Smooth Sailing With Ground Rules

Editorial Etiquette by JB


“Getting on the same page with your editor”


Just like the characters in a romance novel, the way a relationship begins will often determine how it ends. If the couple starts off on the wrong foot, chances are they will end up teetering on the edge of making it work for the long term. The same is true of the editor/writer relationship. It’s important to find out as much as possible in the beginning about the new “significant other” in your writing life, because the path to a fond and lasting relationship can easily go sour fast when one partner or other discovers some distasteful habits that threaten the enduring nature of the agreement. And it is an agreement. The editor/writer relationship is based not only on the official written contract involved in most published writing, but it depends a great deal on the expectations of each party. And not having a clear understanding of the expectations at the get-go can sometimes mean rocky times down the road.


One of the best ways to understand something or someone better is to ask questions. Granted, not all editors want to be barraged with a slew questions from a new writer they’ve been assigned to and here’s the reason. Nothing in the writing business is absolute. The letters may be black and white, but that’s the only guarantee any of us get for something to meet our expectations. The copy will turn out in black and white. Beyond that, circumstances may color everything else involved. That’s why an editor can’t actually pin themselves down on everything. Things change for editors, writers, and publishers and a certain amount of flexibility has to be part of the relationship. But there are some ground rules that most editors and writers will agree are part of the deal. But try to ask questions at the beginning of an editorial relationship to help matters go smoothly.


1.Regardless of how many editors a writer has worked with in the past, a new editor is a new beginning. Regardless of how many writers an editor has worked with, there is always something new to learn from a first-time assignment.

2.Editors do not have to work seven days a week. Editors may work seven days a week if they wish but they are not required to do so. Writers are free to work seven days a week but don’t expect an editor to answer emails or calls on Saturdays and Sundays.

3.Editing is more than “Comma clean-up in line 47.” Just like the writing, editing is time consuming because it takes thought. Give an editor sufficient time to think before chewing on their email accounts every couple of hours day after day. Let writers have enough time to make revisions.

4.Editors have more than a single manuscript in play. Yes, they are seeing someone on the side besides you, but it comes with the territory. Give an editor the freedom to “work around.” Writers are therefore free to “write around” too.

5.Writers are tender souls who need TLC at certain times. This applies to editors as well.



JB George





About Joy Held's Writer Wellness Blog

Writer, yogini, mom, wife, and teacher. I teach English composition and hatha yoga in a small private college in Ohio. I'm also working on my MFA in Writing Popular Fiction at Seton Hill University in Greensburg, PA.

Posted on November 3, 2011, in Editorial Etiquette and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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