EditingEditors can do a lot for you. (I should know—I am one. But maybe that makes me biased.)

They can identify the most relevant content in your manuscript.

They can help your writing be clear and accessible.

They can tease out underlying assumptions.

They can tie everything together.

They can help your manuscript be the very best it can be.

But here’s the rub: they can do their best work only if you as a writer do your part.

How well you engage in the editorial process is just as important as how well you write—and that means learning how to work with an editor. So here are a dozen of the best tips on how to do exactly that.


Editor and writerStart Thinking in the Plural

It’s no longer “my” work. It’s now “our” work. Yup—you’re the one with your name on the cover, but your editor will also work very hard on the finished product. It’s critical that you respect your editor’s investment in your piece.

Leave Your Ego at the Door

Don’t take constructive criticism personally. There’s a reason you have an editor. She’s an expert. Her job is not to tell you what you want to hear or to inflate your ego. Her job is to provide honest, constructive feedback about your writing.

Seize the Opportunity to Improve

If you think of your editor as an enemy against which you need to defend yourself, you’re going to have a hard time collaborating. Instead, think of your editor as a therapist for your writing—someone who is going to help you write better. You wouldn’t go to a therapist hoping to hold on to all your crazy issues; bring the same attitude to your editor, and get excited about the fact that someone is going to pay real attention to your writing and is going to help you make it better.

Respect Your Editor’s Objectivity

You are emotionally invested in your book—which means you’re not always the most objective when it comes to your writing. Your editor, on the other hand, experiences your work dispassionately. She can easily spot trouble areas and show you how to fix and polish your writing. Take advantage of that fact by carefully considering what your editor has to say. Which brings us to the next point . . .

Carefully Read Edits and Listen to Your Editor

Pay close attention to your editor’s advice and feedback. Stay calm. Be patient. If you don’t understand the edits, ask your editor to thoroughly explain them to you. If you don’t agree with an edit, give very specific reasons as to why you disagree. Remember: your editor wants to work with you, not against you.

Angry womanKnow Your Triggers, and Cool Off Before Responding

We all have areas in which we find it hard to take criticism. Let your editor know where he might need to tread softly—and where he can give it to you straight. If something an editor says does really tick you off, don’t respond immediately. Count to ten. Better yet, count to a lot of tens. Consider the substance, not the delivery, of the critique, then reply with good grace based on its merits. Try not to be defensive.

Pick Your Battles

Some changes an editor makes are optional. She’ll change things because she thinks her way reads better. Feel free to disagree, but just remember: she’ll probably make hundreds of those changes. If you object to every one, things will get ugly very quickly. That being said, if you strongly disagree with a change, politely ask the editor for her rationale. If you find out the editor actually corrected an error, thank her and move on. If a change was made that you feel strongly about, speak up but stay polite.

Tell the Editor If Something Doesn’t Sound Like You

This is one of the most important pieces of feedback you can give your editor if you use it sparingly. It’s not a trump card you can use whenever you don’t like your editor’s changes. Use it only if you actively disagree for a very good reason. Remember that your strength may be more in your ideas than your writing—and if so, it might be a good thing if your writing ends up sounding more articulate than you do.

GrinchFocus on Content, Not Flow

Focus on getting everything you want to say out there. Then trust your editor’s judgment on how well things flow.

Ask for Help

Trust your editor’s guidance, and ask for help if you get stuck.

Hit Your Deadlines

Agree on deadlines for each phase of the project, and make sure to meet yours. If something unexpected happens and you’re not going to be able to meet a deadline, let your editor know as soon as you see trouble looming on the horizon—then offer a new deadline you can meet.



Say Thank You

Thank youOnce you realize that editing is something that is done for you rather than to you, you can feel grateful to the amazing person who is actually investing her time and brain power in making your work as good as it can possibly be. So say thank you every single time you get his revisions, and let him know the specific way you feel heimproved your work. And once in a blue moon, write a blog post acknowledging that you couldn’t do what you do without your incredible editor.

Thanks to the following for some of the ideas cited in this article: Mark Nichol, “5 Tips on How to Work with an Editor,” Daily Writing Tips, https://www.dailywritingtips.com/5-tips-on-how-to-work-with-an-editor/; Florence Osmund, “Working with (Those Dreaded) Editors,” The Book Designer, https://www.thebookdesigner.com/2019/10/working-with-those-dreaded-editors/; Joanna Penn, “How to Find and Work with a Professional Editor,” The Creative Penn, https://www.thecreativepenn.com/how-to-find-and-work-with-professional-editors/; and “How to Work with Editors,” wikiHow, https://www.wikihow.com/Work-with-Editors. Some of the ideas also came from my own experience born of forty years in the trenches as a professional editor. Oh, if my pen could only talk . . . 

(Photos: top, collegeofmediaandpublishing.co.uk; two women, Ganel-Lyn Condie; old woman, Blogspot.com; Grinch, kathryn-jenkins.com; thank you, dentistryiq.com)


"Kathy writes compellingly and swiftly, has an eye for detail, and possesses an uncanny sense for how to shape a story to make it pulsate with energy."
 —Taylor Halverson


"Kathy Jenkins has honed her editing skills with such precision and excellence that today she is viewed by many (including me) as the best editor on the planet. No matter how many times I have read and reworked a manuscript, Kathy improves my writing with meticulous care and good will."
 —Susan Easton Black


"Kathy has been so helpful to me in bringing my manuscripts to fruition, encouraging me to work diligently on my writing craft. She makes every author better in every way."
 —Ed J. Pinegar


"Kathy brings life in her writing, wisdom in her editing, and experience in her consulting; she has made me a better and more confident author."
 —Ganel-Lyn Condie