Thou Shalt Love Thy Author
Editors, let’s give a collective cheer for authors. For without them we would not have jobs. Hip hip, horray!
For that and a myriad of other reasons, you should first and foremost respect your author. With every email, comment, correction, or what have you, remember that this author’s creative ideas, years of work, passion for writing, and desire to be published is why you have a project to employ you.
Now, how do you convey your gratitude without getting too misty-eyed or royalty creeping them out? Here are a few ideas:
- Realize that this manuscript is their masterpiece, their baby, and a very personal part of themselves. At times they may be protective of it. Assure your author that you will work together to make it the best it can be. Don’t mess with the author’s voice or attempt to put your own stamp on it. Develop it, but don’t take it over.
- Give your author the benefit of the doubt. Don’t think ill of them or make them feel bad if they have missed something. Think how many times they have added or taken away from this document. Your fresh eyes are there for a reason—to edit mistakes and catch errors in development.
- Use tact. Rather than saying, “I don’t get this,” or “What the heck?” use this type of comment: “Where you trying to say … here? Perhaps you could add … to make it more clear.”
- Focus on the corrections that need to be made, not the author’s personality or other unrelated issues.
- Don’t generalize. For example, let’s say you don’t like a particular chapter because it doesn’t relate to the book’s overall theme. Why? Point out particular sentences that show the author what you are talking about. Be specific and explain yourself. Your author can’t read your thoughts, so make sure you convey your message clearly.
- Be friendly, but professional. An upbeat relationship is always a good thing, but don’t get too personal. This will help keep the author on task and focused on their work, not on the author-editor relationship or making you happy because you are their new best friend. Be a professional partner, not a buddy.
- Point out what is right about their work. Nothing makes an author feel better than their editor pointing out what they liked about their manuscript! Again, be specific about what parts you were impressed with, but also keep your positive comments on a professional level. Such praise will hopefully inspire the author to work that much harder on rewrites.
In general, while your job is to critique this manuscript and point out its flaws, remember that there is a person on the receiving end who has to figure out what to do with those comments and corrections. Be honest, but helpful, and above all, respect your author.