How to get what you want, what you really, really want.

* from your editor

You’ve written your book, your article, your business brochure or your website. If you are lucky you have a publisher who can arrange an editor for you, if not you have to go out into the big wide world and find one for yourself.

That’s daunting.

However, there are many great editors out there. After a trawl of the internet and finding a website such as mine (I don’t just write, I work too… yes, you can hire me), a look through a few directories of editors, such as on the CIEP or the EFA websites, or through word of mouth, you will hopefully have found an editor who ticks all your boxes. What next?

When you contact an editor, the way to get the best from the business relationship is to tell them everything. The more an editor knows, the easier their work will be, and in turn it will be easier for you both.

First of all, when you approach an editor, let them know what you need. The more detailed your brief, the easier it will be for the editor to translate that into what you really need.

The easiest way to do this is to get together a briefing document. Think hard about what you want the end result to be at the start of the process and it will save time later.

I’ve put together a list for you, it’s not a be-all and end-all, tailor it to meet your needs but it will make you think and will ease the pain of giving over your project to the professional with the Big Red Pen.

red pen

What is your document, how long is it (how many words / pages) and what is it about. Heavily academic, or for general readership?

Is it a 1,500 word article on the use of radio frequency monitoring for a paranormal research journal, or a 35,000 word romance novella for the teenage market? It’s important for your editor to know the intended audience and level of readership.

How it will be published?

Is it an e-book, traditional printed book, brochure, flyer, menu, website?

Are there language issues?

British English or American English, are you a non-native speaker, has the document been translated?

What’s the timescale and delivery date?

How long do you have? Is there a publishing schedule, and is there a non-negotiable date that the document needs to be in by? What is the date you would like to take delivery from your editor? Are you leaving plenty of time for the editor to do their job properly?

Do you want a proofread, a light edit or a heavy substantial edit?

Do you want a light proofread, minimal intervention editing, restructuring if necessary or a bit of re-writing? Are you using electronic tags, codes or styles in your work that the editor needs to be aware of?

Often people think they need a document proofread when they really need an edit. Make sure you know what you need. Pop over to the CIEP page to see a quick FAQ on the differences if you are unsure

How will you supply the material to be edited?

Is it on paper, on a disc or memory-stick, via email or downloadable from a remote website such as MailBigFile. Is it all ready now or will some of it come along later, and when can it be expected?

What exactly is to be included?

Do you want a text only edit, or are there illustrations/photos/diagrams/tables etc. Do you expect the editor to work on cover copy, running heads, references, footnotes, endnotes etc.? Do you already have copyright permissions arranged or do you want your editor to do this for you? Do illustrations need to be scaled or worked on and are captions to be written by the editor?

Do you have a house style?

Many publishing houses have their own house style – a document giving information on spelling, layout, preferred terms etc. Do you have your own, one you are required to work to, or are you content to let the editor use his or her professional judgement?

Have any agreements been arranged that the editor needs to know about?

Has anything been promised that the editor needs to know about? Such as acknowledgements or items to be used in certain ways.

Contact details

Who will the editor liaise with when queries arise? Give all relevant contact details both of yourself and anyone else involved in the publication of the document that the editor will need to be in contact with. Be sure to give your editor not only your email address, but telephone number and physical address – they’ll need that for their records and invoices.

Document example pages

Give your editor some representative samples of your work. It could be a sample chapter, a few pages or the whole document if it is small enough. This will allow your editor to make a reasoned estimate of the time it will take to work on your document, and also what level of edit it may need.


Once all the relevant details are noted you will need to be upfront with the editor about your budget. A quick proofread will cost less that a substantial edit. While budget is important, you must remember that you will get what you pay for… it’s much easier to know ahead of time what your budget will allow for. Before accepting work, both you and your editor must be clear about what work is to be done. Ask what expenses are included in the price and what will be charged separately for.

Nearly there…

finish line

When you have agreed everything with your editor there are a few final things to tick off. Make sure…

  • You both know what has been agreed (level of edit, timescale and fee).
  • You have given all contact details and if there is a preferred way to contact you, and also that the editor can get hold of you quickly if there are unforeseen problems e.g. with scale of work or budget.
  • You know what expenses are included in the fee, and what are not.
  • If the project is confidential make sure that the editor is aware of this.
  • You have backup copies of everything you send to your editor. Insure against loss or damage in transit, and never send original artwork unless it is absolutely necessary and agree beforehand.
  • If you would like the editor to keep copies of correspondence/work done, have you agreed this and specified a time-scale?
  • That if the editor needs to hand over notes or a style sheet to a designer or typesetter, they know this in advance of the project starting.

Sounds complicated?

It isn’t really, but it will be worth the effort, and makes for a good editor/client relationship.

2 Comments on “How to get what you want, what you really, really want.

  1. Pingback: One Size Does Not Fit All | Northern Editorial

  2. Pingback: Do You Really Know What You Want? | Northern Editorial

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