Written by Katherine Hutchinson-Hayes

Seven Things Editors Want Writers to Know

Throughout my editing journey, I’ve encountered situations that can cause misunderstandings between editors and writers. It’s unfortunate because we often have the same goals—a well-written project, publication, and awards.

Here are seven things editors wish writers knew and understood.

  1. All editors are created differently.

Just as individuals vary in their personalities, editors also have distinct styles that set them apart. These differences manifest in various ways, including their communication methods, the range of services they offer, and their preferred approaches to working.

  1. This will probably take longer than anticipated.

When creating their publishing schedule, writers should double the time they anticipate needing for revisions. Editing often involves more than fixing a few grammatical errors. When done properly, the editing process is lengthy and tedious.

  1. Agents and publishers want near-perfection.

The term “downsizing” is commonly used in the publishing industry, especially in publishing houses where many are reducing staff and hiring freelancers. Publishers are businesses that look for the most efficient way to make a profit. These days, authors are expected to hire an outside editor to ensure their manuscript is close to perfection before submission. This also applies to agents who receive numerous inquiries, proposals, and manuscripts. If an author’s work still needs professional editing, a literary agent will likely reject it.

  1. Editors are worth it.

A thorough edit can often be costly, ranging from hundreds to thousands of dollars, depending on the length of the piece. However, editors dedicate countless hours to reading manuscripts, making suggestions, corrections, and comments. They work tirelessly to ensure that a book is at its best. Editors significantly increase the chances of being represented by an agent, getting published, and overall literary success.

  1. There are various types of editing.

When engaging an editor, various editing services are available for selection. Typically, these include developmental editing, copyediting, and proofreading. Developmental editing addresses plot holes and character development while copyediting concentrates on sentence structure and diction. Proofreading, on the other hand, involves solely checking for typos and basic grammatical errors. Being specific about the manuscript’s needs helps an editor know what direction to take and if the project is right for them. Most editors don’t do it all.

  1. Editors don’t hate you.

Editors aren’t grudgeful gatekeepers. They want to help authors through the gate to publication. Therefore, when they write comments, corrections, and suggestions, they want what’s best for the author. Indicating that a manuscript needs to be reworked and improved doesn’t mean the editor hates the writer and their work. Much of the time, editors get a great deal of satisfaction when their clients get literary representation, are published, and win awards. 

  1. Ethics must be considered.

If an editor believes a project isn’t ready to be proofread or copy edited, they have an ethical responsibility to inform the author and suggest either development editing or learning more about the craft. Other ethical issues may arise, especially when working with self-published work. Editors aren’t obligated to edit work that contradicts their moral compass and godly beliefs. Sometimes, editors must redirect an author who hasn’t done a proficient job of fact-checking and doing the proper research pertinent to certain types of literature.

Editors are the cheer leading partners writers need in the competitive publishing industry. They’re crucial in refining and enhancing an author’s work. Their expertise lies in providing valuable feedback, correcting grammar and punctuation, suggesting structural changes, and ensuring that the overall message is effectively communicated. Ultimately, their feedback assists writers in developing and enhancing their skills, resulting in higher-quality content and literary success.

Katherine Hutchinson-Hayes, EdD, is a writer/content editor. She works for Iron Stream Media as a book coach/editor. She’s a sensitivity reader for Sensitivity Between the Lines and an editor/contributor for Inkspirations. She is the board’s vice chair for the 540 Writers community. Her writing has been published in Guideposts.