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What Not To Do When Looking To Work with an Editor

After months of blood, sweat, and tears, you’ve finished writing your novel—awesome! Now, don’t let all that hard work go to waste, it’s time to get your masterpiece polished so that it reads smoothly. This is where the editor comes into play. He or she will go through your work line-by-line, making notes, suggestions, correcting grammar nuances, and ensuring the timeline and plot all work together.

Here are four things you should NOT do when looking for an editor:

1) Let’s say your novel is twenty chapters. Don’t send chapter one to one editor asking for a sample edit, and send chapter two to a different editor requesting a sample edit, and send chapter three to yet another editor. . . well, you get the point. This is wrong on so many levels.

a. Editors edit using various citation styles. Some go by the Chicago Manual of Style (CMS), while others use a combination of Modern Language Association (MLA), Associated Press (AP – mainly used in journalism), or the American Psychological Association (APA – generally used in school papers and for citations). It’s not a matter of which one is right, as it’s a stylistic choice. But using various citation styles throughout your book will be noticeable to most readers.

b. Your book will lack consistency. Depending on which citation styles the editors follow, some will use the oxford comma while others will not. (Red, white, and blue vs. Red, white and blue). Let’s say your main character drives a 1990 Porsche, but you accidentally say it’s a 1991 Porsche in chapter three, the editor won’t know this is an error because they only had chapter three.

c. An editor can’t edit the end of the story without knowing the beginning. How else will they know if you tied up all the loose ends? The editor needs to know the motive of the main character which led them to commit a murder, or get married, or travel to a tropical island to live out the rest of their years.

2) Don’t send twenty individual files when submitting to an editor. Your entire manuscript should consist of one Word (.docx) file. There is no reason to have each chapter in a separate file. Doing this can turn out to be a can of worms. If your editor notices something incorrect in chapter thirteen which referenced something earlier in the story, how are they going to find it? Open all twelve previous chapters and do a search? Also, what if you accidentally misnumbered the files? Now your story will be out of order.

3) An editor edits, they are not booksellers. So don’t expect them to construct a marketing plan for you. It’s not the editor’s job to sell your novel, only polish it up so it reads smoothly and follows the timeline and plot for the story. The editor may have some connections to literary agents and publishers, but they’re not required to make an introduction for you. You need to build your own following and have your own marketing plan and platform; all of which needs to be done before your book comes off the press.

4) Editors should be paid for their services. Most will not accept a portion of future royalties in lieu of payment unless you’re famous. An editor has no clue what your book sales will be. Yes, you may have a great story idea or have written a fantastic novel, but there are no such thing as guaranteed sales. The same way you don’t tell your auto mechanic that you will pay him for fixing your car once you start working for Uber or tell your house painter you’ll pay for the work done once you sell your home, don’t try to sell your editor on sharing royalties. Please value the work you editor does and pay them for editing.

Following this advice in your search of an editor will help make your connection with a potential editor that much better.

Thanks for reading our blog! If you have any questions about writing, editing, or getting published, make a comment below or send us an email at If you enjoyed this blog post, please share it—it’s the best way to thank us! You can also “Like” us on Facebook.

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