Sunday, December 9, 2012

10 Ways to Make Your Editor Angry

I was an in-house editor at my college for my internship and since graduation I've delved into the world of freelance editing, on a small scale in between drafts of my own stuff. I've learned a lot, especially about author/editor relations. So here's a handy list of things to upset your editor, in case you ever want your editor shaken, not stirred.

1. Giving your editor your first draft.

I'm begging and pleading here: do not give your editor your first draft. If you say to me "Brandon and Jeremy are the same person, I just haven't decided the character's name yet," you are not ready for an editor. Unless both you and the editor know it's an early draft to be gone over for general suggestions, you won't get a very good edit from an early draft.

2. Giving a ridiculous deadline.

"Yeah, I want to start formatting this next week."

Well… It takes me at least two months to edit a book. Longer if you insist that all 250,000 words in this behemoth is necessary. I've had some writers practically laugh in my face when I say it takes me at least an hour to edit 5 pages well. And I never edit more than two hours in a row because then I start rushing or looking over things. Trust me, my suggestions for plot and character development are going to take more work than just adding a comma here and there. Getting an editor may be one of the last steps in the process, but it's one that takes a lot of time, so please don't have unrealistic expectations.

3. I'll pay you in pickles.

It was really rocky for me to transition from "I need the experience, I'll edit anything for free" to "I will need some money from this." Even now I charge way less than pro editors. But I still get, "I can't pay you, but I'll take you out to lunch." or "I have half a tub of cool whip and some toilet paper to give you if you'll look this over." Really strange things. (Unfortunately, no one's offered peach vodka, which I would probably go for.) I understand it's hard for an author to shell out a lot of money, especially if they aren't sure the edit will be good. (I personally hate it when I hear stories about an author paying a crap editor. Just because they like to write or have been to college doesn't instantly make them a good editor, even if they think they are. Makes me sad.) I do my best to tell the author exactly what I would do in an edit, how I make it mandatory that they sit down with me and we go over everything together after I have edited a section to clear things up/get better ideas. I show them my work and my process so they know where I'm coming from. Unfortunately just like graphic artists and photographers I've known who have made the jump to charging for their services, people think that because it's more of an intellectual/abstract service that it doesn't deserve as much payment. I do a good job, act as a professional and truly believe I can assist authors with my skills. Please don't offer to pay me in sandwich toppings.

4. Not taking any of the editor's advice.

I know as an author myself, sometimes you think your work is so fantastic, when someone else reads it they're going to say, "Whoa, this is amazing! I mean, this comma here might not need to be there, but other than that, this is great!"

End daydream sequence here. An editor is there to edit. Cut. Chop. Murder all your sweet, innocent darlings. I actually like when an author is a little feisty and defends their ideas. Or maybe I don't get something and they say, "Well, I was trying to get this point across." Then we edit an earlier part to make the troublesome part make sense. That's editing. But when an author completely shuts down every suggestion I make, I stop making suggestions. And that is an utter waste of everyone's time and money. An author certainly does not have to take all the suggestions an editor makes. Part of being a good writer is knowing when to veto some suggestions. But don't let your ego destroy your work and your relationship with an editor. Even if it means putting the piece down for awhile and looking at it later. But yes, as an editor when I spend hours reading and editing something, just to see the final published version is EXACTLY the same thing I read…. Uh oh.

5. Giving an editor's credit without permission.

Now, this may be different for some editors. Some editors will be offended if you DON'T give an editor's credit. But for me, at the stage I'm at, I don't want an editor credit. I'm also an author, so I don't want my name popping up too much on other work that is drastically different than my own. I'm also not officially pro and can't take on several projects at once, so my name as an editor doesn't need to be out there. What I would rather have is a short write up of how I helped the author and how the edit improved their progress, so I can show that to future authors that want me to edit something. HOWEVER, if the editor does do a good job and wants a credit, give it to them. Basically, be clear about what the editor wants and never put an editor's name out anywhere unless they approve.

6. Stealing the editor's exact words.

I usually circle problem paragraphs and offer loose suggestions, but this does not mean I'm rewriting the paragraph for you. I say "this is an example," not "put this in verbatim." But often I will see the author put in the exact word or sentence that I suggested. Or I'll say, "Maybe start this differently" and start a sentence then fade out… but the author will say, "You didn't finish this sentence for me here."

No… because you're supposed to.

I don't know if other editors just rewrite entire paragraphs for authors, but I don't. Usually I talk with the author instead of writing suggestions. If you think you can just plop a manuscript down and insert the corrections the editor made and move on, you are mistaken. Which brings me to…

7. Not rebuilding your piece.

I hate it when I make suggestions and the only changes I see are commas and misspellings but no real overhaul to the piece. I do not try to change the integrity or point of a piece, but STRUCTURE, PEOPLE. You will have to perform some surgery after an edit. You can't just put in what the editor put in red. Or worse, something at the end is re-written but that just makes something at the beginning not make sense. As an author, you still have to write and see the whole picture. Or else you just make both you and the editor look dumb.

8. Sending three stories when I said I'd only look at one.

Each transaction must be agreed upon. If you say, "Hey I have this 2,000 piece work, can I pay you twenty bucks to look at it?" and I say yes and get three stories in my inbox? No good. Or I edit one book for someone, eight months goes by and suddenly book #2 magically appears in my inbox with "We can get together Wednesday about the first section edit." No, no good. Also, if I say "Well, I have too many things going on right now, I can't take this on," don't try to guilt trip me into looking into it anyway by saying I don't have to look at allll of it, just sooome of it. I don't work that way, I'm sorry. I've learned the hard way when I was not charging that if someone asked "Could you look over something for me?" I would get anywhere from 3-7 pieces sent to me. Know exactly which ONE piece you want edited when you approach an editor.

9. "So, uh, since you edited my book... and you've done this before... can you format my ebook and print book for me? And can you set up a Facebook page/tweeter thing/manage my Createspace account too? I have more toilet paper money."

Uh… No.

I have absolutely no problem showing authors how social networks work. I'm a bit of a junkie in that aspect and am on goodreads every day. I even ask about post-production in the editing process, with marketing ideas etc. because I firmly believe it is important to keep in mind during editing. But I cannot manage all those accounts for you and send updated royalty reports to you. And while I may format books for authors in certain situations, I will want to be paid in addition to the edit. I will most likely charge less than a freelancer on Craigslist anyway, so don't take advantage of the fact that I taught myself the skills you need by throwing the service in with the edit or giving me more pickles.

10. "Thanks for editing my book! It's on sale now. It's 25.00 but for you, 21.95!"
No comment. Just don’t.

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