about something?
Prove it. Ask another editor, or look up the rule yourself. (Make sure you’re using the appropriate reference manual for your type of writing and the latest editions. The Chicago Manual of Style and Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary are used for book manuscripts; The Associate Press Stylebook and Webster’s New World College Dictionary are for articles. The Christian Writer’s Manual of Style is the standard for Christian book publishers.)
Inform the editor of the mistake.
a. In love
b. For his/her edification and improvement as an editor
c. Word your correction in a way that gives the other person the benefit of the doubt. (Keep in mind, no matter how positive you are, you just might be wrong.)
What Not To Do
- Don’t ask for your money back. If the editor realizes he/she was wrong, he/she may offer a partial refund. But that editor spent time and effort doing his/her best for you. And you probably gained some benefit from it.
- Don’t tell everyone you meet what a terrible editor he/she is. Vent to friends and family, but not to other writers or industry colleagues. It’s not professional and definitely not Christian. On the other hand, if someone asks you for a referral, be honest. Be specific about what you did and didn’t like about a particular editor. What didn’t work for you may work perfectly well for others.
If You Do Like Your Edit
- Thank your editor (through a phone call, e-mail, or thank-you card, and possibly with a line in the acknowledgments of your book).
- Send him/her a complimentary copy of your published piece (autographed, if it’s a book) with a note of thanks.
- Tell other writer friends. Word-of-mouth referrals are the best source of business for a freelance professional.
- Mention the editor on your Web site (with the editor’s permission). Maybe add a link to his/her Web site from yours.
Write a testimonial for the editor’s Web site. Ask if he/she would like to put your book title (and cover art) on his/her Web site and/or other promotional material.
Offer to be a reference the editor can give to people who are considering his/her services.
If you’re ready to hire a freelance editor, click here.