Can You Hear Me Now? Finding a Freelance Editor Who Listens

Whether you hope to interest a traditional publisher or you’re publishing independently, you know you need professional editing before you submit yourShoe phone manuscript.

But how do you know if the editor you found is a good fit for you?

In my last post (read it here), I discussed how a sample edit can do three things:

  1. It show you a particular editor’s knowledge and ability,
  2. It helps the editor determine the amount of work your manuscript needs to make it as professional as possible, and
  3. It gives you the opportunity to see how that editor believes he or she can improve your book.

Erik John Baker (be sure to check out his blog here) left this comment:

I think it’s also important to find an editor who listens, both [to] the writer and to the writer’s voice.”

Bingo! We all expect an editor to be good with the written word, but it is equally important that someone who is part of your team is a good listener and honors your authorial voice. Let’s discuss the “good listener” part.

The late Stephen R. Covey (The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change) put it this way:

Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.”

The editor you ultimately hire should ask questions, lots and lots of questions. At the end of an interview, you should feel very comfortable that the editor in question (pun intended) is someone who can help you meet your goals. This isn’t an exhaustive list, but here are a few questions I’ve asked potential clients:

  • How can an editor help you? What do you expect an editor to do for you?
  • What do you hope to accomplish with editing help?
  • How do you prefer to communicate? By telephone? Skype? Email?
  • What are your publishing plans?
  • What are your deadlines? Are they flexible or cast in stone?
  • Have you used an freelance editor before? If you have, what worked? What did not work?

Without a clear understanding of what you, the author, wants and needs from an edit, an editor is liable to make assumptions that can lead to misunderstandings. For example, an author might mention she is willing to rewrite as much as necessary, and the editor misinterprets this to mean his job is more ghostwriting than editing. A mistake like this can become very expensive in terms of both time and money.

Sadly, too many writers have had unpleasant editing experiences that left them with more headaches and less cash than before the editor entered the picture. Avoid this by clearly articulating your expectations, asking every question you can think of, and making sure your new editing partner is a good listener.

What questions do YOU ask of a potential editor? If you’ve had a less-than-successful editing experience, what questions do you wish you’d asked to avoid the problems you had?

Your expertise is writing; let me show you how my editorial expertise can help you take your writing to the next level. Contact me at cyjohnson5580@gmail.com for a no-obligation quote and sample edit (and all the questions you can ask) today.

Happy Writing!

—Candace

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4 thoughts on “Can You Hear Me Now? Finding a Freelance Editor Who Listens”

  1. It’s such a good idea to ask all these questions up front so that both parties go into the agreement with a clear understanding of how things will go. These are great tips!

  2. Great post, and thanks for the mention. I like your idea about the sample edit, because a writer should know if her editor takes a blanket approach to all manuscripts or recognizes the rhythm of individual writers and writing voices. A good editor has feel, just like a jazz pianist. How hard should a note be hit? Where are the pauses, what phrasing choices will bring out the best in the material? The editor can enhance those elements and help the writer “pick her spots.”

    I also appreciate your comment about editors asking questions, and I suspect you are hinting that it goes both ways. I’ve had the experience (and I’m sure you have too) of working with writers who seem annoyed by questions and simply hand off the manuscript with a “Whatever. Just fix it.” attitude.

    1. Thanks for taking this discussion forward, Eric. You are so right: a good editor has a feel for the unique style and rhythm of each writer’s voice and edits accordingly. Editing is so much more than making sure words are spelled correctly, or there aren’t too many adverbs, and your music analogy is spot-on. Like any relationship, good communication between the parties is a huge component for success, so questions do need go both ways. I can “just fix it,” but I’d honestly rather be part of a team–but either way, both the editor and the author need to understand each other’s expectations.

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