Authors need editors. Editors need authors. I have a vested interest in superb author-editor communication. Let me just say: I love my authors. I wouldn’t have a career without them. I get a thrill every time I approach a new project.
So, my first piece of advice to authors and writers? Have an open mind. This means that if an editor tells you that your story would benefit from a different point of view, or that the three paragraphs you wrote to describe the meal your protagonist had for breakfast should be deleted, consider that you might be too close to the work to see it at its potential best. The choice is always yours to choose or reject an edit, but if you’ve hired a good editor, she knows what works and what doesn’t.
Did you know that the comma is one of the most controversial punctuation marks? This means that even the geekiest grammar Nazis at the Chicago Manual of Style will occasionally disagree on this cute little curlicue. What this means for the author is that you might wonder why we inserted a comma in one place but not another. Most book editors use the rules set forth in the Chicago Manual of Style. (For articles, we might defer to the Associated Press Stylebook.) We use this in conjunction with Merriam-Webster. For issues covered in neither, we make our own editorial decision. There’s a reason the comma warrants an enormous number of pages in style guides. So, trust that your editor knows what he’s doing. Although hard and fast rules certainly apply to most areas of grammar, gray areas still abound. Chicago often defers to what they call “editorial judgment.”
If you hire an editor to comment on character, plot, etc., and to copy edit, and to proofread, understand that no matter how meticulous the editor is, you will find a mistake here and there. With traditional publishing houses, your work goes to an editor first, then a copy editor, and then at least one proofreader. Independent editors often do the job of all these people, unless you have the resources to hire separate individuals. I perform all of these functions on every manuscript, and I use the finest-tooth comb to scan for errors before returning it to the author, but human error says that I will not have caught everything.
The best editors (read: those with egos in check) are interested in nothing more than making your work the best it can be. I can sleep at night (cuddled up to Sienna, my pug mix) knowing that I’ve cut no corners in helping my author achieve the highest standards.
Now … what do you wish your editor would know? We’re listening.