(or how to become the editor any client will run to)
Writers are incredible human beings that have a lot to say. More often than not, they possess a highly creative mind, which transposes knowledge into beautiful and unexpected stories (refer to fictional writers, for instance). From a different angle, there are the authors who choose to simply share their life lessons, regardless of the covered area - business, personal or both, as a mix.
Regardless, there is always a good intention behind writing a book. This aspect should always be kept in mind by every editor out there.
Because it prevents the editor, as a professional, to be subjective and jump to conclusions. It also prevents an undesirable outcome, such as the one of refusing to work on a book that might be an unpolished diamond. In the end, an editor's job is to make a writer's work shine bright. Unfortunately, that is not always the case. Many editors only do their job for the recurrent paycheck. That is alright as well, yet the difference is being made by the degree of passion an editor pours over their job. And, as much as some may argue, this aspect is being seen and/ or felt from miles away by the client and the audience.
At the same time, by looking at the good intention behind the content of the book brings a completely new and more positive perspective to your job and the outcome of the project.
To sustain all of the above, based on our experience (both individually - before working for Flavored Ventures - and as a collective) our team came up with a list of 13 critical points every editor should consider. The intention behind this article is to make you aware of the easiest way to become the editor any client will run to.
From where we stand today, this is what every editor out there should keep in mind.
13 Critical points every book editor should consider
1. Pledge for integrity
By honestly asking and answering the following question to and for yourself:
How much do you like your job? I suggest choosing an option from the ones below or formulating your own, if it resonates better. Do you:
a) Like it, but not that much
b) Sort of like it
c) Fairly like it
d) Like it above average
e) Love it?
The reason for this question and acknowledging your answer can't be clearer than this: your answer is being reflected/projected in everything you do about the project. This point is the most sensitive one, if we may position it as such. Because based on your actions and the vibration you send out to the client, you build the much needed trust.
2. Bring in all your passion, commitment and undivided attention to the project
Unless your answer to the above question is "I like it above average" or "I love it", the levels of passion, commitment and undivided attention will not be as high. And, again, this will be reflected by your work. When we do something only for the sake of doing it, for the paycheck to come in, we focus on the quantity rather than on the quality of the work. Which means that we tend to get rid of a certain project as soon as possible, we do not give it the proper positive energy and we only do what we are required to. At the opposite pole, when we love what we do, we put the client's interest, image and intention above all.
3. Be objective and cutting edge honest
When point #2 is met, we give constructive objective feedback, without holding onto the fear of losing our client. Yes, there may be times when people are not ready to receive such feedback, but remember that it's very important how you send the message out. Also, if the client doesn't accept it, it might not even be you (if you made your point in a diplomatic yet honest manner), but them. Most people would rather go for a sugar-coated untruth, just to feel good about themselves. Therefore, fair communication will not be for them.
On the flip side, an open client will take the information and suggestions you give them in a constructive manner, as it will literally blow their mind off. They will be pleased with your work beyond the seen realm and you will be happy to learn that you bring up the best in them!
4. Be on point
As you consider the previous 3 points, we suggest you send an official email to your client, stating everything as clearly as possible. From our past experience (individually and as a collective), what is not written does not exist. And this can have terrible results, from a legal perspective. In this email, be as on point as possible. Using bullet points can be of great help. Additionally, if you use colors in your editing, make your client aware of what each of the colors means; you can create a legend that the client can guide themselves after.
This is an approach that worked very well for us, as it avoids unnecessary questions and ulterior misunderstandings. State your deadline as well and mention if there may be any delays (either objective - if the client does not provide all the required information - or based on your workload).
5. Put your client's interest and image first
There are people who state that the client should always be right and that personal opinions should be kept aside. At Flavored Ventures, however, we are aware of the fact that, when reaching out to an editor, the client is looking for guidance. We had clients coming to us with lines like 'I wrote from the bottom of my heart/ as a consequence of my vast experience, yet something doesn't click. I need you to advise me what to do further on'. This typology of a client is already open to feedback and to improving based on your suggestions as editor. Which (pay attention here!) does not entitle you to treat them disrespectfully! You, as an editor, are there to carry their best interest at heart, not your material benefits only.
The more you realize this, the more passionate you become about your work and the better relationships you establish with your clients. When you communicate with your client, make sure to highlight the fact that you may be very straightforward, for their benefit, not only because the norms or the company policy says so. Also, emphasize the fact that you might not agree with their point of view and that you will do your best to explain why and provide an alternative. Which, again, it's up to them to embrace or not. But your client needs to know that you are willing to agree to disagree if such a situation arises. However, you are working towards the same goal and you will finally get to a common ground, through open and honest exchange of feedback.
What this approach offers to your client is the feeling of being protected, while still being given the freedom to choose the final outcome of the book.
