Finally getting to the stage of hiring a book editor to improve your manuscript is inevitably daunting. You’ve fallen in love with your characters, you’ve chosen every word with care, and you’ve worked super hard to get your novel to its current state, so the idea, or reality, of having a complete stranger reveal all its weaknesses probably doesn’t fill you with joy.
Once your editor has delivered their edits and feedback, you may be itching to jump straight into your revitalised novel and read everything they’ve said, but the hasty approach may not be the best one, especially if it’s your first time working with a professional book editor.
First of all, if it’s the first time you’ve ever hired a professional editor, it’s unlikely that you’ll know what to expect. Of course, if you’ve made the decision to hire one, you evidently know that your novel needs work, or understand the benefits of working with an editor.
However, you may not know the scale of improvement and corrections your novel truly needs. You may leave your manuscript with a copy editor expecting them to only tweak your grammar, a few syntax issues, and some punctuation, but they may have also found numerous lengthy sentences that needed shortening, several areas of repetition, clunky sentences on every page, and an abundance of typos, therefore veering towards line editing rather than copy editing.
Similarly, you may opt for a developmental edit thinking that only your side characters need enhancing, when your editor may discover that you have issues with your POV, voice, and overall structure.
When an editor provides more suggestions and corrections than expected, it can sometimes cause the writer of the manuscript to become hostile.
For example, a previous client accused me of money-grabbing just because I suggested a developmental edit before getting a copy edit. Another client who chose to get a free sample edit first got angry with me upon receiving my FREE edits, believing he only needed a proofread when he actually needed a line edit. And multiple writers who have opted for developmental editing have got defensive with me, reciting the feedback they’ve received from beta readers as if to say, “Well they liked it, so this issue about info-dumps can’t be that bad!”
Ugh, the beta reader argument really drives me mad! If you hire an editor and then proceed to argue with their feedback because your beta readers thought differently, you need to rethink whether there was any point in hiring the editor in the first place if you’re not going to value their suggestions!
Although it’s natural to have mixed emotions after receiving an editor’s feedback; perhaps anger being one of them, dispirited, embarrassed, overwhelmed and so forth, it’s not okay to lash out at the editor for doing their job, especially when our job involves making your writing better.
So, keep reading to learn five ways to prevent yourself from verbally attacking your innocent editor!
1. Book Editors are People Too!
As you browse through your editor’s website and converse with them over an email, it can be so easy to view them as just another service-provider who just wants to make money from you, and while it’s true that us editors want to earn a living – like everyone – we really do want to help you with your dreams as much as possible.
Being an editor isn’t something you accidentally fall into – it has to be something the individual loves to do, and therefore chooses to get qualified in. As a result, most book editors are either self-employed with their own editorial business – like me – or they work as freelancers. Neither option is easy, which is why most editors do it because they love the art of editing, not because it’s an easy side hustle.
Saying that, you may come across the select few who believe they’re a qualified editor because they’ve proofed a few of their friends’ essays or provided feedback on their mother’s auntie’s neighbour’s crime novel, but when you’re looking for a book editor, you’ll quickly learn the genuine ones from the fakes.
With all of that in mind, book editors really don’t plan or go out of their way to knock you down or destroy your dreams. The good ones (like me!) just want to do their job well enough so you can do succeed as an author, whether that’s getting a literary agent or self-publishing your masterpiece.
2. A Book Editor's Tweaks & Suggestions Aren't an Attack
Us humans are brilliant at reading between the lines, so it’s no wonder that an abundance of red edits and comments can translate to ‘your novel is crap’. Although it may make sense for the ‘worst’ writers to need the most editing, that’s really not always the case – some of the best manuscripts I’ve edited needed the most edits and suggestions!
Think of it like going to the hairdressers – they're not trimming your hair because it looks horrible, they’re fixing it to improve the hair you’ve spent years growing out. Another example - when you take your car for an MOT, it’s an annual test that needs doing for the safety and success of your driving, not because your car is shit and needs to be written off.
