What Makes A Good Editor?

By on January 1, 2016
What Makes A Good Editor? - Writer's Life.org

Having a good editor for your writing is so important and makes a huge difference to your finished work. But how do you know whether an editor is good or bad? Fortunately, by doing a little research, and by understanding the qualities that all good editors share, you can make sure that you only work with the very best.

So what should you look for in an editor? Here are some of the things you should try to find out:

Do they have good business etiquette? A good editor shouldn’t leave you waiting for weeks on end to know whether they are interested in your story. They should call or email you in a timely fashion, and even if they don’t want you to take the pitch any further, they should still politely let you know that, or suggest an alternative idea.

Do they know their publication inside out? Good editors completely understand the kind of publication or business they are working for. They know exactly what will work for it and what won’t. They know their readers and what they want, and if your pitch doesn’t quite fit, be able to make amendments and recommendations to you so you can try again, or come up with new ideas. They will be happy to help freelancers by suggesting sources, work with them and help them brainstorm, and are clearly organised and competent enough to juggle deadlines and manage several writers at once.

Do they have confidence? You want an editor who is able to not only give you a definitive answer about your pitch pretty quickly, but also doesn’t feel, if you have an excellent idea, or have written brilliant copy, that they have to change it just for the sake of it. They will know when something is great, and won’t feel the need to ‘put their stamp on it’ just to feel like they are doing their job. They will treat you as a respected colleague, and providing you supply good quality work on time, your editor should respond in a friendly and courteous fashion and you should be able to build a good working relationship with them. If you work hard for them and do everything you say you will, they should show appreciation, and acknowledge this. Editors know finding great writers who can produce quality work time and time again is tough, so if you are worth it, they will want to hang onto you and give you repeat assignments. If they do need to make and edits, they will do so prudently, and anything that they change will only make your piece better.

Are they true to their word? A good editor will manage your expectations and deliver on promises be it to edit your work quickly, ensure you get paid on time, not change their minds about publishing your work, or ask you to write an entirely different piece, or angle on a story after the initial proposal has been agreed.

Do they have a good reputation? Writers are more than happy to share stories about bad editors they have worked with. Similarly they will also share recommendations of those that have been great. Listen to your peers and if a name comes up either in a positive of negative context then this may influence your decision as to whether you want to work with them.

Remember editors want nothing more that to have a bank of excellent writers they can rely on to provide material for their publication. It makes their lives so much easier! So having excellent interpersonal skills, and being proficient and skilled in what they do should be expected. There are plenty of great editors out there, so if you feel you aren’t being treated fairly just know that working with a bad editor is not something that you should have to do.

Bethany Cadman -contributor

Bethany Cadman -contributor

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