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How to Maintain the Author-Editor Relationship

In the indie author world, author-editor relationships are among the most important.


Writing is a sacred activity for many authors. On the pages of paper is where they get to dump everything life has thrown at them, to convert words into special meaning that only they and their readers have the pleasure of sharing.

So we editors understand how important it is for an author to invite us into any part of their writing journey. After all, we’re basically being given access to your mental landscape; it’s not something to take lightly.

But even while we understand this, there seems to be misfire about the expectations of the relationship between self-publishing authors and freelance editors. Most indie authors choose to go it alone when they can have built-in support and a cheerleader who wants to see them advance on their journey to publishing their first, third, or even eighth book. So in this article, let’s discuss some tips for strengthening the relationship between authors and editors.


Common Ground for Indie Authors and Freelance Editors

Before we dive into the rules of courtesy for each specific group, we should lay some groundwork. There are two considerations in this special relationship that should be shared and agreed on: Those are respect and communication.

Self-publishing authors should respect the level of expertise their editor provides on the journey to producing a quality book. It is okay to disagree with your editor (and this will be discussed more below); however, authors need to remember that they do indeed see value in the work of the editor they chose. It’s why they chose them. 

For editors, respect comes with a level of release of control over the process. Some editors have worked with publishing houses before and are use to overriding the concerns of the author for the sake of sticking to the guidelines set by the publisher. But in the world of indie publishing, we editors must remember that authors are both author and publisher and ultimately have the final say in what happens with their manuscript.


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Guidelines for Editors

You are a reflection of the editing world. For editors, we must remember that the author’s experience starts the moment they enter our client cycle. Whether that means booking a call with you to talk about their project or submitting their manuscript for review, in that author’s eyes that editor just became the spokesperson for the editing world. The way business is conducted will play a role in the author’s thoughts about freelance editors and editing in general.

Invest in the project. Many of us got into editing because we love books and want to help authors share that love with others. The fact that we can be paid for it is an added benefit. We shouldn’t view the project we are working on like just another project on the manufacturing line to pump out. Invest in the author and invest in the relationship.

Maintain your integrity. Editors should not oversell ourselves or the level of skill. Honesty is the best policy. It isn’t best practice to offer a service that an author does not need or that will delay them on their journey to publishing.

“Newer author jitters”. In the last few years of business, I’ve worked with many indie authors with less than five books under their belt. I would consider them “newer authors.” Some of them have worked with traditional or even hybrid publishers and now wish to try their hand at self-publishing. They may have a hard time handing over the reins when they realize some of the safeties regarding working with an editor through a publisher are gone. Be gentle and open but firm as you calm their fears about collaborating with you.


Guidelines for Authors 

It’s okay to trust your editor. Many authors have heard horror stories about editors who took their money and never produced a finished product or called themselves an editor but presented a manuscript in a worse condition than it was received. Hopefully you’ve properly vetted your editor through some correspondence and a sample edit so that you know they are the real deal. Once you’ve done this, dear author, it’s okay to let your guard down. A lot of authors worry that their work will be stolen by an editor, but I’m here to tell you that any editor who values their work ethic would never dream of stealing their author client’s work.

Communicate your vision for your book. We already established the importance of communication in the author-editor relationship, but it’s important to be upfront about your expectations for your book. Your editor cannot magically read your mind (no one can, and we shouldn’t expect that). Be sure to clearly express what you envision for your project so that your editor has an opportunity to truthfully tell you if they can meet your needs.

Are you willing to adjust your expectations? If you’ve never worked with an editor before, or you haven’t worked with many editors, your gauge concerning the editing process may need some tuning. Remember that editing is subjective and varies from editor to editor. No two editors will provide the same experience. This might mean a longer editing period due to the condition of the manuscript, which could delay your book release. Are you willing to adapt to produce a product both you and your editor will be proud to have participated in?

Release rigidity about the editing process. This guideline falls in line with adjusting expectations about the editing process. What I specifically mean when I refer to rigidity in the editing process is how willing the author is to accept the changes suggested by their editor to their manuscript. When an author submits their manuscript to their editor’s keen eye, it can feel like every red pen mark is a slash to the author’s confidence and writing ability. The editing process is never used as a personal vendetta against authors; rather, we editors help the author get out of their own head and into the heads of their reader audience.

When it comes to maintaining the author-editor relationship, it is the responsibility of both parties to foster an open and respectful collaborative effort. When this is done, the author is satisfied with the product, the editor is satisfied with the process, and readers receive a market-worthy product.

Featured photo by LinkedIn Sales Solutions on Unsplash; in-text photo by Gustavo Fring on Pexels