Have I ever actually cried while editing a manuscript? Yes. While it’s rare for me to be so frustrated that I start crying, it has happened.
And it’s time I told you what pushes an editor over the edge. No one wants to pay good money to a professional editor, only to leave her in a puddle of her own tears.
It’s bad enough to quote someone in your book and just leave the citations up to your editor (gee, thanks), but to flat out use someone else’s work as your own without ever giving him or her credit is low. It means I can’t trust you now. If I figure out halfway through that you’ve been plagiarizing, I'll feel like I have to go back through the manuscript again.
2. Not reading your work after writing it.
Common sense says, “You have written something, so you must go back and read it a few more times to make sure it’s correct.”
Ignorance says, “Nah, you good, boo.”
I’ve worked on these books, and let me tell you, they’re a nightmare. Don’t just vomit out words and leave the mess for the editor to clean up.
3. Coming off as racist or offensive to other religions.
Now before you throw a bunch of famous books at me, let me explain. This rule is a moot point if you're writing a novel—a fictional book with fictional characters, who could easily be racist or ignorant. Characters can be many things, but it doesn’t mean that’s what the author believes. I really more so see this in nonfiction, like memoirs. We all have our opinions, and I’m grateful we live in a country where we can offer them to others. But it doesn’t mean you spew hate from your mind onto paper. Show respect, and your readers will respect you. Nothing is more uncomfortable than an editor explaining why your words are racist or ignorant. Please don't make me do that.
4. Destroying the formatting.
This is it. This is a big one for me. From hard returns to hidden hyperlinks to unfixable bulleted lists, formatting takes the longest to correct. I wish so badly that authors would simply send me a squeaky-clean manuscript and not touch any formatting buttons. Just leave it alone! Fixing formatting can take longer than editing the actual manuscript sometimes.
5. Unintelligible content.
If I have to sit there and guess what the heck you are saying on every other sentence, you better believe I’m going to be reaching for the tissues while I lie in the fetal position. I swear on my life this was an actual sentence from an actual book that I had to edit (and the whole thing was unintelligible): “I know that I am my own Santa, because I am the creator of my own world.” Please don’t write like a dolt.
6. Changing all of my edits.
Why, why did you hire me to edit your book if you’re just going to put everything back the way it was? Also along this line: adding 10,000 words when we’re almost done with the edits.
7. USING ALL CAPS LIKE SOME SORT OF PSYCHOPATH.
Do you have any idea how much time it takes to switch them all back to normal? If you want to emphasize something, use italics—sparingly.
8. Writing to be vindictive or cathartic.
Boy, I sure am picking on memoirists today. I’m not here to read your journal. And no reader wants that unless you’re Anne Frank. I know that many memoirs start out as journals, but they shouldn’t stay that way. And I’m certainly not interested in hearing how rude Cindy was to you in college. Don’t be that person.
9. Writing atrocious garbage.
You really want to make me cry? It’s one thing to write something unintelligible so that I have to decode your meaning—but when the whole book is utter nonsense, I will most likely reject the project and suggest some writing classes or coaching.
10. Sending your book off to someone else after we’ve finalized edits.
You would think this would be easy as pie to understand, but once we’ve finished, it needs to go to the formatter for print. Do not send off your book to someone else who will wreck my work. I realize your aunt volunteered for an English class once, but it doesn't mean she's a copyeditor.
“I had worked with a client on content who rejected every single edit I suggested and then had her teenager edit everything. I was speechless.” —Mindy, Sincerely Me
Maybe I was a little too harsh with these, but here’s the deal, folks: if you’re paying me to edit your book, then let’s have a strong, enjoyable relationship together.
An expert editor, seasoned writer, and author-centric coach, Shayla Eaton works one-on-one with self-published authors, having edited three hundred books. She is the president of Curiouser Editing, where she offers top-notch publishing guidance for authors and their books.