Whether you’re working on a book, a case study, or a business proposal, fearing the feedback of an editor is a reality that many writers face. While it’s true that you’re putting yourself in a position of vulnerability by opening up your work for this early feedback, it’s important to remember that your editor is a partner. Here are a few points about working with an editor to make the idea a bit easier to swallow.
1. Your editor wants to make you look good.
Editors are unsung heroes. Their work requires extensive knowledge of language, the ability to put themselves in both the writers’ and readers’ shoes, a remarkable level of patience, and an undying passion for supporting the art of the written word.
These champions of writing want to serve as your support team, not as nitpicking overlords. Editing is typically a collaborative process. The experienced editor understands that this is YOUR writing and will offer both positive and critical feedback.
2. Your editor is a proxy for the reader.
Your editor will review your work with one person in mind, and it’s not you. It’s your reader.
Think of the investment professional that reviews your portfolio to make suggestions on how you’re using your resources. Your investment advisor is thinking about how to make your money perform well in the market, which benefits you.
To use that analogy, your editor is reviewing the investment you’ve made in words to make sure it will perform well in the market (readers), which also benefits you.
An editor makes suggestions to make a better book, not to criticize your chops as a writer. Don’t take their feedback personally! It’s the editor’s challenge to serve as the objective outside eyes of your reader, who may be considering your idea or concept for the first time. The reader’s worldview, experience, and sophistication around the content area you’ve mastered are probably levels below yours. Otherwise they’d be writing the book, not reading it.
As an expert, it’s hard for you to remember what it’s like to experience your area of knowledge as a layman. You may take for granted that your audience understands certain concepts, acronyms, and industry norms or trends. But to reach and impact the right audience(s), you’ll often need to take a step back and retool your writing so it’s effective for an audience with a different perspective than yours. This is a process that definitely requires solid editorial help.
3. Fit matters
Given the vulnerability involved in putting your writing in front an editor and the importance of their work, it’s critical that you feel this person is a trusted partner who understands your voice and purpose.
Editorial work is an area where you get what you pay for. If I had a nickel for every author who told me their book was already edited and then realized they needed more editorial work after receiving a proper review from an experienced editorial team…well, I won’t say I’d be rich but I’d definitely buy you a drink.
Respect the work you’ve done and give it a fighting chance by bringing a seasoned editor on board to refine it.
4. Be prepared for the redline
Close your eyes for a second and think back to your high school or college years. Do you remember a particular paper you had to write, whether it was a creative or critical piece, and how worried you were about your professor’s feedback?
That feedback probably came back in the form of red ink all over your precious work, or perhaps a digital version of the same.
Redlines and edits/comments made in tracked changes can be overwhelming. Your eyes take in the quantity of edits, not the nature of the edits. So if you were taught to double space after a period and your editor corrects that to a single space throughout, your manuscript might look like a hot mess at first glance. But upon a more careful review, you’ll realize that you’re dealing with a mechanical concern and not a content issue. Much easier to resolve!
Don’t be overwhelmed by the optics of your redline review. Your editor should offer some summary feedback on the nature of the major changes, and should also advise if there’s a mechanical error pattern in the manuscript (akin to a double space after a period) that has created edits throughout.
Writing is hard enough. Use these tips to ensure your work with an editor lifts your writing experience up in the spirit of a solid partnership.
* This article originally appeared on Inc.com.
Tanya Hall is CEO of Greenleaf Book Group, a hybrid publisher and creative agency specializing in creating best-selling books and compelling brands for thought leaders.