The Importance of the Author–Editor Connection

Sophie Playle

An author planning to self-publish his book asked me if I recommend he use a book-publishing packager.

After explaining why asking me – while I was working as a freelance editor – this question was like asking a boutique hotel if you should buy a flight and stay at their establishment or go with a package holiday and not stay with them at all, I said it was really up to him!

Pros and cons of packagers

Packagers will be the right choice for some authors. The main benefit is that all the services you need to produce your files for self-publishing are all in one place. If you like the look of the packager and their fees fit your budget, go for it.

But the main drawback is that the author doesn’t get to choose who they’ll be working with.

If they’re looking for cursory, mechanical editing, this might be fine.

But in my experience, many – if not all – authors benefit from a couple of rounds of editing, with one of those rounds paying attention to how the story hangs together as a whole and the effectiveness of the techniques used to tell that story.

Not all packagers offer this level of editorial feedback, and even if they did, it’s still unlikely the author will be able to choose who will be providing this feedback.

The ideal editorial method (in my view)

My longest-standing client worked with me on more than ten novels, and we always did two rounds of his books – a first round where I provided creative feedback, and a second round refining the sentences once he’d revised the manuscript.

This was my favourite way to work with an author because it truly resulted in a better book – and my author agreed!

But even if an author doesn’t want (or their budget doesn’t stretch to) two rounds of editing, I believe it’s extremely beneficial for authors to work with editors who connect creatively and emotionally with their work.

Why connection matters

Novel-writing is inherently creative, and a nuanced application of grammar, punctuation and syntax is required to keep an author’s voice, style and creative intentions intact – or enhance them.

When you ‘get’ what an author is doing, you’re more likely to spot plot holes, inconsistencies, unintended subtext, slips in voice …

And you’ll be able to offer creative solutions that feel true to the author’s book.

If you don’t creatively and emotionally connect with an author’s work, the author will be missing out on these benefits at best. At worst, you’ll damage the author’s voice and alter their meaning.

Something as small and seemingly inconspicuous as a comma can change the meaning or rhythm of a sentence, depending on where it’s placed. It’s important that authors trust that you know and respect this.

Choosing each other

This is why I only quoted for about half the enquiries that came my way during my career, and why I asked a lot of questions about an author’s manuscript and their goals upfront, and why I asked to see a sample of the manuscript too.

I needed all this to get a sense of whether I’d be the best editor for that author – whether I felt a connection to their work.

Not all editors are quite as discerning about who they work with, and that’s fine.

Personally, I wanted to feel just as invested in a manuscript as the author I was working with. And I like to think my editorial feedback was on the creative, nuanced side of the spectrum rather than the lighter, mechanical side.

In this way, my authors got something valuable from working with me as opposed to any other editor.

It was all about that connection.

Sophie Playleis a professional fiction editor. She specialises in developmental editing, critiquing and copy-editing, and loves working with authors and publishers who are passionate about high-quality storytelling. Speculative fiction, fantasy, science fiction and literary fiction are her genres of choice. She's an Advanced Professional Member of the Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading and has a Creative Writing MA from Royal Holloway, University of London. Find out more:

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