Misc. Helpful Advice

Get the Most from Your Editor by Being a Good Client

Get the Most from Your Editor by Being a Good Client

Showing your writing to a stranger for editing is nerve wracking for most people. Maybe all people. So is going to the dentist. In both instances, you’re vulnerable and you’re paying money for something that isn’t entirely pleasant.

Let me stretch the analogy just a bit to point out that patients get the most out of their dentist when they cooperate. They answer questions honestly (e.g., How often do you floss?), they continue the work on their own (e.g., by doing the above-mentioned flossing), they ask questions (e.g., How long will this temporary last?), and they recognize the dentist is cleaning their teeth because it’s good for the teeth, not because they have fun making people’s gums bleed.

The same is true with your manuscript. You’ll get the most out of your editor by cooperating, actively working with this stranger so you’re happy with the results.

Be Honest with Your Editor

An editor can only do such much, so tell the editor about anything you want them to focus on. An editor will comment on characterization, but that doesn’t mean they’ll comment on a specific character or on a specific aspect of your characters. If you’re worried your love interest is boring, tell the editor that when you give them the manuscript. If you’re nervous the ending of your whodunit is obvious, direct your editor to evaluate it.

And tell your editor if there’s something you don’t want commented on. If you’re writing a book based on your faith and don’t want the editor to pick apart your logic, tell them so.

Little story. I once had a client give what he called an erotic novel, but the sex was just boring as anything. I spent time carefully explaining just why it was boring and why having boring sex in an erotic novel was a problem. About two-thirds through the book, I realized the book was actually a parable about why having sex is a bad thing and that the sex was supposed to be boring. I had to go back and take out hours of work and re-evaluate everything. A little honesty from the client would have saved me hours of work and allowed me to do a better job.

There’s no need for a checklist. Editors know to look at grammar and style and plot and so on. But if you’ve got specific concerns, let us know!

Continue the Work on Your Own

Writing is a life-long process of learning and criticism and trying again and revising and rewriting and more feedback and trying again forever in an endless cycle. Getting better at writing means doing more writing. Only by writing do we learn how to write.

Indeed, I’m not sure an editor can “teach” a writer anything. Certainly, editors cannot tell authors how to change things to be “correct” (except for grammar). We can only point to things and say that we think they are great or need to be improved and try to explain why. If an editor actually goes in there and tries to fix such things, they become a co-author.

Ask Questions

An editing job ends when the client is satisfied, not just when the manuscript comes back with its edits and comments. If a client isn’t sure what a comment means, they should (and they are expected to by any reputable business) ask the editor to explain.

All questions about the manuscript are welcome. Perhaps something the editor said contradicts what you heard in a creative writing class and you want their opinion. A problem with writing is that it involves thousands of things, and fictional writing is so much a matter of taste. I recently had a client say they’d been told “backstory is the kiss of death.” Several of my favorite (and highly successful) novels open with backstory.

Good questions I’ve been asked include whether a character who worked as a poet had to recite some of their poetry to give them credibility. (I said I didn’t see the need.) Another asked me to elaborate on why I said all the characters sounded the same when they talked. (I pointed out more instances of when different characters used the same phrases, showed the same level of education, and used similar imagery.) Another great question was why I liked a minor character so much. (She had a great sense of humor, and she was never cruel.)

I’ll tell you the truth. Sometimes writing comments on manuscripts feels a lot like talking to yourself in an empty room. A little Q&A conversation makes for a lovely change of pace.

Sorry About the Bleeding Gums

I have a friend who says she loves getting criticism. I know she’s lying. She might value it, might appreciate it, but love getting it? No way.

Yet when you hire an editor it’s criticism you’re paying for. If an editor doesn’t say something negative (or at least not so positive) at some point in the process, they’re just not doing their job.

But one thing can help you read through an edit, even a very strict one, with a minimum of pain.

