October 14, 2011

On beginnings and endings ...

I spent the first day of October at Northwest Bookfest. Among many activities that day, I participated on a panel with five other freelance editors from the Northwest Independent Editors Guild.* Our panel spoke to a roomful of writers—most of whom had never before worked with a professional editor—about “How to Find and Work with a (freelance) Editor.”

These were the topics we arranged to cover on the panel:

  • why writers of books need editors 
  • when different types of editing (e.g., developmental editing, copyediting) might be useful
  • what freelance editors can and can’t offer
  • when and how to find and interview potential editors, and
  • tips for working effectively with a freelance editor
You might say the panel focused on how to begin a relationship with a freelance editor.

I’ve worked with a number of writers who’ve never spoken to a professional editor before. I’m also the first person to talk to the writers who apply to participate in Author-Editor Clinic manuscript sessions and explain what sort of editing the Clinic offers. So beginning an editorial relationship is something I think about a lot, and I was really glad to be part of this panel.

The best takeaway of the day for me, though, was in a question from one of the two writers in the audience who had previously been edited. The question was, How do you end a relationship with an editor?

Time was short by the time this question was asked, and I don’t think the several of us on the panel who attempted to answer the question really got to the heart of it. I’m still not sure exactly what question the writer meant to ask, in fact:

  • How do you know when it’s time to stop editing?
  • How do you close out an editorial relationship, when both parties are satisfied with the work?
  • How do you end an editorial relationship, when either writer or editor feels that the writing/editing and/or the relationship is no longer working?
The upcoming class on The Business of Freelance Developmental Editing discusses setting expectations with clients via contracts and other materials. I’m thinking back to when I took the class, and I think I’ll be reviewing my materials again.

Because I realize now I’ve not spent much time thinking consciously about the ending of the editorial relationship—or communicating anything about it to my clients up front. There are things I know that perhaps would be useful to explain. For example, that editing is cyclical. That I expect at some point it will be a good idea to seek fresh eyes on a manuscript. That I hope my clients will tell me when things aren’t working, even if they’re not sure why. Yes, I want to work with writers who are adult enough to speak up when things aren’t working—but hey, most of us have a hard time with that at times. I can use my experience and awareness to help the relationship run as smoothly as possible.

I’m thinking, too, that anything I can do to contribute to clients’ confidence about navigating the end of an editorial relationship should also help at the beginning.

—Kyra Freestar

*The other editors on the panel were Nancy Wick and Kathy Bradley, both of whom I’ve known for a while through the Author-Editor Clinic (Nancy has written a number of excellent posts for this blog), and Helen Townsend, Heidi M. Thomas, and Jenna Land Free, whom I met through the Editors Guild.

1 comment:

  1. Believe it or not, the recent economic crisis in Greece had me thinking about this very topic. Apparently the European Union, when it was being formed, did not address the eventual possibility of countries either wanting to leave the EU or, ahem, being asked to leave. Which I thought was very strange. But it reminded me that in one of my previous careers, we very specifically asked (of ourselves and our clients): what is our exit strategy from this engagement? That said, I have also not thought about what this means in an editorial context. (The previous question brought on, I think, by the extraordinary sums of money our clients paid us and trying to reassure them that we would be happy for them to stop paying us when we had done what we said we would do. Obviously huge sums of money do not trigger the question between writer and editor. :-) ) In any case, thanks for the reminder that this is a good topic to discuss with (potential) clients so that you both have a clear understanding about what a successful gig/relationship would look like.