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So you want/need to work with an editor?

Here’s how to find one and what to expect from the process.

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Knowing your responsibilities within the author/editor relationship

You’ve done your research and chosen your editor. Time for the collaboration to begin! Unless otherwise stipulated, you and your editor will both be using the same single document in whatever format you’ve jointly agreed upon. Having one document – or a “single source of truth,” as the corporate world calls it – means less confusion and hassle for everyone involved with the project. You may be simultaneously working with graphic designers and marketers on other aspects of the overall book project, but the manuscript that’s being edited should be one central document. 

If you have a style guide, be sure to give this to your editor at the very beginning of the collaboration. You should also know how you’re expected to hand your manuscript over to the editor. Does it need to be a Microsoft Word document? (Probably.) Or will the editor work with a Google Doc or another format? Most editors stipulate certain formats, in large part because some programs are inherently better suited to collaborative editing. 

Speaking of those advantages, will you need to be somewhat conversant with the Track Changes feature within Microsoft Word in order to maximize your editorial experience? (Probably.) After you’ve gotten your edited text back, if you do wind up altering it, your editor will likely ask that you highlight or underline or somehow indicate the sections you’ve changed so that it’s easy to review the new/altered text. The Track Changes function in Microsoft Word massively simplifies this process. Being able to see each change also allows you to approve or dismiss every change an editor makes, plus you can use the tracked edits to learn from your mistakes and become a better writer.

Knowing what to expect makes the editorial experience much more comfortable.


When the glorious deadline arrives, and your editor sends you your edited masterpiece, don’t hesitate to jump into those edits! If you do have questions for your editor, asking them in a reasonably prompt amount of time – within a few weeks rather than months later – will result in a more informed response. Good editors are in demand, and odds are they have more projects lined up on their calendars. Even though editors by nature are lovers of details, it can be hard to remember subtle plot points and the exact tone an author was striving to convey months later, when the editor is eyeball-deep in another complex manuscript.

Knowing what to expect makes the editorial experience much more comfortable. Along with being wordsmiths, editors are also the first point of contact with the professional writing world for many authors. Becoming familiar with how to handle edits and feedback is invaluable no matter what writing path you pursue, and being professional and concise with your communications will help your editor innately understand your work. That puts the editor in a better position to be able to toss out beyond-the-text ideas that might come in handy, like marketing thoughts or suggestions regarding possible visual elements for your book. Having a good rapport with your editor will boost your confidence and your writing skills. 



Tips for maximizing your wait time during the edit

  • Find other professionals you may need to collaborate with, such as marketers, graphic designers, cover artists, indexers, etc.
  • Create your marketing plans
  • Create the front and back cover art/graphics
  • Create your interior graphics
  • Research agents/publishers if you’re pursuing traditional publishing or author platforms/services if you’re self-publishing
  • Learn how to use the Track Changes feature if your manuscript is being edited in Microsoft Word
  • Be ready to have any additional work done as soon as you’ve received and finalized the edits, such as adding interior artwork, formatting the interior layouts, and indexing
  • Set up potential reviews/interviews for your book once you have a firm idea of your pub date



—Lisa Howard is a freelance writer and editor who works with authors, publishers, and magazine staff. In her guise as a public speaker, she presents health programs in libraries and other community and corporate settings.