Last night, I participated in a thread in another group where the subject basically concerned what was a reasonable time for an edit. There were some other issues, so this morning, I posted the following in that group. I wrote this on the fly, so if you have any other suggestions, please share them.
If you are an author who has never engaged a professional editor, please read this. It could save you a lot of headaches in your journey.
1. Set up a phone conference BEFORE you hire the editor. And I mean a telephone call, and plan for that call to take at least an hour possibly longer. This is so you can get a feel for each other.
2. Ask questions and don’t be shy about the subject matter of those questions. That editor is going to be assessing and fixing YOUR hard work.
3. Get into each other’s heads. You’ll be glad you did.
4. ASK FOR REFERENCES. Now, if you’ve read books that this editor has worked on, great. You’ve seen the quality of their work. If you have any niggling thoughts in the back of your mind, contact the author(s) and ask what it was like to work with that editor.
5. Understand that good editing takes time. We have to read every single word, take copious notes, get into the characters’ heads AND yours. Bottom line: It ain’t just about the grammar and punctuation.
6. A word about CONTRACTS. A ‘formal’ contract isn’t always necessary. Every email and text can serve as a contract. Electronic communications are now accepted in court as legal documents when it concerns what the law views as a contractual relationship. Nevertheless, a detailed, emailed agreement offers protection for both parties. Subsequent communications can serve as amendments. Ask any lawyer, and they’ll tell you essentially the same thing. Keep in mind, though, that you do want to check with your particular state. And remember: Unless stated differently IN WRITING, the state in which the work was done has jurisdiction.
7. A WORD ABOUT MONEY – and this is crucial. NEVER, EVER, EVER, EVER pay full price up front. I want to say that again: NEVER, NEVER, NEVER, EVER, EVER, EVER PAY FULL PRICE UP FRONT. The thing is, a contract does not exist, regardless of what documents were exchanged, until money changes hands, and it has to be more than just a dollar. The smart move is to pay 1/3 to 1/2 up front, but understand that once the work starts, the editor is not obligated to refund you ALL of your downpayment UNLESS (as in the case above) the editor cannot PROVE work was done on the project. Track changes and file properties are excellent proof that cannot be modified.
7a. Once trust is established between an editor and author, the ‘rules’ become a little looser – and this is fine. Even so, COMMUNICATION is imperative. Life gets in the way for all of us. Authors are late with submissions and editors are late in returning edits. This is a fact of life. The same is true about money. Editors, talk to your authors. Authors, talk to your editors. COMMUNICATION WILL SOLVE 99% OF YOUR IMMEDIATE PROBLEMS AND AVOID 100% OF FUTURE PROBLEMS.
8. If everything goes to shit – and you can take this to the bank (see what I did there) – if you’ve been doing this long enough, it will go to shit at least once (editors not doing edits, authors not paying editors). In the unlikely event that it does (and COMMUNICATION will be your insurance that it probably won’t) small claims court is your venue if you have to pursue legal solutions. SCC does not require attorneys, but there are filing fees, and the paperwork is a nuisance. If you are able to produce your communications and files, you stand an excellent chance of obtaining a judgment in your favor. That judgment is a powerful piece of paper. It becomes public record and can ruin a defendant’s credit rating. Prior to SCC, you will want to explore options with your credit card company, bank, or PayPal. These avenues are simpler and require less paperwork. But if these are not an option, SCC is your best bet for redress.
BOTTOM LINE: Writing is a business NOT a hobby. Editing is a business and NOT a hobby. Treat both as such. It will save you both a lot of grief in the end if you do so.
If you take nothing else away from this little essay, remember this: Email and texts are great TOOLS, but that is all they are – TOOLS. Voice communication is imperative in the author-editor relationship. You may not want to talk to your MIL, DH, NDN, or your dog or cat, but ALWAYS take your editor’s phone calls. I’ll send my husband to voicemail before I will EVER send a client to VM.
I hope this information helps you in your writing journey. You do what you do for the love of the written word. Your editor does what she/he does for EXACTLY the same reason.
[Caveat: While I proofed this, it is never a good idea to proof one’s own work, so please forgive any errors. And yes, if you’re so inclined, feel free to share.]
Happy writing! And to my colleagues – happy editing!