Always bear in mind that being an editor takes quite a bit of dedication, and it’s not the sort of job that’s going to appeal to someone who doesn’t like authors. I personally have enormous respect for anyone who takes the time needed to write either fiction or nonfiction. I spend my days reading, and I enjoy it.

It can be tempting to think the editor is sneering at you or is getting tired of your misuse of the semi-colon. It’s hard not to wince they tell you your main character isn’t convincing or not to feel pecked at when a comment seems a little short.

But trust me, nobody I know who edits enjoys the knowledge that we might hurt feelings. We work under deadlines, but we get nothing from being glib. And editors are paid to fix grammar, or we’re pretty useless as a species.

What’s most important here is not hurt feelings but what happens when a client no longer feels they can trust their editor. How can anyone get anything of value from someone they feel is making fun of them? If you’re starting to hear sarcasm when you read your editor’s comments, take a break and re-set yourself. When you’re feeling defensive, even “Do you mean for this period to be here?” can sound like some snipe from a snob.

And if, after that, you still think a comment is offensive, write to the editor and ask what’s going on. Learning how to edit is also a life-long process of learning and criticism and trying again and revising and rewriting and more feedback and trying again forever in an endless cycle.


Your turn! In what ways do you think you can be a better client for your editor?

Deciding Where to Publish Your Scientific Article

You and your colleagues have spent months, maybe even years, conducting experiments to either prove or disprove your hypothesis. You spend weeks writing up the results into a publication with your Introduction, Materials and Methods, Results, and Discussion. Then you spend more time self-editing, re-writing, having your collaborators read and edit. You may have even employed a professional academic editor. Finally ready to submit your manuscript for publication.

Throughout this process, it is important that you take time to consider where it is best to publish this research manuscript.

Most research results are published in academic journals. An academic journal is a peer-reviewed periodical that presents articles relating to a particular academic discipline or methodology. Academic journals serve as forums for the introduction and scrutiny of new research and the critique of existing research. To maximize your chances of impact, it is important to pick the right one.

Here are five things to consider when deciding where to publish your manuscript:

1) Do you want to target specific readers?

Thousands of journals have monthly or quarterly publication schedules. Some are for specific disciplines and others are for general, but highly noteworthy, science. Learn what journals your preferred audience looks to for important publications. Do the people that you want to reach tend to reference certain journals? You will want to publish in journals that will engage those in your field of science because this may increase your chances at gaining new funding, setting up collaborations, or finding that new career position.

2) Will the impact factor of the journal have an effect on your career?

Just for review, the impact factor of an academic journal is a measure reflecting the average number of citations to recent articles published in the journal. This number helps readers determine the relative importance of a journal within its field. Journals with higher impact factor numbers are deemed to be more important than those with lower ones.

In some academic and professional circles, the more publications you have with a high impact factor, the better your chance of promotion.

3) Journal standards and efficiency with respect to the quality and timeliness of publications

The quality of the journal content is critical. When we speak about quality content, we mean both visual and language aspects. Items to consider when reviewing the visual quality include text format and sharpness of images. Language quality includes ease of reading and correct grammar. If you read articles in the journal and find that the grammar is subpar, consider selecting an alternate journal.

Good science and writing takes time and each scientist wants to be the first to publish new findings and ideas. One of the keys to success is publication of your article as soon as your work is completed. You want to publish in a journal that people look to for current scientific topics.

To have timely publication of your data, make sure the journal is organized in overseeing the article review process. Efficient journals can have your article reviewed in three months or less, whereas inefficient journals may require you to be relentless in your efforts acquiring deals with them. It is important that the journal you select can publish the article as quickly as possible after acceptance of your article.


The journal you choose reflects on your skill and status as a scientist. If you select a journal that allows poor grammar, takes months to finally review and consider your work, has low quality text and graphics, and is publishing articles on topics that are no longer relevant, then this has a negative impact on your work, possible promotions, and future funding status.

