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 suggested edits.
Believe it or not, most manuscript editors who have been working in this environment 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.
Editor FAQs to Prospective Clients
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. Most of the time it’s more helpful to an editor to know your word count rather than the number of pages because your line spacing can really make a difference in the number of pages. Therefore, word count is a better measure of book length.
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 if you anticipate finishing in a few weeks or months but want to book them now. (Yes, it’s possible to book an editor before you’ve finished your book!)
I ask this question 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. It’s helpful also when quoting a project for newer clients to get a sense where they are in the process.
What are your goals for your unpublished book?
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. Some additional questions that might follow this one may include:
- Do you plan to self publish?
- If you are publishing with someone else, is your publisher expecting the edits by a specific time?
- Are you sending this book to agents with the possibility of publishing traditionally?
What can you tell me about your writing background?
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.
What is your experience working with an editor?
One of the reasons I ask this crucial question is to understand if the client wants more information than might be expected from an author who has worked with someone and to better understand the communication cadence that might be best for them. Newer authors or those who have done self edits rather than working with a professional editor may want more communication about the project progress. This also can help me understand why they may have left another editor and how to avoid any pitfalls that might cause some strains in our relationship.
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 an editing project 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. This may be similar to other editors, but if you need to know an editor’s availability, ask in advance!
Are there any major plot points I need to know about or trigger warnings?
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!
Other surprises you shouldn’t hold back from your editor include possibly triggering or sensitive content, such as if you have violence depicted in your book. Not a lot shocks me, but it’s becoming something that is more common in publishing. Communicating with me about the content warnings or trigger warnings is just part of the process of learning about your project.
While I am not particularly bothered by sensitive subjects, it’s still preferable to know ahead of time versus being surprised, especially if a book appears on the surface not to have this content.
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 with a sharper eye to details, 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.
Sometimes I ask for a character list if it appears a book has a complex list of characters and relationships. If you can provide this ahead of time and be proactive, then this helps me better plan for your project!
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!