by Katie McCoach
As an author, your relationship with your editor, your book cover designer, your agent, and your publishing house are all extremely important to your success. I believe in good and bad energy—what you put out, you get back in return.
Day to day, I work my tail off to be my clients’ favorite editor. If I can be in their list of best editors they’ve ever worked with, my relationship with them, and other clients in turn, will be more fulfilling.
And I believe this can go the other way around. The more fulfilling your relationship as an author with your editor(s), the smoother the process will be for the both of you, and you’ll be excited to work together then and in the future.
I could spend all day telling you what qualities make a great editor, but what about how to be an amazing client? An editor’s FAVORITE client?
Using my own experience, and asking some editor friends about theirs, I’ve come up with this list of 9 qualities an editor’s favorite client possesses:
- Pay on Time
Okay, this is the obvious one, and also most important, so I figured I’d get it out of the way early on. Even if you have every intention to pay but it takes an extra week or so for you to complete your invoice, that’s difficult on an editor. This is our career. Just as you have bills to pay, we do as well. Reminding an author about payment is uncomfortable (I really don’t want to remind you about this, but…), a little nerve-wracking (are you unhappy with my edits?
-BTW this is still never a reason to not pay. Always pay, and always discuss how you feel about the work you received. The best editors will rectify when possible), and it’s time consuming (I have other edits to work on).
- Open communication
Communication when conducting business over the internet or phone is vital to the success of a partnership. Keep your editor updated on the manuscript, changes, feedback, concerns, and more.
Be sure you two have discussed expectations thoroughly as one editor’s definition for something may be different than another’s.
Reply to emails. “Ghosting” your editor is not cool.
Also not cool? Pushing back work and expecting to be accommodated with no issues. If a client needs to change the start date, I’m fine with that as long as it’s communicated in as much advance notice as possible, and also that they realize I may not be able to fit them in as soon as they’d like anymore, because I book my schedule solid, back to back, so pushing back work encroaches on someone else’s timeline, which isn’t fair.
Be open, be honest. If you’re concerned about your edits, please, I beg you, say something! I can’t read your mind and I want you to be as happy with the edit as I felt delivering it. Editors don’t have a boss, so your feedback is all we have to improve. (Feel free to tell us when we do an awesome job too.)
Respect between editor and author applies to so many things. I give my authors respect in the fact that they are talented individuals who only want to publish a great story, they’ve decided to work with me [that earns them double kudos ; ) ] and they are human beings with about 100 different things on their plate at a time.
My favorite clients give me respect as well, and here are a few big ones:
-Respect your editor’s time– Don’t try to get additional work for free. Time contributed is time spent away from other projects, leads, and marketing. If you have additional questions, work, or need a rush job done, offer to pay for their time.
–Respect their edits/suggestions even when you don’t agree– I don’t expect an author to take on every suggestion I make. It’s unrealistic. But, what I do expect is that they understand why I’ve made a suggestion and are willing to look at it in a different light or bounce ideas around with me to get the ideal outcome that fits their vision.
–Respect office hours– This job is like any other—I have business hours, I don’t answer emails at night or on the weekend. Well…I lie. I might sometimes do so, but that’s out of the norm. These business hours exist because I if I sat in front of email all day, I’d never get anything done; things come up, appointments are made, and I like to have a personal life. Don’t you?
So as a rule, don’t expect replies immediately, after hours, or on weekends.
- Send the best version of the manuscript.
This is a big one that I’m not sure if every writer understands. Just because you are hiring an editor to catch errors, inconsistencies, or advise you on things to improve your story, does not mean it’s good practice to send a manuscript that is an early draft.
The better the draft your send your editor, the deeper, more involved their edits will be because their focus isn’t going to the easy stuff. To get the most out of your money and their time, give them the best possible manuscript you can. The more eyes on it the better, always.
- Grow as writers
I love self-aware clients. Every writer has strengths and weaknesses, and the writer that know what theirs are will only grow to be stronger, better writers.
Becoming a better writer should be every author’s goal, until the day they stop writing.
My favorite clients don’t just use one editor on their first draft of the manuscript and call it a day. The best clients, and the best writers, write numerous drafts, use beta readers, critique partners, and then editors. The best writers are the ones I get to see grow. Who learn from our edits together and the others who’ve helped them, and get stronger every time. Who use a suggestion I give on their manuscript and take it to the next level, making it their own. Who don’t get mad when they hire an editor to find mistakes, and then the editor does.
- Use the sample edit
This is a personal preference of mine, and I’ve found that some of my strongest writers are the ones who take advantage of this. When I start talking to a potential client, I will provide a free sample edit on the first 1,000 words of their manuscript. This is so I can evaluate the level of editing required, and also so the writer can see what my work will look like and make sure we sync.
This happens before we book work together. I do a little happy dance whenever I begin working on a client’s manuscript and I see they used my sample edit and applied it to that chapter, and throughout the entire manuscript if possible. This thrills me to no end. It goes along with #4 – send the best version of the manuscript.
- Keep your editor in the loop of your success (if they want to be)
I want to know when my clients are succeeding! Did an agent request your manuscript? Did you sell a book? Is the release date coming up? Win an award? I personally want to know these things. Maybe not all editors do, so this is more of “how to be Katie’s favorite client,” but when my authors succeed, I feel that I’ve succeeded. That’s all I want for an author who works with me—for them to face success and growth as a writer, and feel encouraged.
- Be human
The basics here are simple—be a real person and I’ll be one right back. I love clients that I mesh really well with, or that I can joke around or throw in a smiley face or two in my comments or emails. I really enjoy using exclamation points to show my excitement in email and on Twitter. I won’t apologize for this.
Side note: I 100% recommend against using exclamation points in fiction writing.
- Praise me.
LOL. Okay, so this one is not necessary, but if a client sings my praises, is loyal, sends me cookies, writes a testimonial for my site, buys me a beach house, I’m going to love them forever and always make sure I can fit them into my schedule. Wink, wink.
If a client possesses all or most of these traits, they are by far my favorite people to work with. These are the clients that make me love what I do, be proud to be in this industry, and basically, I’d like to clone them and work with them forever. I’m not the only editor who feels this way.
Guest post contributed by Katie McCoach. Katie is a member of Romance Writers of America and the Editorial Freelancers Association. She’s had essays published in TrainWrite and Kalliope and is currently writing a contemporary romance novel. For advice on editing, writing, and publishing, visit her blog and be sure to also follow her on Twitter.