So when you receive an editor’s notes, try not to interpret everything as an attack on your work – I promise that all the red edits and suggestions are purely designed to make your novel better, not to knock you down.
Plus, isn’t it better to have an editor to flags everything rather than ignores a lot of issues only for you to publish an error-ridden book?
3. More Edits Can Mean More Care & Dedication
As mentioned at the end of the last paragraph, isn’t it better to have a meticulous editor rather than a lazy one who couldn’t be bothered?
The more edits you receive, the more your editor cares about their job and your manuscript. If you find a good editor, the chances are, they’ll treat your manuscript like their baby with the hope of helping you as much as possible. Gosh, I’ve edited many manuscripts now that I’ve absolutely adored, so of course I’ve wanted to improve them as much as possible to give the authors my 100%.
Obviously, if you’ve chosen an editor’s proofreading service and there genuinely isn’t much to be fixed in your manuscript before publication, then that’s fine, but if you’ve paid for a heavier edit and your editor makes no effort to help you with the weaker areas…they clearly don’t care about your work and they certainly aren’t dedicated to being an editor.
Alternatively, they could be ignorant to the scope of work required, meaning that they shouldn’t be offering the services in which they need more experience.
If you ever have the displeasure of working with an editor who clearly hasn’t put their all into your manuscript, you undeniably have every right to be angry, but if you receive more edits, comments and suggestions than expected, don’t complain – you will have got more for your money!
4. Expect the Unexpected
I always encourage writers to educate themselves about the professional editing process so they understand the different types of editing services; which type of editor they need; how much it’s likely to cost, and what’s involved, but regarding the actual edits made by the editor, it’s important to expect the unexpected.
The whole point of hiring a professional book editor is so you can receive a specialised service you can’t do yourself, so it’s impossible to know what your manuscript will look like after an editor has tackled it.
Of course, you probably know the weaknesses in your manuscript and therefore expect your editor to touch on those areas, but your editor may also find issues you didn’t know were a problem. They may even find teething problems in the parts you believe are the best, which can be heart-breaking if you don’t expect the unexpected when hiring an editor.
This doesn't mean to say that you should go into the professional editing process blind – absolutely do your research and learn everything you can about what you’re getting yourself into – just remain open-minded at all times, because you never know what your editor could flag up and suggest.
5. Successful Authors Need Editors Too!
Mixed emotions are normal when you receive your edits back from a professional book editor. You may feel deflated; like you’ll never achieve your dream of getting a literary agent, and you may feel angry; either at your editor or yourself for not noticing some of the issues raised, but it’s important to remember that you’re not alone in feeling shitty.
We all know that the likes of J.K. Rowling queried upwards of 15 literary agents before receiving an acceptance letter, but all traditional authors, whether super famous or relatively unknown, undergo a series of different edits before their manuscript is anywhere near ready enough to have a place in book shops.
Traditional authors have to agree to each type of editing service, otherwise their novel won’t be up to the standard that publishers require, so imagine the volume of edits, comments, suggestions and tweaks they receive after that entire process.
On top of that, think about the success they achieved once their books were published and promoted to the world!
They wouldn’t have achieved the same amount of success if they hadn’t had such an intense level of editing. I mean, who wants to read a novel full of structural issues, unconvincing characters, a boring plot, countless grammatical errors, and millions of clunky sentences?
So, if you find yourself feeling angry with your editor for the number of edits made to your manuscript, just take a moment to think about your favourite authors and consider the quantity of revisions they had to make before their literary agent even thought about proposing their book to publishers.
Lots of edits doesn’t mean you’re a failure, it just means that your manuscript is more equipped for success!
So, instead of typing a vicious email to your book editor, take a moment to think about these 5 things!
To your highest success,
Hey! I'm Chelsea and I'm a professional book editor at Stand Corrected Editing, my independent editorial business in the UK. If you would like to have your manuscript thoroughly edited by myself, please get in touch!
With my book editing and proofreading services, I hope to spread my knowledge and expertise on how to make your novel a success, and be a mentor to others who desperately want to pursue a fruitful career as an author!