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Why Your Book Editor May Not Want to Talk to You

Updated on February 21, 2019
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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


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