I imagine every editor has, at one point or another, dropped their head into their hands and ululated, “Why didn’t I tell my author this one tiny thing before it became a massive catastrophe?!” So, in an effort to prevent further histrionics, here are some things you, the author, can do to streamline the editing process for you and your editorial team once you’ve signed your book contract.
Update Your Software (and get familiar with it)
After you sign the contract, ask your editor what programs they’ll be using and then purchase a license or update your software. As far as I know, most publishing companies use Microsoft Word for the manuscript stages and various Adobe products for the production phases. Trying to constantly convert between Pages and Word is a headache and printing out the PDF and physically mailing it is expensive, slow, and inconvenient. It will save everyone time and (so, so much) stress if you simply get the home office version of the software your editor is using.
And then, play around with it a bit. Learn how to turn on Track Changes and how to accept or reject them. Figure out how to mark up PDFs. This might require some Googling or watching YouTube tutorials, but I assure you it will save you at least one headache down the line. Plus, it’s always good to score “Easy to Work With” points with your publishers!
Dont’ Embed Images
Fun fact, but most photos have various levels of copyright/ownership attached to them and aren’t free for use. As a general rule, don’t send the editor images unless you have permission to use them, or are requesting assistance in obtaining permissions. This can cause all sorts of legal issues if an image is accidentally published without the proper permissions.
Also, if you do want to use images (for instance, wildlife photos you took yourself), don’t embed them into the manuscript. First of all, this makes the file huge and unwieldy, but also, it will almost assuredly mean the photo isn’t of the correct resolution. Ideally, send a separate folder of high-resolution images that are correctly labeled, and mark in the manuscript where each image ought to belong.
As a general rule, don’t include any copyrighted song lyrics the story can’t stand without. Song lyrics all require permission to use, and this is often a royal pain to obtain and can cost a lot of money—to the extent that it might even be impossible for smaller presses. It’s oftentimes decided that the best course of action is just to omit the lyric entirely—so as I say, make sure the story can still make sense without it!
Don’t Touch the Manuscript!
This is very, very important: once you’ve submitted the manuscript for editing, you (the author) are no longer in possession of the master document. So don’t touch the manuscript on your computer! Or if you absolutely have to, lock the document so that every little thing you do is automatically highlighted in Track Changes. That way, there aren’t two versions floating around with tiny, easy-to-miss differences. Then, when the editor sends you their marked-up manuscript, you can simply transfer your edits from your document to the master.
Make Requests Early
If there’s anything specific you want for your book, be sure to ask about it early. For instance, if you want ragged edges or a specific type of paper, you should mention that, preferably, sometime before the book is already at the printer. Ask for a production schedule from your editor and find out when various pieces need to be finalized. As with most things, use your common sense on this one. Of course, doing the opposite and making a request too far in advance means it’s more likely to be forgotten, but don’t be afraid to follow up on it.
Just remember: your editor wants to make you happy just as much as she wants to put your gorgeous book out into the world!
Constance Renfrow is a New York-based writer and lead editor for Three Rooms Press. Her fiction and poetry have appeared in such places as Cabildo Quarterly, Denim Skin, and Petrichor Machine, and she hosts a monthly open mic series at New York’s Merchant’s House Museum. Recently, she compiled the anthology of millennial fiction, Songs of My Selfie, available from Three Rooms Press, and writes about the book publishing industry for DIY MFA. She is pursuing her MFA in fiction from Pacific University. Visit her at constancerenfrow.com or follow her on Twitter @MissConstance21.