by Lesley-Anne Longo
Published at 2022-09-21
Your first meeting with your editor is important, as it can really set the tone for your working relationship. This is your chance to show that you’ve done your homework—that your manuscript is as prepared as you can make it, that you’ve already begun studying your audience and your readers’ interests, and that you have a clear idea of what you want to achieve from this edit and from publishing this book.
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. (See below for our earlier blogs about this.) However, you might find yourself wondering how to prepare for that meeting—what 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.
Chances are you’ve covered most of these details in any correspondence you’ve had with the editor prior to the first meeting, but just in case you haven’t covered all the bases, the editor will want to know:
Word count: How many words is your manuscript? If you’re still writing or revising, how many words do you expect it to be? If you’re counting by pages, use the standard word count of 250 words per (double-spaced) page.
Genre: What genre is your manuscript? What popular or well-known books from that genre would your book most likely be shelved with? If you’re blending genres (i.e., self-help/memoir), have you considered how to keep your book coherent? If you’re not sure how to position your book yet, please say so, as this is important to know as well, especially if you decide to work with an editor before finishing the manuscript.
Revision history: How many drafts have you completed? Have you had any beta readers take a look at the manuscript? If so, who were they? What was their feedback?
Editing needs/goals: What sort of editing do you think your book needs? And, what are you hoping to achieve with this edit? Tighten up the overall structure? Improve phrasing and flow?
Publishing goals: Are you hoping to publish traditionally? Self-publish? Is this a one-off project, or are you hoping to open the manuscript up into a series of books?
Budget: It’s important to be honest about your editing budget. If you’re working with a very strict or tight budget, the editor may be able to suggest other options to get you the help you need at a more manageable rate (for example, a manuscript evaluation instead of a developmental edit).
Deadline: If you’re on a tight schedule, you should always tell any prospective editor as soon as humanly possible. Many editors book projects months in advance, so if you need a quick turnaround, make that known immediately. Do try to stay flexible, though—you may find that you’re more willing to push back a deadline if you’re seeing a really transformative edit.
If you can, try to create a map or outline of how you want your book to progress structurally.
Think chapters, sections, subheads in those chapters or sections, etc. This will help you to create a loose outline of what you’re writing about and how you want it to be structured.
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? When you’ve been working on your manuscript for months or years, it can be easy to get bogged down in the details. Looking at your manuscript as a functioning whole (in terms of the “big picture”) is beneficial for both you and your editor, as it can help illuminate how the editing can/should progress.
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.
Here are some deeper questions to help you prepare for a meeting with an editor. If you take the time to think on each of these questions, you’ll have a more thorough idea of what you want your book to be and how you want to get there.
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?
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’re unsure of how the editing process will progress step by step, don’t be afraid to ask! Any editing project is improved when both parties are fully informed and knowledgeable about what the general steps will be.
Now is also a good time to make any preferences known in terms of how you want communications to function from here on out. Are you going to want weekly updates, or just let your editor do their thing and you’ll hear from them when the editing is finished and ready for your attention?
Communication also involves how you prefer feedback to be formulated. Some authors want complete and brutal honesty and prefer that kind of feedback. Other authors prefer a softer touch, phrased more kindly and encouragingly. Maybe you’re somewhere in the middle! Whatever your preference is, make sure you share that with your editor so that they know how to phrase feedback in the way that will work best for you.
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. If you’re meeting over Zoom or Skype, see if you can record the meeting so you can refer to it later if needed.
Ask what the next steps are. Whether it is setting up a writing schedule to help you finish your manuscript, 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.
Check out our recent blogs:
And take a look at our September newsletter for a helpful Editors’ Tip on building a good working relationship with your editor!
We hope these tips will help you get started. And good luck!
Want a great tip in your inbox each month? Sign up for our enewsletter today!