Time For an Editor: 11: If You are Unhappy With Your Editor’s Work

Time for an Editor: 11: If You Are Unhappy With Your Editor’s Work
By Norma J Hill (aka Pen and Paper Mama) © 2021

In our previous series for writers, we discussed and provided worksheets for “Self Exploration For Writers,” “Your Writing Life,” “Author Considerations Beyond Just Writing,”  “Planning Your Writing,” “Editing Levels” and “Self-Editing.”  In this new series, “Time for an Editor,” we will explore:

  1. Do I Really Need an Editor?
  2. What Editor Should I Hire?
  3. Specialized Help Some Editors May Offer
  4. What Does Professional Editing Cost?
  5. The Author-Editor Relationship
  6. Important Notes to Editors (and Writers, too)
  7. Some Editing Reminders for Writers: So You Aren’t Surprised
  8. Specialty Editors and Other Publishing Professionals
  9. Writing Coaches, Ghost Writers, and Co-Authors
  10. Some Editing and Publishing Red-Flag Issues
  11. If You’re Unhappy With Your Editor’s Work

At the end of each post in the series, there is a link to a downloadable and printable PDF copy on which you can write your responses. Put them in a binder or Duotang-type report folder (you can continue to add to your binder from the previous series). Then, periodically along your writing journey, return to your answers, read what you noted previously, and add new thoughts and experiences. Through this process, you’ll end up with a wonderful record of your writer’s journey.

11. If You’re Unhappy With Your Editor’s Work

As a writer, your editor is, to some degree, your employee. So, as an employer, it is your responsibility to keep a close eye on the process and build and maintain a strong relationship throughout. If at some point you have concerns about the progress of the editing job, you need to address that quickly—in a professional manner. Of course, the same goes for the editor. He or she (who, remember, is not only your employee but also an experienced guide and mentor) may also come to you, professionally, with concerns about what is happening in the editing process.

Don’t, repeat, don’t wait until things are in dire straits. If you both deal with developing issues immediately, it is likely you can work things out. You may need to find someone you both respect to help the two of you sort things out. But if the problem seems to be insurmountable, check out the contract terms and be prepared, if necessary, to end the contract early, according to the agreement initially made.

Some points to consider if issues with the editing come up:  

When you get one or two terrible reviews: If you’ve already had the book published, and you get a terrible review (or if a final beta reader hates the book), don’t immediately blame the editor—or yourself—or even believe the review. Look at several reviews. What is the general response to your writing? If most reviews are positive but one or two are blistering, remember that no writer can please every reader.

Dealing with negative reviews or comments: Yes, take into consideration negative reviews or comments about your writing and/or the editing quality, but consider whether they have real merit. If they do, start thinking about how you can prevent that problem in future writing. If you have self-published the book as an e-book, you can easily withdraw it from the internet bookshelves, rework what is of concern, and then return it. You should probably add some indication such as “Second Edition” or “Revised.” Just remember, if there were major issues with the first published edition, readers may be leery about giving you a second chance, which is why it is so important to get your manuscript as perfect as possible before publishing.

When you get many negative reviews: If you receive a lot of critical reviews, if possible, sit down with your editor and try to sort out and list the major problems. Remember: an edit is never a guarantee of perfection, but many editors may discuss these problems with you if you approach them in a reasonable, professional manner. Look back at the editing process together, if you can. But if you can’t, you can still ask yourself questions like the following (and keep them in mind when you’re planning your next projects).  

– Did the editor miss something important?
– Was the editor not qualified to do that editing level or genre? If so, did the editor misrepresent his or her qualifications, and/or did you, the writer, not do lots of research to find the best editor for your needs?
– Did you take or ignore the editor’s advice?
– Did you try to save costs or time by going with just a copyedit or proofread, and refuse a higher-level edit?
– Did you go through as many drafts as the editor advised, and/or get extra help from your self-editing team? Did you do lots of self-editing during the editing process, or did you just expect the editor to “fix it”?
– Did you make last-minute changes in the manuscript but not check them out with the editor, and if so, has it turned out that those changes have introduced new problems with the story, or ended up with some well-polished sections and some new sections that still need a lot of editing?
– Did you rush the job? Even a quality editor cannot do a good job if the writer insists on having it done “right now” and the editor has to squeeze it in, rush through it, and cannot take the time to do high-quality work. Did this happen?
– Is it actually an editing issue or is it a proofreading or design issue which developed after the editing?
– Were you ready, in terms of writing skills, to produce a truly publishable book? If not, did you go ahead even if your editor and/or others warned you it wasn’t ready?
– Did you write on a controversial topic, or present opinions which are bound to offend or annoy some readers—and thus result in negative reviews?  

What should you do next? Rewrite the manuscript, taking into account the writing problems? Ask the editor to help you with it (and pay him or her for the extra help), or take more courses, or get more help from your critique team? Find a new editor? Shelve this manuscript, and write a new book, learning from your problems with this one? Many famous writers have written several manuscripts before ever getting one published—and even after being successfully published, may have projects that don’t get accepted for publishing, or don’t sell well.  
Did you do everything you could to make the book the best it could be?  

Writers sometimes decide to self-publish a book when they get just a few rejections from agents and/or traditional publishers, or after they’ve only had volunteers check their work over, or when they’ve hired an editor who really wasn’t the right one, or when they haven’t bothered to get quality help at all. If you are taking the time and energy to write a book-length manuscript, shouldn’t you also make sure you take some extra time, energy—and financial investment, as needed—to make it the best it can be?
Were there factors that neither you nor the editor could control?  

For example, perhaps you were writing in a genre which has been extremely popular, but suddenly publishers and/or readers have lost interest and/or moved to a new interest. Maybe the economy has tanked, and your dream publisher has had to cut back on accepting new material, or you have lost your regular income and can’t afford to continue with the costs of editing and/or self-publishing. Or maybe a publisher really liked your manuscript but had recently signed a publishing agreement with another writer whose work is very similar to your project. Maybe your editor (or agent) got sick or passed away suddenly, in the midst of the project. These kinds of things happen. Now you have to decide what to do. Find another editor (or agent or publisher)? Set the story aside for possible future publishing? Or apply what you’ve learned from this project to a new one? These events can frustrate you, but don’t give up on your writing. Find a way to move ahead!  
If you really feel it is the editor’s fault and/or you just can’t work with this editor anymore,

… you can seek editing from a different editor, carefully chosen—you’ll have a better idea at this point about what kind of editor you need. This time, make sure you know what level(s) of editing you need. Be sure to do plenty of self-editing before you look for an editor and work well with your self-editing critique team. When looking for a new editor, seek quality reviews and referrals, and then ask lots of questions of the editor. Together, define the edit you require and decide if this new editor can meet all your needs or whether you need a different editor or a combination of specialist editors. And, of course, be prepared to continue self-editing throughout the process.



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