Ask the Editor: How Do I Prepare for My First Meeting with An Editor?

by Lesley-Anne Longo

Published at 2015-06-10

In the last “Ask the Editor” blog, I talked about bringing an editor on board before you’ve even started writing the book, and I pointed out how using your editor in this way can help make your book better from the first word you write. If that struck a chord with you, read on! 
This week, I’ll be talking about how you, as an author, can prepare for your first meeting with an editor.

Meet Your Editor

If you’ve decided that you want to work with an editor while writing your book, you’ll probably want to meet with one or two (or more) editors before deciding. It is important that you find an editor you feel comfortable with and who will mesh with your writing/working style. However, you might find yourself wondering how to prepare for that meeting—if you only have an idea for a book, what other information will your editor need to know?
Chances are, if you’re seeking an editor, you’ve already put a lot of thought into writing this book. If that’s true, you may be more prepared for this meeting than you realize. 

Create Your Book Outline

If you can, try to create a map or outline of how you want your book to progress.
Think chapters, sections, subheads in those chapters or sections, etc. This will help you to create a loose outline of what you want to write about and how you want to structure it. 
If you’re writing a memoir, do you want it to progress chronologically, or just focus on one section of your life? Are you going to be moving back and forth throughout time periods? Do you want a unifying theme to tie everything together?  

These are all questions you should at least think about before you sit down to meet with an editor, and they can apply to any book, really. Just like writing the essays you wrote in high school and university, you’ll likely find it helpful to start out with a plan in mind, and your editor will find it helpful too.

Ask Questions 

Here are some questions to help you prepare for a meeting with an editor.

  • What is your topic/what is your book about? (Hopefully you’ve already got this one in hand!)
  • What do you want readers to get out of your book?
  • What do you hope to achieve in writing your book?
  • What things do you want to include? When do you want them to appear in your book?
    • If it’s a memoir: specific life events, age periods, family stories, etc.
    • If it’s another type of nonfiction: historical analysis, literary backgrounds, information related to your subject, hard data, etc.
    • List the things you want in your book and how you want them arranged.
  • Is there any overarching theme to your book?
  • In what genre would you categorize your book?
  • If you’re blending genres (i.e., self-help/memoir), have you considered how to keep your book coherent?
  • What’s the “pitch line” for your book? (If you could boil down the essence of your book into one or two sentences what would it be?)
    • Generally, there are three things that make a good pitch line: it’s short, it conveys the core conflict of the book, and it allows the listener to visualize the book from just one sentence.
  • Are there any concerns you have about your material? (Touchy or controversial subjects, stories that may be confusing, etc.)
  • Do you need copyright to reprint any material in your book (song lyrics, poems, photos)?

If you have given any thought to these questions, then you’re probably fairly prepared for your meeting. 

Last-Minute Tips

Bring printouts of any outlines you’ve created to share with your editor, and bring a note pad to make notes! 

If your editor is taking notes, ask if they wouldn’t mind sending the notes to you after the meeting is done.

Ask what the next steps are. Whether it is setting up a writing schedule to help you finish your manuscript or deciding when to submit your final draft for copyediting or asking for help finding a publisher, your next steps are vital to keeping your publishing project on track.

Good luck!