How to Work Well with Your Editor: Tips for Authors

By Rebecca Bush, Commissioning Editor

My name is Rebecca, and I’m one of the commissioning editors working with Lived Places Publishing. I’d like to talk about how you, an author, can most effectively work with your editor.

Types of Editor

First, let’s take a quick look at the different kinds of editor you might work with as a book author:

  • Commissioning editors commission books. This may mean seeking out an author with a concept in mind, or it may mean considering unsolicited submissions (active vs. passive).
  • Collection editors are a special editorial role, only relevant in some circumstances. They have oversight responsibility for a group of books with a common theme. They provide some of the same support as both commissioning and development editors, but with an additional subject matter expertise. At Lived Places, they have approval responsibility for proposals and manuscripts, and their name appears on the book along with the author.
  • Development or structural editors work on the manuscript at a high-to-medium level of oversight. They consider factors such as the order of content for the most logical flow, the overall sense of the text, and whether the book connects with the intended audience (and delivers the intended message) in the way that you and the publisher have agreed. They might pay some attention to small details such as house style and spelling/punctuation, but this is not their main concern.
  • Production editors or project editors work on turning a finished manuscript into a final, market-ready book (electronic or physical).
  • Copy-editors are often freelance, although some publishing houses will keep them in-house. They have excellent attention to detail, and they’ll check the manuscript for adherence to a house style as well as spelling accuracy, grammar, and some basic fact-checking (although the main responsibility for factual accuracy lies with you). They’ll look for consistency, and typos, before the manuscript is ready for typesetting.

This is a very basic introduction to the different editorial roles. Depending on your publisher, you may not encounter every kind of editor, and some editors do more than one role.

Working with an Editor

Now, how can you ensure that your working relationship with your editor is both positive and effective? There are a few key tips to working well with an editor, but the number one secret to success I can give is this: don’t disappear!

Stay in Touch with Your Editor

This may seem like an obvious or even an unnecessary tip at first. Most authors don’t enter the writing process intending to avoid their editor’s calls, after all! However, we know that writing a book can be a difficult and sometimes lonely process. It can be very tempting, therefore, to wait to contact your editor until things are on track. When you are behind a deadline, or you’re experiencing writing block or personal issues, it can seem to make a certain kind of sense to stay silent until you have good news for us. You may believe that you will soon be caught up; maybe you see no need to engage in uncomfortable or unpleasant communication; maybe you’re anxious not to cause your editor stress or problems.

Let me be clear here: In my experience, this is the biggest mistake I see many authors make. It is not an editor’s role to provide judgment or censure; it is our role to provide support and help. However, our ability to do so is severely limited if we do not know the true picture. We would far rather receive a timely email, however awkward or uncomfortable, than the alternative: An agreed deadline expires to silence from you, and our calls and emails to you get increasingly desperate! Problems happen, and we anticipate and prepare for this, but a breakdown in communication is one of the only problems that it is often impossible to overcome. Please stay in touch!

The Author / Editor Relationship

Here are some other tips that may help you build a mutually beneficial working relationship with your editor:

  • Please don’t take offense: It’s our job to help you create an excellent and effective book. This may occasionally mean suggesting a change that you feel strongly about, for one reason or another. It is encouraged to enter into discussion with your editor, especially when opinions diverge. But please don’t take feedback or critique personally, and please remember to keep discussions polite. You are the expert in your subject area, and we will defer to you on those matters, but we are the experts in publishing, and it is our job to ensure that your expertise and story is communicated in the most effective way.
  • Ask questions: Whether you are an experienced author, or you are about to write your first book, you are bound to encounter parts of the process about which you are unsure. Even if you’ve published multiple titles, every publisher is different, and so you may not feel completely confident at every stage. If you’re unsure about something, no matter how insignificant it may seem, please do ask; we’re happy to explain and want you to feel supported.
  • Use version tracking: Whatever tool you use for this, it’s important to keep track of the various iterations of your book. Version control is vital for effective editing and for keeping a book on schedule, so if you’re not comfortable using the editing tools your editor uses, please speak up. Please do not return a completely ‘clean’ second draft to your editor, with no indication of changes made. This makes it impossible to review responses to feedback.

And there we have it – the best advice I can give on how you, an author, can most effectively work with your editor. Remember: we want your book to be the best possible book it can be!

Happy writing,

To submit a proposal and pitch to become a Lived Places author, please see our Call for Authors.

If you would like to talk to someone about what a proposal might look like for you, please contact our collection editors to talk about your ideas:

If you have an idea for a collection, your collection does not yet have an editor, or you want to speak to us about anything else, please contact the Publisher here.

Image Credit: Rebecca Bush, used with permission


Written by: Rebecca

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