So You Want to Hire an Editor: A Guide to Pleasant Relations

So you want to hire an editor?  Great!  Give us all your money!

But before you do, make it a rewarding experience on both ends by carefully considering, and communicating, what you want him or her to do.  From traumas and pratfalls of various sorts, I’ve gleaned some wisdom about the process.  In early e-mails, I suggest you do the following:

1. Carefully describe what you (or your advisor, or your publisher) want done.  I can’t emphasize this enough.  The range of what clients want—from virtual ghostwriting to shallow grammar checks—would amaze you.  Delineating your expectations will save you much potential conflict and/or disappointment.

2. Explain the scope of the project.  Don’t engage an editor for a single chapter, then keep sending him surprise additions.  This will not go well for you, and it will be even worse on the editor’s end.  This includes things that might happen (as in, “I’m not sure I can finish the introduction in time, but I might send it along just before the deadline”).

3. Explain the project’s audience.  Writing for your dissertation committee differs substantially from writing for a journal (despite rumors to the contrary, judging by the number of unedited chapters sent to academic journals).  And both differ drastically from undergraduate textbooks, scholarly books, works for the general public, and so on.  The nationality of your expected audience, if you already know your venue, can also make a big difference.

4. Point out your weaknesses.  This can be hard to admit at times, but better to ‘fess up from the beginning than to surprise your editor.  She will respect you more.  And be nicer about correcting consistent problems if she knows you’re nervous.

5. Set explicit deadlines.  If you just airily say, “Whenever!”, you will be taken advantage of.  We editors are busy people, and we receive enough urgent projects that you will be put on the back burner.  Also, a clear deadline makes it far easier for the editor to plan (her work, her life, her whatever).

There’s enough confusion in the world.  We editors don’t like confusion.  That’s why we edit it away.  Help us help you!


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