Ask the Editor: Are there clients you won’t accept?

 Unwrapping Love FB HeaderOn today’s installment of Ask the Editor, I answer a question I’ve gotten a couple of times of late. “Are there clients you won’t accept?”

My short answer? Yes. But let’s delve into why, because that’s a complicated question.

As an editor, my job is to make your manuscript shine. No writer, no matter how talented or dedicated, churns out diamonds without starting from coal. It simply doesn’t happen. Your editor is that last push of pressure that turns that messy lump of carbon into a sparkling, valuable gem.

If I turn down a client, it’s usually because they didn’t bring me carbon in the first place. Let me explain.

Not too long ago, I had to tell an author I wouldn’t work with him. The names and faces have been changed to protect the guilty, but the circumstances remain the same.

Whenever I speak to a potential client, I offer to do a sample edit. This is an important part of the process. Editor and author must know they can work together. The author has to trust that the editor has their best interests at heart and the editor must trust that the author wants to make their manuscript better (and is willing to put in the work to make that happen).

I turned this particular gentleman down in part because when I received his manuscript, it contained numerous spelling errors and almost no correct punctuation.

Now, every manuscript contains errors. Swapping through for thought, or even through for throughout happens. But this particular author misspelled such common words as consider (cosider), absolutely (absolutly), and window (windew). These aren’t a case of a homonym gone wrong. These are the symptom of a lazy writer.

That probably sounds harsh. It’s meant to. It’s not your editor’s job to fix what free, online tools will catch. Even Google Docs has a spell checker. So does Open Office. Heck, even WordPad and several of the free text editors have rudimentary spelling tools. You don’t need Microsoft Word or Scrivener to run spell check.

This same author didn’t finish off more than a quarter of his sentences with punctuation. No periods. No question marks.

And this is where we talk a little bit more about that italicized statement above. It’s my job, as an editor, to make your manuscript shine. It’s my job to help you hone your craft. I’ll share tips and tricks to make your writing better. Tips like “eliminate the use of the word just,” or “dialog tags should be primarily said, asked, replied, as opposed to mused, opined, chortled, and cackled.”

The writer bears some responsibility for his or her own craft. A writer should understand that running spell check is important. A writer should know that sentences have ending punctuation (okay, in the case of poetry, I’d give a pass, but I don’t typically edit poetry). A writer should want to work on their craft to make it better.

When I replied back to this particular client that I couldn’t take his manuscript in its current form because it didn’t follow my already sent pre-editing checklist (which tells the writer they must run spell check, among other things), his response was: “That’s your job. I’m not interested in doing that.”

And that’s when I patently refused to work with him. Yes. My job is to fix your commas, plot holes, and dry, telling sentences. However, if I’m going to put my name to something (and writers, your editor should always get a mention in the book somewhere, they do a lot of work for you), I need to have some confidence that it’s going to end up being a halfway decent book. I need to know that the writer is willing to put in the work to make it happen. And if they’re not, then I politely tell them that they should contact another editor.

Do you want to know more about a pre-editing checklist? Send me an email and I’ll send you the checklist. Yep. Free. You don’t even have to use me for editing. Because we all want our manuscripts to be better, right? Of course we do.

One comment on “Ask the Editor: Are there clients you won’t accept?

  1. This is such great information! I have always assumed you should give an editor the best possible work you can do in order to get the most out of the editor. I really want the pre-editing checklist now!

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