An author-editor relationship can be immensely rewarding or may take some communication and patience to work things out. Authors can be like new parents - fawning over their precious baby manuscript with big dreams for its maturity. Sometimes, when an editor gets involved, it can feel like a scary-movie nanny coming in to take over your baby and steal your life.
It can be hard to let someone else hold the baby, nourish the baby, and put the baby in an outfit that may not be to your liking. Sometimes the editor/nanny makes the author/parent feel so comfortable that they are able to actually go the grocery story or get some sleep. But other times, the author/parent can be biting their fingernails, constantly on edge, and anxiety-ridden about how well the editor/nanny will care for their little one. After all, so much time, patience, love, and care has gone into a baby manuscript that it can be hard to let go.
But you can allay some of these fears with a little background work. All editors are not created equally. There are different personalities, specialties, and interests. Finding the right editor for you takes a little research. There are great resources out there to help you locate editors for your work. You can search on the Editorial Freelancers Association (www.the-efa.org) by keyword, location, or geography. The members list their specialties and link to websites and resumes. You can also find editing support on the National Association of Independent Writers and Editors site. Or just log in your LinkedIn account and search for editors, either in your area or nationally.
Make a list of your top 5 picks - you may select someone local that you can meet with in person - or you may want someone who has experience editing for large or indie publishers or you may just like the look of the editors write-up and website. Whatever your reasons, take time to research their work with a specific eye toward their editing philosophy and their interests. The editor should match your manuscript - if you are writing a young adult novel, an editor with a passion for reading YA or, let's say, a background in youth mentoring or teaching, may be a great fit for your book. If you have a historical or literary novel, you may look for someone with a scholarly background (even non-fiction).
You can start with an email introduction, but ultimately, set up a phone call. There's nothing like a real conversation to test the waters and see if you and your editor will get along - personally and professionally. It's just like hiring that new nanny - have a conversation about your baby and see how they react. If their questions or comments give you a squirrely feeling, trust your gut and move on the next candidate. Eventually, the stars will align and you'll find the person that is will dress your baby in funny t-shirts while also feeding them vegetables designed as brownies. The perfect mix of support, expertise, and constructive feedback. Your editor/nanny should help your little one grow and mature and be the best it can be.
And as with the best nannies, while your baby may love them, ultimately, they belong to you. In the end all they can do is nudge the baby along. It's up to you to let it grow.