From acquisitions to publication (and beyond!), you’ll be working closely with your editor through the entire process. We reached out to editors across the company to come up with these five tips.
Don’t let feedback instill self-doubt
Remember that you and your editor want the same thing: your book in the hands of as many readers as possible. Reading an edit letter can feel a bit defeating—a list of all the ways your book could be better. But if you’re getting an edit letter, that means that your editor already loves your book, believes in its potential, and knows you are up to the task. Remembering that you’re on the same team can help prevent a knee-jerk defensive reaction when preparing to edit.
Learn to love revision
Revision is a natural part of the process for every author, no matter how experienced. Most books need at least a couple of revisions, and many need quite a few more. A long editorial letter doesn’t mean your manuscript is not strong—it means you’re giving your editor something to work with, and together you can get the book where it needs to be. Approaching that work with enthusiasm will make conversations with your editor productive and the process a lot more enjoyable (even if it involves a lot of hard work too!).
Remember that you’re the expert
Your editor and publishing team know the book business, and are pros at bringing your work to readers far and wide. But editors sign authors because of their area of expertise, whether that’s grief counseling, backyard birding, or finding a stillness within. That expertise is a great asset, so embrace it. Besides informing the manuscript itself, let it guide you as you weigh in on cover designs, review descriptive copy, and strategize with your marketing and publicity teams. You know the audience for your book. Help your team reach them as effectively as possible, so that they can marry your expertise with theirs to find and engage with readers.
Be honest about your timeline
You might feel pressure to write as fast as possible, and revise as fast as possible, so you can get to the next part of the very long process of bringing a book to life! But you can’t rush a creative process. Your editor knows that. Every writer has a different pace, and your editor relies on you to tell them how much time you need. Be realistic and be honest (with yourself and your editor!). Ask for a little more time than you think you’ll actually need. It’s better to give a longer timeline for a revision rather than an overly optimistic date that will need to be moved back when it is inevitably not met, or will result in rushed work that needs another round of edits anyway.
One word: communicate
More than anything else, your editor needs you to keep in touch, and to speak up with questions, concerns, updates, scheduling needs, and anything else that comes up as you’re working on the manuscript and beyond. If you’re planning to be off the grid for a few months while your book is in production, that’s something to mention. If you’ve hit a brick wall with an important source, or you’ve decided to convert the manuscript into a Google Doc (please don’t), reach out. On a similar (but happier) note, if you suddenly get interest from a major media outlet, or you book a massive speaking engagement where books can be sold, let us know that too—as soon as possible.
We would rather have too much information from you than too little—and speaking up sooner is always best.
Ultimately, remember that your collaboration with your editor is just that: a collaboration. Keeping open communication, maintaining realistic expectations, and learning how to manage revisions and feedback will keep that collaboration running smoothly and reduce stress, so you can enjoy the publishing process.
Phil Stamper-Halpin is Associate Director, Author Development for Penguin Random House.