How to enhance the author–editor relationship through effective communication
Good author–editor communication is beneficial both to the manuscript and to the editorial experience, for both parties. The concept is the same as in daily life: clear communication leads to smoother and mutually beneficial relationships. The dynamic between the author and their editor is very much a relationship, and a rapport needs to be developed. So, with this in mind, what should an author look out for in a good editor?
One of the most important aspects of communication is sharing knowledge and information. An editor will not only provide language expertise and clarity of thought, but will also enable the author to write from a reader’s perspective. Authors aim to speak to readers through their written work, and editors ensure that the message is clear and will appeal to the intended audience. In their advisory role, editors share their knowledge with authors during the editorial process, and this is central to the author–editor relationship.
A starting point
Authors and editors don’t always see eye to eye. But a good editor won’t give up the moment there is disagreement (and authors shouldn’t see disagreement as a deal-breaker). A good editor will strive to find out what an author wants to achieve with their work, and will listen to the author’s point of view.
A starting point for the author is to ask for a sample edit. Most editors will edit an extract of 1000-2000 words that shows what approach they would take with the whole manuscript. The author can see what the term ‘copy-editing’ actually means when applied to their work. This is important because there are various terms used by editors and authors for the different levels of editing, in particular developmental editing, copy-editing and proofreading. A sample edit can help the author ensure that they will get the level of support they want from an editor, and that they like his/her approach.
Editors will raise queries about anything in the manuscript that might need input or clarification from the author. A good editor will do so as clearly as possible, respectfully, and with a positive and encouraging tone. The sample edit will give the author a good idea as to the editor’s style of querying. Ideally, an author should be able to see from the editor’s query:
- the issue raised by the editor with a section of text
- what the editor has done or suggested to amend the text, and perhaps why, and
- anything further the author needs to do to improve that section.
Barriers to effective communication
One barrier is language. English may not be the first language of the author, who may find it harder to use than a native English speaker does. A skilled and empathetic editor will show the author how to communicate clearly.
A second barrier is resistance to change from authors who may feel understandably possessive about their work after the time and effort they have invested in it.
Cultural issues may come into play, too. For example, in several East Asian countries, communication is largely indirect; politeness and avoidance of hurting feelings are key factors for communication in these cultures. In northern and western Europe, however, communication is often much more direct, sometimes to the point of being blunt.
In sum, achieving effective communication depends directly or indirectly on overcoming common obstacles to communication.
Why communicate effectively?
Through effective communication editors explain and confirm their changes to the text, and this provides authors with the opportunity to participate actively in the editing process. When both author and editor are involved with the editing process, the experience is more likely to be productive and mutually satisfying.
Effective author–editor communication breaks down barriers between authors and editors, creating a healthy relationship between them, fulfilling the author’s expectations and helping editors to meet their goal: doing a job that their client appreciates, and will gladly pay for.
Betterwrite Associate Editor