I recently got off the phone with a potential client who got in touch because she’s confused and struggling to understand some of the feedback she got from her editor. Said client acknowledged that while her editor had made some great points, she, as a debut writer, could have used some additional explanations on her edits. At first, I was confused. Why hadn’t she simply set up a call with her editor to go over her questions? Then I understood. It turned out that their entire correspondence had taken place through the client’s agent, and they’d never communicated directly. This gave me pause. I know that writers and editors develop many ways to work successfully together and don’t claim that there is a single right answer for everyone, but I nonetheless feel compelled to express an opinion here. And that is this: you, as a writer, not only have the right to communicate directly with your editor but should take full advantage of the opportunity to do so. A fruitful author-editor relationship is one built on a foundation of mutual trust, respect, and understanding, and based on my work with many authors over the years, I believe that it is essential to a productive working relationship and results in a better final manuscript.
Here at Girl Friday, every editorial relationship begins with a phone call between the author and editor. This is a chance for you to establish a rapport with your editor; understand her approach; ask questions about the process; note any concerns or areas you’d like her to focus on; and describe your own objectives for this manuscript, who the audience is, your writing background, and any other backstory that you think might be relevant. This is a great time to ask questions so that you are clear about what will happen next. By the end of the conversation, you should feel confident that you understand what your editor is going to do and that your manuscript is in the right hands.
But it doesn’t end there. Our editing services also include a follow-up consultation so that authors have a chance to ask questions about the feedback they’ve received and generally feel clear and confident about how to proceed with their next draft. Some of my authors like to hop on the phone within minutes of getting their editorial letter and use me as a sounding board before they delve into their revisions. Others prefer to take a little time to mull things over or like to just get straight down to the business of revising. The call isn’t a requirement, of course, but what is important is that authors not feel abandoned at this crucial moment, especially if they’re new to the editorial process.
Finally, it’s worth noting that these conversations are helpful for the editor as well. They not only provide us with insights that inform our edits, but also remind us that the manuscript that has been entrusted to us has been written by a real person. While it’s obviously our job to give our client honest feedback, this initial contact ensures that we keep that person’s feelings in mind as we make suggestions and frame our revisions accordingly.
At Girl Friday, it’s our mission to make sure our authors are invigorated and empowered by the editorial process. Your editor should feel like your cheerleader, advocate, wise friend, industry insider, and secret weapon all rolled into one. Yes, first and foremost, it’s about polishing that manuscript to a bright sheen, but it’s also about building a strong relationship with someone else who understands your dreams and is invested in helping you become a better writer. And that all comes from picking up the phone and talking to each other.