How to Approach an Editor: What Authors Should Know
Editors tend to be a very friendly, helpful bunch, and we get excited about the prospect of working with a new client, despite the introverted nature of their job. So, authors should never feel apprehensive about reaching out to one with questions regarding editing services.
That said, when you do reach out, make sure you’re giving the editor enough information to provide you with a reasonable answer. Many first-time authors aren’t sure what to ask about other than price. And price, while important, isn’t everything. The type of editing you need may determine what you ask for too. If you're still trying to figure out the type of editing you need, click here to read my article “Types of Editing and How to Figure Out Which One You Need.”
When contacting editors, it’s helpful if your first email has the following information in it.
1. The type and genre of your work
Some editors may specialize in certain genres or pass on other ones. Letting us know this information upfront helps us determine if we’re the right editor for you.
2. A short summary
A summary can pique our interest in your manuscript and make us eager to work with you.
3. The word count
Word count is important because it helps us know how big the job is in order to accommodate your manuscript on our schedule.
4. What kind of editing you’re looking for
This is essential information! If you’re unsure about the kind of editing you need, see this article on how to figure that out.
5. What kind of editing has already been done
This helps us understand where you’re at in your writing journey and manages our expectations for your work before we’ve seen it.
6. When you’re looking to have the work done and if you’re flexible.
Many editors are booked up months in advance and you might have to wait a couple of months to get a slot with the editor of your choice. It’s best to start your search for an editor early, and if you find an editor you like, get on their calendar by putting down a deposit—even if your slot a few months down the road.
Most editors will want to see your work before they give you a price. If I receive a request for copyediting, I like to see the entire manuscript so that I can scroll through it at random. When we’re working on something like a novel, some parts are in better shape than others, and I like to have a sort of aggregated feel for the whole thing rather than just a sample chosen by the author, which may or may not be indicative of the state of the writing throughout.
Of course, there are questions you will want to ask a potential editor as well. Such as
1. Their process for the type of editing you're looking for
For example, do they need the whole manuscript upfront or will they take it a chapter at a time? The answer may vary depending on whether you’re looking for developmental editing, line editing, or copyediting.
2. What their background is
Do they have training as a copyeditor? Do they specialize in your genre (more important for developmental editing than copyediting)?
You might be able to find this information on their website, so make sure that it isn’t there before you ask.
3. How long it will take them to finish editing your manuscript
Again, turnaround time will depend on the type of editing you’re looking for. A developmental edit will take longer than a copyedit or a proofread. Turnaround time also depends on the length of your manuscript.
And when you do engage an editor, if you get back edits that you don’t understand, don’t be afraid to drop a quick email asking for an explanation. Personally, I don’t ever want an author to feel like they didn’t understand my edits.