6. Avoid sugarcoating the truth
We mentioned before that some people would rather go for that - a feedback that only inflates their ego, but leads to a disastrous result. If the work ethic and company values are above that, you should consider giving your clients the truth as it is. Of course, we are not saying that it should be brutal and not thought of at all. Diplomacy is key in any sort of business, but the truth still needs to stand out. What you prove, if you choose to act in an untruthful manner, is the fact that you are going for quantity rather than quality. Some well versed into emotional intelligence clients may spot that from the very beginning. So what's the use of it, after all?
Just think about the fact that your professional integrity is at stake. Is there any reason why it should be worth compromising it for a dime? Your reputation will go down, in time. Remember that the word of mouth circulates, even without your knowing. And, of course, we all want to have a good name on the market, don't we?
7. Explain your suggestions
We enlarge this point a bit lower in this article, but the importance of providing explanations should always be considered. It is clarity that needs to stand out, along with a truthful business approach.
If you think about running a research, which sort of product/ service draws your attention more? A product/ service which has well-explained details in their description or a product/ product that you can barely understand what it is used for? Also, based on its description, will you go for the product/ service that looks more genuine and clearly states what it can help you with or the one which sends you no message/feeling at all or even feel fake?
8. Bring strong arguments to the table
You might have the best intentions for letting your clients know your point of view and your explanations. However, if the explanations do not encompass the essence of how and why you do what you do, your work might be rejected by your client. They will feel insecurity and a shallow openness, which, in turn, will make them choose someone else. Don't be afraid to be who you are, although we are speaking about doing business here. This is, in fact, the reason why we stress so much the importance of showing your true colors to your clients: business needs to become less rigid and we need to inspire our clients to embrace this way of operating.
Only by coming from a heart space and by bringing everything upfront to the table will we be able to make a real impact on our clients, the work that we offer and our extended environment. As we are speaking about editing the content of a book, the message in it needs to send some sort of feeling to the reader, doesn't it? If you, as an editor, overlook that, everything else crushes. But again, in order to feel the messages within the pages of a book, you need to allow yourself to get fully immersed into the content and come back to the real world with everything you took away from it.
Then, based on your takeaways, you need to formulate your suggestions while keeping both your client and the reader in mind. Your job, as an editor, is of utmost importance both for the client and the reader. In other words, by walking into the shoes of both (client's and reader's) you will be able to provide the strongest arguments for your explanations.
9. Get your hands dirty
Allow us to explain.
Many editors only suggest changes and how the author should make those changes. They hold back from doing this work themselves since they might consider that the client did not require such an action. However, such a passive attitude will drive your client to someone else for the same service, when they write their next book. Instead, being proactive brings in the exact opposite result. It is very important here to inform the client, before starting working on the project, that you may restructure the content, you may rephrase certain blocks of text, you may break these blocks into shorter phrases/ sentences, etc.
Unless you inform your client prior to starting the work, they may believe that you treat them from a superior standpoint. If you do point out these aspects, in a positive manner and having their best interest as the focus point, the client will most certainly agree.
10. Provide a sample of the work you do for that specific client
Some editors may say that this should be unnecessary, as they have a portfolio which the client can always refer to. From our experience, however, we would suggest that you do this for each client. You can edit half of a page and send it over to your client. It doesn't have to be more than that, but what this approach will do for you is to cement the trust you built by following the above points.
This step is a sensitive one for a very strong reason: the client can feel your transparency, your honesty and the interest you give to their project. On the other hand, when you send a sample and give your client a bit of time to assess your work and your style, you can immediately understand if they are happy with your collaboration. Why should it be so important to learn this from the beginning? Easy - to avoid double work and frustration, on any of the sides involved. Imagine yourself working on the whole manuscript and sending it to the client, with all adjustments in place. When the client sees all the strike though, red text or whatever other adjustments, they may not agree to your approach, so you will have to take it from the scratch, in a manner they agree with, or even drop the project if they are completely dissatisfied.
So, does it make sense to avoid all of this from the start? We believe it does, but it's up to each of you to consider this perspective or not.
11. Give options and explain them
Yet allow the client to choose. Offering options without giving the explanation as well should equal to zero. Expose your opinion, yet allow the client to decide whether they take it or not. Not every project will go smoothly and that's a fact. However, that's why the above point is so important. The client needs to feel how important they are to you, in order to give you a free hand in terms of adjustments. As a result of our practice so far, we can proudly say that our clients gave us full trust and complete freedom to adjust their books as we considered to be best for the final successful outcome.
In explaining every detail, any possible consequence and the feeling you get from their content, will position you on a high scale of professionalism. Clarity is an aspect everyone should be free to be exposed to and it will be highly appreciated by all your clients. Also, in proceeding like this, you protect yourself as a professional. The client will not be able to blame you for any less positive outcome, based on their own actions, once your work is done. It's important to acknowledge the fact that giving options and explanations will keep you away from any possible inconveniences which may occur once the deal is completed.