Forums Club Ed Editors’ Forum Advice to the AU post-edit

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    • #109427
      Jessie Stratton
      Participant

      Hello, all! I just finished up Jennifer’s Advanced DE class and am gearing up to send my first full DE to a client. He’s a beginning author and I’ve had to suggest major plot changes and rewrites to his book. When I let him know this morning that I planned to send everything back in the next week or so, he responded so enthusiastically that it made me feel a little guilty (given that I know he will have to redo a lot). This project did not involve a contract–I said I would do it for free to get experience. That being said, does anyone have advice on how to advise him moving forward? I will be attaching the edited ms and Revision Letter in my email, but I’d like to say something that would sort of “warn” that it may not be what he expects and give good advice for how to move forward. He’s a friend from university. Does something like “Take a couple of weeks to read over everything before you start revising” seem ok? Since I’m not a novelist, I’m just not sure on what the best approach is for receiving feedback and tackling suggestions (I know that may vary from AU to AU), but I also don’t want him to be calling me up every five minutes if he has a question. Thank you!

    • #109494
      Jennifer Lawler
      Keymaster

      Jessie, I always include a paragraph along the lines of, “Take a few days to read over everything and think about it. Some of my suggestions will resonate and some won’t, so take what you can use and ignore the rest. But do sit with everything for a while before making any decisions. Then let me know if you have any questions about the edit.” I try to be specific that I will answer questions about “the edit” (e.g., “What did you mean by . . . “) but not imply that I am available throughout the revision process; if the author wants to brainstorm and further consult with me, that comes at an additional cost. So I try not to use any language that would invite them to think this is a free service.

      Since I typically work from a project quote that explains what they can expect, I will refer to that as needed (I often offer an hour of phone coaching as they revise, so I’ll remind them of that: “When you’ve had a chance to digest everything, get in touch and we’ll set up the phone call, but remember we need to do it within thirty days.”).

      The “sit with” caution does tend to prevent authors from firing off emails the moment they get the feedback. Authors are almost always going to feel that they disagree with anything other than “it’s perfect!” because they know a lot of work is involved in revision and they’re already sick of the ms. But reminding them not to make any decisions right away does allow them to cool off from their immediate reaction and then they will start to see that things you’ve said make sense. And the reminder that it’s okay not to take my advice gives the control back where it belongs–to the author.

      If I think the author may be surprised at the edit (they have given indications that they think the story is closer to done than it is) I will say something in my cover email that “this may look like a lot of work, but dev problems are interconnected, so addressing one issue, such as Marguerite’s goals, will help address other issues, such as the central conflict. By strengthening these areas, you’ll have a story that really stands out–all the promise is there, it just requires some refining.”

      I mean, it will be a lot of work but I’m also trying to get them interested in the process and motivated to do it.

      • #109495
        Jessie Stratton
        Participant

        Jennifer, that’s perfect! Thank you. Yes, it’s been a bit tricky since I’ve had this ms for a while and basically want a break from it, haha. Because the AU and I never set up a formal contract (I told his partner that I could use the experience), we’ve never talked about moving forward from the DE. I’ve learned a lot from taking this on and know that in the future I would be more explicit when discussing rounds, etc. As it is, I’m a bit nervous because I want to say that any more revision would come at a price (because it’s taken so much time and effort to complete this) but I don’t want it to seem like I’m demanding payment or won’t help him anymore. Any advice on that front? It would be completely different if I’d promised him, for example, two rounds of editing since that’s straightforward. This is just me learning a lesson on how to communicate with AUs from here on out!

      • #109930
        Jennifer Lawler
        Keymaster

        Since you’re doing it for free/the experience, I don’t think you owe any explanation other than, “Okay, I’ve finished the edit. Here it is.”

        If he has questions, etc, though, this might be valuable feedback for you about the aspects of the edit that worked best and so on. So if he has them you might say something like, “Right now, I have other obligations [I always have “other obligations”–it’s a very useful phrase] and can’t continue to work for free but I would be happy to have a quick phone call with you [“one-hour call”; “half an hour on Zoom”–whatever suits you] to discuss your feedback on the edit and to answer any questions you may have about it or about the process moving forward.” Putting things in clearly defined containers helps a lot.

        If he says something nice, ask, “May I use that as a testimonial?”

        Don’t forget, you’ve done a monster amount of work for this person for free. You’ve done him a favor, not the other way around.

        Setting and holding boundaries is one of the biggest challenges we have to deal with.

      • #110390
        Jessie Stratton
        Participant

        Jennifer, this was super helpful advice. Thank you so much. I think he’ll definitely have questions, so I’ll probably give one or two hours to him just because I don’t want him to struggle through having his first-ever edit come back and not being sure on what to do. Thanks again!

    • #125326
      Nancy Disenhaus
      Participant

      Jennifer and Jessie, thank you both so much for all the useful questions and answers. So glad I discovered this thread. Jessie, I too am at the start of my dev ed path and just past the “I’ll work endless hours for just the experience” stage. I am just finishing a wonderful project that I am doing for an indie small publisher for an unspecified fee–I am so hoping the owner who hired me will find my invoice in the ballpark. So that’s the first rule I have broken. The next rule I broke is that, instead of doing the DE letter at the end of my weeks of reading and thinking, the author told me the publisher had said he hoped for an advance review copy in June–this was in May, and he meant this June!–so the author and I did a totally unconventional process of working in tandem, with daily messages back and forth with feedback and suggestions from me (she was already revising based on my ms eval earlier), new material and revisions coming my way. . . crazy, I know. The writing style is gorgeous and I didn’t want any other CE to mess with it, so I did the CE myself and we are now breaking Rule #3, going through my AU queries (she is going through most of the Track Changes herself) via Zoom, with me putting in her final decisions right at the moment we discuss them and she decides. Good thing I am not in this for the big bucks–but I was an English teacher in rural Vermont, so long hours for little pay seems to be my modus operandi– that was not exactly a career path based on making money either. Anyway, I have learned so much and had the thrill of being present at the creation, so to speak, and I now have a new friend I haven’t met yet–and definitely a great testimonial to come. Maybe someday I’ll even make money at this craft.

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