Setting Expectations for an Edit

A question I’m often asked is, “Authors can be confused by what kind of editing their manuscript needs. How do you handle that?

Whenever an author reaches out to me, I ask them a bit about their past experience – have they published before, and if so, did they have a traditional publisher or did they self-publish. This helps me gauge their experience level.

Then I ask where they are in the writing process – have they finished a draft, have they tried to polish the draft, have they sent the ms out to beta readers? This helps give me a sense of what type of editing they are likely to need.

If they’ve worked with a freelance editor before on this particular ms, I try to find out a little about why they have come to me. If they weren’t happy with their previous editor on this ms, I need to know if this is because the editor failed to deliver adequate editing or if the author is just shopping around to hear what they want to hear or if there’s another reason. If they were wanting someone to put the commas in the right place and the editor was telling them all about the plot problems, then I need to be clear that I’m also the kind of editor who will tell them all about the plot problems. If they are just looking for the comma person, I’ll refer them to a copyediting colleague. 

If they’ve used a different editor on other mss but not this one I also try to ask a few questions about how that relationship worked and why it ended. All of this is just to help me understand whether the author has unrealistic expectations of the editorial process or if the editor was in fact incompetent or if there’s just an ordinary reason for switching – the editor has retired or is booked for the next twelve months and so on. Sometimes indie authors want the editor to make all the revisions for them – but that’s not editing, that’s book doctoring or ghostwriting (and deserves a lot more money!)

I explain exactly what I do in a developmental edit, including the deliverables – the edited manuscript and revision letter. And I explain how this differs from a manuscript evaluation, which is basically a shortened version of a developmental edit. An evaluation is less expensive than a full developmental edit and is just a revision letter with no queries or edits on the ms itself. It is typically more suitable for a more experienced author who doesn’t need the guidance of in-manuscript queries. Because I’ve asked some questions about their experience and their goals and explained what I do, I’ve never had anyone surprised with the outcome of my editing.

Join the Club!

how to become an editor

New to story editing? Begin at the beginning.

Similar Posts