This post is the first in a 3-part series, “Do’s and Don’ts for Rookie Editors Working with Respected Writers,” based on MAI’s recent webinar, “Who? You edit me?!” How can a neophyte editor work effectively with a prominent church leader?
By Beng Alba-Jones
Imagine it’s your first year on the job, learning the ropes of editing at a publishing house. One morning you are summoned to the editorial manager’s office. Your more senior colleagues are already burdened with heavy workloads, so your boss has no choice but to take a chance on you. Your baptism of fire: editing the work of a respected church leader who has been in ministry since you were learning your ABC’s.
Who, me? What does a young neophyte editor do? Do you leaf through the pages of The Chicago Manual of Style to see if there’s a chapter for you?
While circumstances differ, the feelings of new editors around the world are similar, whether one is editing in English, Chinese or Swahili. There is no need to deny your fear. Confront your feelings. Say to yourself: “Okay, I am afraid I am not going to be taken seriously. I feel incompetent. I lack experience BUT I am going to use this fear to my advantage. I just have to work harder and think smarter to make sure that I can deliver.”
But don’t send a Facebook friend request just yet. You’re an editor, not a stalker!
What kind of book is the writer interested in doing? Arm yourself with knowledge. Research if similar books already exist.
Meeting the writer
If meeting the writer for the first time makes you nervous, like going on a first date, don’t worry: that’s normal. To calm your nerves, prepare for your meeting. Look presentable. Show up on time. Fight the urge to bow at his or her feet, and offer a firm handshake instead. Be confident but not presumptuous. Ask the writer how he wants to be addressed. Whatever the writer decides, always talk to him with respect.
After introducing yourself, talk about your publishing house. How long you’ve been in business. What kinds of books you publish. Ask if he or she has read any books with your logo. Talk about the mission and vision of your company. Make the writer feel excited about being published by you.
Then ask about his goals and expectations. What is compelling the writer to write this book?
Give an overview of the editing process. Define expectations and schedules. Briefly summarize the topics you have covered to ensure the writer doesn’t forget what you have agreed on. Tell him that the publisher is behind him. After the writer has agreed to tackling the project, the ball is now in his court.
Beng Alba-Jones is a freelance editor and former assistant editorial manager for OMF Literature, Inc.
Do you have any tips to share about overcoming first impression fears in the publishing world? Tell us.
<<Get a free ebook of Veiled Freedom when you register for our free upcoming webinar on April 15- “The Power of the Story: Getting started in writing fiction” with Jeanette Windle, US. 8 AM Central Time. Check out our complete webinar line-up for topics that interest you.