• Annie Tucker
  • Seven Do’s and Don’ts of Constructive Communication with Your Editor
Seven Do’s and Don’ts of Constructive Communication with Your Editor
Written by
Annie Tucker
September 2016
Written by
Annie Tucker
September 2016

So, you’ve hired an editor for your book. Congratulations! You’ve just tackled one of the most important steps in the prepublication process. Now, the trick is to sustain that momentum so you can reap the benefits of this new arrangement. The tips below will help to set you up for success as you move forward into what will ideally become a fun and fruitful working relationship with your extra set of eyes.


1. Common Courtesy

Do: be polite. “Please” and “thank you” go a long way.

Don’t: use a demanding tone, e.g., “rewrite this paragraph” or “fix chapter 3 for me.” Even though this is a transactional relationship, editors don’t like to feel bossed around, alienated, or taken for granted. Remember, we’re on your side!


2. Conscientiousness

Do: spell-check and proofread your emails to your editor.

Don’t: be sloppy. Do you go to a dentist appointment without brushing and flossing first? Do you show up at work with a hangover on a morning when you have to give a huge presentation? It’s hard for an editor to take you seriously as an aspiring author when you don’t seem to place a premium on writing coherent sentences at all times.


3. Correspondence

Do: be patient. If you email your editor and don’t hear back from her right away, trust that she received your message and will reply to it as soon as she can. She might be busy with other projects or—gasp!—away from her desk/computer/phone. Generally, allow twenty-four hours for a response during the workweek, and if you email your editor on a weekend, give her until at least Monday during business hours to get back to you.

Don’t: forward your editor the same email you just sent her two hours ago, and don’t text her to tell her you just emailed her. She knows.


4. Organization

Do: consolidate information, questions, and documents for your editor in as few emails as possible whenever you contact her.

Don’t: send her seven separate emails in rapid succession. This kind of scattershot approach makes your important work and inquiries more likely to get lost in her (usually overflowing) inbox, and less likely to be addressed thoroughly.


5. Grammar and Punctuation

Do: ask your copy editor any grammar- or punctuation-related questions you have; answering them will bring her great joy.

Don’t: try to persuade her that your manuscript does not need to be copyedited (because your mother was a strict grammarian, because you know the proper use of semicolons, because you can’t stand it when people use “their” when they mean “they’re”). Virtually everyone’s manuscript needs a copyedit, and that’s a good thing.


6. Accountability

Do: admit when you haven’t had time to do your “homework.” Editors admire honesty and understand that day-to-day responsibilities sometimes interfere with the writing process. If you’re unprepared for a meeting, your editor can always come up with some other, equally productive use of your time together.

Don’t: make frequent excuses or promises about how “things will be better when [my kids go back to school/I take a vacation/my day job becomes less hectic].” The bottom line is, your book won’t write itself—there’s nothing to it but to do it, along with everything else that requires your time and energy.


7. Timeliness

Do: be on time for meetings, adhere to the schedule you’ve predetermined with your editor, and respect her time when you’re on the phone with her.

Don’t: let your call time expire and then say, “I just have to ask you one more question” or, “I just have to tell you this one story.” “Time’s up” really means “time’s up,” and showing your editor that you’re willing to respect the parameters you’ve agreed upon, just as you would with a therapist or an attorney, will only make her appreciate you more.  


Have a question? Leave it in the comments below.

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  • Sarah Flores

    I wrote a similar article this year that goes hand in hand with your tips. https://sarahfloresblog.wordpress.com/2016/05/04/how-to-prepare-your-manuscript-for-an-editor/

  • Annie Tucker

    Thank you, Bella! Looking forward to reading RAW!

  • Bella Mahaya Carter

    Great post, Annie! My memoir is in Brooke's queue for you. She told me the copyedit is optional, but I can't wait to get your expert eyes on RAW: A Midlife Quest for Health & Happiness!

  • Catherine Hiller

    You could post a job listing at the Editorial Freelancers Association: www.the-efa.org You will be deluged by talented editors! And/or . . . you could get in touch with me: [email protected]. Cheers! 

  • Melissa Powell Gay

    Hello. I have a manuscript which is crying for a talented editor to read, provide solid character, style and plot advice and to copy edit. Is there a place on She Writes where I can post an inquiry? A synopsis of the story is posted on Author.me. The title is Running From the Rain.

  • catherine meara

    I have finished my memoir, and am on the second edit. I am planning to send my book to an editor. The lady that I'm sending my manuscript to also offers a service where she will go over my entire manuscript and offer suggestions, how I can make it stronger, what to keep and what to leave out, and make sure my timeline is smooth. The difference between costs is 200. for a basic edit, and 600. for the whole tamale. I know this process is vital to making my book publishable, but which do I need?

  • Catherine Hiller

    Almost all of this is welcome advice, but as an editor I disagree with "Don’t: send her seven separate emails in rapid succession."  If they're about 7 different topics I welcome 7 emails! Subject lines indicating Point of View, Title, Commas, etc. alert me to the concerns of the author, and, similarly, I'll often send authors 3 or 4 emails in an afternoon with different subject lines. In one long email, it's easier to skip over things. 

  • Annie Tucker

    That's a great addition, Catherine. Thank you!

  • Catherine Marshall-Smith

    I would add, thank your editor in the acknowledgements. I wrote a good book but my editor made it saleable. I will never forget that.