The interview process that goes into establishing an editor-client relationship can be intense for both sides. You want to find an editor that helps you meet your goals. The editor wants to work with clients with similar values to theirs that will also be open-minded and understanding about why certain changes to their manuscript might be suggested.
Believe it or not, most manuscript editors who have been doing this whole developing relationships thing for a while have a pretty good sense whether or not the relationship will go well before the contract is even signed. This is done through a vetting process and can involve many questions, but the answers are essential to project success.
Here are some examples of questions you might receive from an editor before your project starts.
What is your book’s length?
Answers to this question can help determine the project quote and possible the length of time to complete project. If you’re still writing your book but have some kind of idea of your goal word count, this can also be helpful to share with your potential editor. They might be able to give you a ballpark number for the project quote.
I ask this frequently with returning clients right out of the gate because I’m already familiar with the quality of their work and can estimate time of completion in advance as a result of this knowledge.
What are your goals for your unpublished book?
Do you plan to self publish? Do you want to meet a specific deadline? Are you sending this book to agents with the possibility of publishing traditionally? Knowing where you want to go can help an editor provide you some direction on what is working with your book and what to do to revise it.
What is your background with writing?
This question isn’t meant to insult prospective clients. Rather, if you’re someone the editor is not familiar with, it can help them determine what to expect with the content. For instance, if this isn’t your first rodeo and you have some published books out there already, your experience with writing and making revisions might be different than someone who is writing their first novel.
What’s interesting about this question, and about writing samples received, is that writers have such a wide variety of experience and skills. Even if you’ve never published before, you might have a really well established voice the editor can help polish. In contrast, you might be someone who has had pretty positive feedback about their work but wants to keep improving. An editor can help identify common problems and steer you in the right direction.
How did you hear about me?
It might be dorky, but I always find it fun to learn what methods of my marketing are working! A lot of people find me from organic search or word of mouth, but once I learned I made it on a resource list at a comic con and someone took the list, vetted me, and hired me! How cool is that?
I also ask this because I like to thank referral sources personally after a contract is signed. Knowing that they’re vouching for my work can make continuing to do it a lot more meaningful.
How soon do you want the project completed?
This is a really important question for both the writer and the editor. If my availability doesn’t align with the writer’s expectations, we might be better off finding someone else to help them. However, if there is room in my schedule, or the writer is willing to wait for my schedule to free up, we can find a way to work together!
I try to be accommodating when a project comes in as a rush but, in truth, you should try to find an editor before you need one. There’s nothing worse than having to look for a service you needed yesterday.
I hate turning people away but sometimes the situation for my current project availability just doesn’t allow me to squeeze in a project with a quick turnaround. I’ll usually accommodate repeat clients, but for people who are new to me and I’m new to them, I’m far less flexible.
Are there any major plot points I need to know about?
I like a twist as much as the next reader, but if there is something crucial I should know about the plot or story, it might be better we discuss it ahead of time. Sometimes this could be a minor detail about the way you write, such as always italicizing foreign words because that’s the style you have used in other manuscripts. Other times, it’s helpful to know if the manuscript has multiple points of view or if I should expect to adhere to a specific tense.
Surprises in these instances are great for your readers and can keep them turning pages, but for editors, we like having a bit of advanced warning so we’re not screwing up something you intended to include!
Would you please provide main character details/anything else I should know ahead of time?
Sometimes it helps to know some of the major players in the story. Obviously answering a question like this is kind of optional, as many writers like to have their editors explore their writing from a reader’s perspective (but a bit more detailed, of course). However, if there are a larger number of people to keep track of, similar names to watch for, etc., then it could be useful to lay out some main character information for your own consistency as well as for the editor who will be reviewing your writing.
Are there any other services I provide you might want combined with this project?
Believe it or not, I have quite a few editing and writing services that complement the usual manuscript editing. Sometimes it’s helpful to have all of these things taken care of at once, whether that’s having a book blurb revised or written, or help with a synopsis. Plus, if you hire me, the additional service is usually offered at a discount because of booking multiple services at one time. Everyone likes to save some money, so take advantage of it when you can!
Contact a Manuscript Editor
If you’re curious about what a manuscript editor can do for you, contact me! I’d love to learn about your project and if we could make a good team. And if I missed a question you think I should include above, please let me know!