Earlier this year, in a conversation I had with a potential client, we were discussing the details of what they were expecting from me regarding their manuscript. When it was indicated that they were planning to self-publish their novel, I asked about the time frame and was startled to hear them say six weeks from our initial consult. They also indicated that editing was the last thing needed before they went forward with it.
This raised several red flags for me, but I’m only going to take the time to discuss two of them, as they are pertinent to editing.
First, that they wanted to publish it within six weeks of the initial consult. This makes the editor’s job harder to do. Why? Because editing is a process – the editor combs through the manuscript, making notes for the writer to help create a stronger piece. Then the manuscript is sent back to the writer, who needs to go through and incorporate the notes given. This process occurs multiple times, until the editor deems it polished and ready to send out.
Creating a tight deadline of six weeks is only setting up everyone involved for failure and that was the second red flag. This puts stress on the editor, who is working hard to give clear and concise notes on what can be improved. It also puts stress on the writer, who may begin to feel resentment towards the editor. This can cause relations between the two to grow tense and unprofessional, a situation that is undesirable. A deadline is good to have, as long as it is realistic and achievable, but it helps to be flexible.
Going back to my potential client, I was able to convey the problems with this, offered a few suggestions in the meantime and, with respect, had to turn it down. Will they come back to me later on, with a more reasonable deadline? Maybe. I’d like to think so, since I was able to give them something to work with.
In the end, I had to go with being honest and respectful of their work and my time. I’d rather lose work that way than create a hostile situation where no one wins.