Getting to know you: relationship-building skills for editors

When I was in publishing school, I was obsessed with “getting it right.” I was intent on learning the proper order of front matter, the elegance of proofreading marks, the intricacies of hyphens. An error could lurk anywhere, and it was me against the page.

What I’ve learned is that editing, though it feels like solitary work, is actually about about building relationships. You’re working with the author and your client or in-house team, on behalf of the eventual reader.

That relationship begins even before you introduce yourself to a managing editor or editorial director.

How are you already showing up online? Build a portfolio of your work. Include a list of titles you’ve edited, and author testimonials.

Highlight your unique experience. Lots of editors are coming from other careers. If you’ve trained as a physiotherapist, you might be the ideal candidate to edit a new book on sports medicine.

When introducing yourself to publishers, show your familiarity with the house and its list by mentioning a few titles you’ve enjoyed.

Make it easy for the managing editor. Attach your resume with your name and submission year in the file name, or (even better) a link to your portfolio. Indicate your editing services (substantive editing, copy editing, proofreading), where you’re
located, your rate and/or willingness to work within budgets, and your availability.

And always, find the unique thing that will make you shine. A lot of editors will have a similar background: studied literature, finished publishing school, “I love reading.” What can make you stand out?

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