4) Cost of publishing

Many journals do require a per-page charge and even have more fees for color images (graphs, photos, etc.). Part of your decision as to where you will publish your research may depend on cost related issues. Can you afford to publish in a particular journal of interest? Unfortunately, this is the question you must ask if you are publishing in journals that charge for publication.

5) Financial stability and leadership of the journal

At first thought, the financial stability and leadership of the journal do not seem to be of much importance. However, journal publication, like most other areas of activity, is a competitive business. If the journal is not financially stable, it may go out of business, lose coverage (both online and in libraries), and possibly become inaccessible thereby making your article difficult to access.

The leadership of the journal includes the editors and management. If the editors are not devoted to turning out a quality product then people may lose interest in reading articles in that journal. If the management does not ensure timely editorial reviews of manuscripts and rapid publication of those accepted, readership declines and the number of people who may read your work could drop precipitously.

So after you have taken the time to complete excellent research, carry out numerous document edits and revisions, and spend considerable time formatting data, the journal you choose needs to reflect your efforts and those of your research collaborators.
What factors do you feel are most important in deciding where to publish your manuscript?

Four Keys to Writing the Best Elevator Speech

Every entrepreneur, sales person, policy-maker, and project manager knows the importance of having a well-written elevator speech. This elevator speech has two major components. First, this speech, also known as an elevator pitch, is a short summary used to describe a person, profession, product, service, organization, or event. Often, the second component is the most important part of the elevator speech since it discusses the monetary value or need relating to the topic. Over time, the elevator speech was refined to require no more than thirty seconds to two minutes for delivery.

Some people confuse the elevator speech with a sales pitch. A sales pitch has props (the product or item being sold) and can take up to 30 minutes to deliver. The elevator speech is all about using a brief amount of conversation time to deliver an interesting idea that will add value to the business of the person with whom you are speaking. It is in those few seconds that you want to get the person hooked on your idea so that you can continue the conversation, exchange business cards, or schedule a meeting.

Elevator Pitch
Here are four keys for writing success related to your Elevator Speech:

  1. Keep it Simple.

Select each word carefully. Time with your thesaurus is critical for success in writing your elevator speech. Choose words that are well known. The elevator speech is not the time to try to wow the listener with big words. You want to write a speech that everyone with an eighth grade education or higher can understand. Realistically you are pitching to people who have a higher level of education but in this quick delivery, you may not have their full attention so you want something that they can listen to, understand, and get excited about without deep thought.

  1. Keep it Flexible.

Have three to five elevator speeches prepared. You may need one that speaks to the technical level of the project, idea, or product. This version is best delivered to people with a higher appreciation of technology. In my experience, you need the following types of speeches ready: 1) technical, 2) earnings/income potential related, 3) amount of time it will take to deliver on the concept or product, 4) who you need on the team to help make this idea a success, and finally, 5) what resources you need. Once you have delivered the speech and captured your targets attention, you need to be ready to speak with others who will be brought into the conversation and you need to seize their attention quickly.

  1. Have it written out so you can practice the delivery.

Use a 3 x 5 index card and have your speech typed out and ready for you to review and practice for delivery. You may be standing in line at a coffee shop and see a person that you want to walk up to and deliver your elevator speech. Having a 3 x 5 card with your speech written out lets you have a quick review and gets you prepared for your delivery. In addition, it is critical that you practice the delivery aloud.

  1. Grammar matters, but Flow is critical.

Grammar is important but our speech patterns can sometimes be different from what we write on paper. Do not focus on the comma or semicolon in writing out your elevator speech. Most importantly you need to make sure it is easy to say/recite and that you are completely comfortable sharing your idea. One additional idea is to have a friend or family member deliver your elevator speech. If they have trouble with the delivery, your flow is not yet right.

Follow these four keys and you will be able to have success in delivering your elevator speech. When in doubt, seek professional help from speechwriters, editors, others because a great elevator speech might help you get your idea across and lead to your next promotion.