Category Archives: working with editors

How NOT to Dread Deadlines


Why are deadlines important? Because publishing is a schedule based business. When a book receives a publication date, everything moves toward the date when that book goes to the printer. If the book isn’t ready, printing presses stand idle, and time is money.

Many authors feel enslaved by deadlines. But what if how they think about them could change that? On his leadership web page, author and motivational speaker, Stan Toler, offers five positive ways to perceive deadlines. He says:

Deadlines are friends. You created them to assist you. Treat them with respect and they will be loyal to you. Ignore them and they may haunt you. They are not there to harass you; they are there to help you. Like a friend, you check on them, give them space, and remember their birthdates and anniversaries.

Deadlines are property lines. They are the imaginary spaces where your ideas and ideals live. As property lines, they need to be detailed, recorded, and guarded from intruders—such as time-wasters or attention-grabbers.

Deadlines are destination points. Like entering a travel location on your GPS, you create a deadline so you can journey toward it. There may be “points of interest” along the way, but their destination is your end goal.

Deadlines are managers. You gave them permission to keep you on the straight and narrow. In return, they give you friendly reminders of neglect, lack of focus, or impulsive behavior. You don’t need to fear them. They are not immovable. And if they are not flexible, they may need to be replaced.

Deadlines are volunteer staff. You appointed them, not vice versa. They are the stagehands, but you run the show. They embody your vision. You are only bound to them by loyalty. They have no overruling authority.”

Incorporate Toler’s suggestions when you write and revise. Remember–you control deadlines; they don’t control you. Meeting, even exceeding, them is a sure way to forge a great relationship with your publisher.


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5 Ways to Keep Your Editor Happy—Advice for First-Time Authors

[Friends: I’m taking a short break from the blog to work on a writing project. In the meantime, I hope you’ll enjoy this repost from 2014.] 


Your manuscript has been accepted for publication.
Yay! You’ve been assigned an editor.
But, now what?

I’ve worked both as an editor at a publishing house and as a freelance writer, so I understand how the author/editor relationship works. Here are five great tips for forming a productive partnership with your editor.

1. Accept Constructive Criticisms. An editor’s job is to edit. You might think that your manuscript is perfect exactly as you wrote it. But your editor views it from a different perspective. Her aim is to make your book as marketable as possible, and she knows the market better than you do. She has edited perhaps hundreds of books and has a keen sense of how changes will make your writing even better. When you receive a marked-up manuscript, don’t panic. It doesn’t mean that you are a bad writer, it means that your editor is doing her job. You aren’t in this alone anymore. Now, you are part of a team.

2. Ask Questions. If there is something you don’t understand, ask. Publishing for first-time authors is a learning experience with unfamiliar language and procedures. Editors are expert multi-taskers, and yours is probably juggling many manuscripts in various stages. He can forget that you are new to the publishing world and that you might need guidance. So, don’t be shy about asking.



3. Respect Deadlines. The publishing industry is deadline driven. Everything works toward getting your book to the printer on time. Printing is scheduled months in advance. If a print date is missed and presses stand idle, it costs the printer and the publisher and also plays with other print deadlines. One of your jobs is to help your editor stay on schedule. When she gives you a due date, you need to respect it.



4. Be Professional. As soon as you sell your manuscript, you are not only an author but also a businessperson. As part of the editorial team you should keep good records. Save all communications (emails, texts, and notes from telephone conversations with your editor). Before making the editorial changes he suggests, refer again to those communications to refresh your memory. In my work with editors, I have found that sometimes we both forget a small, random detail that we discussed. Catching those items early can avoid another deadline-crunching edit.

5. Go The Extra Mile. I understand how busy editors are, so I try to help by doing a few extras like beating my deadlines by a week, or so, and giving my manuscript an extra read for mistakes in spelling, punctuation, and grammar. When I write nonfiction, I use a spreadsheet to keep track of references, important information, and questions. I give the spreadsheet to my editor with my completed manuscript. It can be as simples as this:


Going that extra mile helps keep things running smoothly, and that makes my editor, and me, happy.

A good author/editor relationship is key to a successful book. Be sure to let your editors know how much you appreciate them. Thank them for their efforts.

[Cartoon credit: Richard Taylor, “The New Yorker”]



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Filed under Editing and proofreading, The Business of Writing, Uncategorized, working with editors, Writer's responsibility, Writing Tips

Four Rules of Conduct for Professional Writers

When you sold your first book, you became a professional writer, a participant in the business of publishing. That means you are not in this alone anymore.

You’ve become one of a team that includes you, your editor(s), and your publisher. Critique partners, all the information you got from writers’ conferences, books about writing—none of it matters as much as the people on your team. You’ve signed a contract. They own part of your work and have a vested interest in making it the best that it can be.

Imagine yourself sitting with your team around a conference table. Here are four rules of conduct for a professional writer:

1. Be confident, but not overconfident. Hold onto confidence in your writing ability, but don’t be so overconfident that you bristle and balk at constructive criticism. More than a few authors have been tagged by editors as “difficult to work with” because of how they react to criticism.

2. Limit how much you rely on critique partners. When you sold your first book it was like getting a pilot’s license. You no longer need someone in the co-pilot’s seat boosting your confidence. You build confidence by having confidence in your own ability.

Imagine Stephen King sitting at the conference table with his editor and publisher. The editor offers suggestions to improve a chapter, and King says,” But, when I shared that chapter with my critique group, they really liked it!”

If you run into a big roadblock with a WIP, then consult a trusted partner for advice, but if you share just to boost your confidence, think before you act.

Now that you are published, there is another good reason to limit sharing your WIP with others: Every other author is your competitor in the business of publishing. Guard your ideas. This is especially important if you do work-for-hire writing and have confidentiality agreements with your publisher.

3. Trust your team. You have confidence in your writing, and now you should have confidence in the abilities of your editor and publisher. They are experienced professionals. Your publisher knows how to market your book and your editor understands the publisher’s vision. Trust an editor’s changes unless you strongly disagree. A good editor sees things in your writing that you don’t. He/she knows how to tweak your writing to make it even better. Trust your team. Learn from them not only how to become a better writer, but also about the business of publishing.

mqdefault4. Stop Whining, Complaining, and Over-Reacting! That sounds harsh, doesn’t it? But it is so important that it requires a strong statement and an exclamation point. What sort of reputation do you want as a professional? It matters how you react to criticism, frustration, tight deadlines, and other roadblocks in the process of getting your book into print. No one enjoys listening to someone whine and complain. Whether it’s with your team or elsewhere, think before you act, take a deep breath, calm down, and have confidence that “this too shall pass.”

Imagine again. Stephen King is mentoring a student, and he’s brought the student with him to a meeting with his editor and publisher. At the meeting, the editor asks King to do some extensive rewriting on a very tight deadline. After the meeting, King unloads all his frustration on his student: “I’m so upset that I feel sick. I don’t know how I’m going to get this all done on time. The editor called me yesterday, and she said, . . . .”

Remember: others are watching you, learning from you, and, yes, judging how you react as a professional author. 

You will continue learning for as long as you write,
but you aren’t an amateur anymore.
You’ve sold your first book.
It’s time now to think before you react,
and then act like a professional.


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