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Why Your Book Editor May Not Want to Talk to You

Updated on February 21, 2019
heidithorne profile image

Heidi Thorne is a self-publishing advocate and author of nonfiction books, eBooks, and audiobooks. She is a former trade newspaper editor.


Can We Talk?

Every once in a while, I get a request from a prospective author asking for a phone conversation about their book prior to me starting the editing process. I always wonder why. My service description is pretty clear about what I do, the pricing is straightforward, and they can send me a message to answer any questions. I’m not trying to be rude, but I really don’t want to talk with them on the phone. I'll explain why in a bit.

But first, let’s look at why authors feel the need for conversation.

Authors Are Afraid of Their Editors

When you were in school, did you ever try to plead your case to your teacher (or your parents) as to why you weren’t able to complete an assignment or achieve a certain grade? These authors are holding onto fearful thoughts from their childhood.

They are almost afraid of their editors, casting them in an authority figure role. I even had one author say she was afraid to open the edited Word document I returned to her. This is NOT the role an editor wants! This isn’t school.

The prize isn’t a good grade bestowed by someone bigger or better than you. The goal is a manuscript that will resonate with your readers.

Authors May Want Free Consulting

Usually editors charge based on the size of the manuscript and/or the number of hours it will take to do the work. For any consultation outside the edit, they may charge an hourly rate for author-requested in-person or phone conversations.

Authors may think these conversations should be free because they view them as sales calls or just part of the process. They are not! Anytime you’re asking for feedback or advice, you’re asking editors to forfeit time they could spend making money on other manuscripts.

If you feel that you need more support, you should consider hiring a writing coach or book coach.

Authors May Feel Unsure of Themselves and Their Work

When do you usually feel you have to explain or defend yourself? It’s when you feel that you or your work don’t measure up. Or you may feel that someone will have high expectations and you want them to evaluate you according some special standards.

Feeling unsure about yourself or your work may be a sign that you and your book aren't really ready for publishing. In this case, you may need to do some more personal evaluation and self editing of your manuscript before going forward.

The High Maintenance Author

Other than feelings of inadequacy or fear about their work, there are some authors that are just high maintenance. They want an editor to be a friend, supporter, defender, therapist, admirer, or whatever. Some authors still hold on to the traditional publishing fantasy that they are stars deserving of special attention and treatment.

Sometimes I’ve encountered high maintenance authors that want me to be a believer in their story, mission or message. They may feel that I couldn’t possibly understand or evaluate their books without having beliefs, values or experiences that are identical to theirs. So they need to make sure that I’m a believer, not just a professional editor. Sometimes I even wonder if they’re looking for a sympathy discount if I’m supportive of their efforts.

Why I Want to Cold Edit Your Book

As you can imagine, I don’t want to feed any of these negative scenarios and, therefore, rarely have extensive pre-editing conversation with authors. But there are more reasons for my resistance in this matter.

It's Not Allowed

On the Fiverr freelance platform which I use to manage these projects, off-Fiverr communications such as through email, phone, Skype, etc. are generally not allowed since they violate terms of service. Other freelance marketplace platforms may have similar restrictions.

While that may seem unfair to some authors, it’s really to protect everyone in the transaction through documentation of communications and work delivered.

For editors who contract with authors directly, there may be clauses within the contract about how much consulting time is included with the service, if it is included at all. Before I started contracting authors through online platforms, I quickly (and painfully) learned that I needed to put the brakes on author interactions, especially the impromptu ones that ate up my day.

I’ll Be Less Objective

True, I’ve taken on projects from my networking acquaintances and friends. By the very nature of our relationship, we may have regular conversation before I perform an edit. But even in those cases, I want almost no conversation about a book with authors prior to an edit so that I can be as objective as possible.

I put myself in the role of the reader when editing. Readers will be approaching your book cold. Therefore, so should I. Please understand this is for the best interest of your book and your readers.

I put myself in the role of the reader when editing. Readers will be approaching your book cold. Therefore, so should I.

— Heidi Thorne

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

© 2018 Heidi Thorne


Submit a Comment
  • heidithorne profile imageAUTHOR

    Heidi Thorne 

    2 years ago from Chicago Area

    Hi Natalie! Indeed, it is more difficult when authors don't go into the editing process with an open mind. They react emotionally and don't take criticism constructively.

    Thanks for the kind words and commenting! Have a great weekend!

  • Natalie Frank profile image

    Natalie Frank 

    2 years ago from Chicago, IL

    All excellent points. It can be difficult as an editor to work with authors who either are scared of interacting with you and therefore avoid communication when needed or insist on phone conversations in the hopes of getting a free consult. Thanks for another well written article.

  • heidithorne profile imageAUTHOR

    Heidi Thorne 

    2 years ago from Chicago Area

    Hi Eurofile! Glad you found it interesting. Appreciate you stopping by. Have a great day!

  • heidithorne profile imageAUTHOR

    Heidi Thorne 

    2 years ago from Chicago Area

    Hi Gregory! Glad you found it helpful. It's all about mindset when editing for both editors and authors.

    Not sure if HP editors have done that. However, with some exceptions, I've understood why they've made changes they did. So I'm hoping it's in the best interest of the readers.

    Thanks so much for your kind comment and stopping by! Have a great day!

  • Eurofile profile image

    Liz Westwood 

    2 years ago from UK

    This is a really interesting article and gives a helpful insight from the editor's perspective.

  • Gregory DeVictor profile image

    Gregory DeVictor 

    2 years ago from Pittsburgh, PA

    Heidi, thanks for a very informative article. I especially like the following strategy of yours: “I put myself in the role of the reader when editing. Readers will be approaching your book cold. Therefore, so should I. Please understand this is for the best interest of your book and your readers.”

    I wonder whether the HP editors have adopted the same belief system.

  • heidithorne profile imageAUTHOR

    Heidi Thorne 

    2 years ago from Chicago Area

    Hello Elijah! Thanks so much for stopping by. Best of luck with your writing adventure and have a great week!

  • The0NatureBoy profile image

    Elijah A Alexander Jr 

    2 years ago from Washington DC

    Thanks Heidi,

    That was most informative and if I ever decide I want to sell my writings I'll remember those words.

  • heidithorne profile imageAUTHOR

    Heidi Thorne 

    2 years ago from Chicago Area

    Bill, I don't know if it's bravery or irritation with junk content that drives me to do it. Either way, I get a kick out of the whole process. Sun's out today so we hope the Cubs will be able to play ball without snow. :) Have a terrific Tuesday!

  • heidithorne profile imageAUTHOR

    Heidi Thorne 

    2 years ago from Chicago Area

    Flourish, I think some of my author clients wish I didn't! :) But I'd rather have them say I was tough and fair. Thanks for stopping by and chiming in. Have a great day!

  • heidithorne profile imageAUTHOR

    Heidi Thorne 

    2 years ago from Chicago Area

    Larry, it's just the way my mind works. :) Thanks for the kind words. Have a lovely day!

  • billybuc profile image

    Bill Holland 

    2 years ago from Olympia, WA

    You are a braver person than I am. I edited two books for pay way back when I was first starting out as a freelancer. Never again!

    Have a great week....warm up!

  • FlourishAnyway profile image


    2 years ago from USA

    Written like a cold, hard, awesome editor who isn’t afraid to tell it like it is.

  • Larry Fish profile image

    Larry W Fish 

    2 years ago from Raleigh

    Heidi, I always like the way you make your articles straight to the point. You leave nothing in there for error.


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