Editors have a reputation for wanting to keep their work behind the scenes. Even the freedom of self-publishing authors to generously acknowledge and credit their editors’ contributions hasn’t done much to change that. Why are editors so darn sensitive about being credited in print?
You might think an acknowledgment or credit line would be universally viewed as a compliment. It’s a boost for an editor’s business, isn’t it? But many editors feel it’s inappropriate to take credit for a service they are paid to perform. And sometimes, the way the editor’s contributions are portrayed can create issues. If the editor’s role is misrepresented (say, calling someone an “editor” when their work was strictly limited to copyediting), it may tread on another contractor’s toes. Nobody wants hard feelings over something as innocent as a credit line.
Editors who work with self-publishers have additional concerns. Many editors have been burned by having their names attached to books in which the author rejected many important edits, made extensive changes after editing, or introduced additional errors after editing.
This puts the editor in a quandary. Editors encourage authors to take charge of the creative decisions for their books. But when important feedback or steps get glossed over, the book is no longer representative of the editors’ professional efforts and shouldn’t be credited as such. If the book goes on to bad reviews based on its editorial quality, the editor’s professional reputation could take a hit. Unless your editor has seen and approved the final version of the book, it’s really not fair to attach their name to the project.
An unexpected acknowledgment or listing might also prove unwelcome if it puts the editor’s name into a market or context they don’t want to be associated with. Mistakenly listing your editor as a contributor or editor creates an Amazon and internet footprint your editor may not wish to be known for.
In the end, editors want the same thing authors do: control over where and how their name is used.
What not to do
No matter how your editorial team members feel about being acknowledged, don’t list them as additional authors or contributors on Amazon or other book listings. Editing is a paid service that you purchased. No matter how instrumental your manuscript editor has been in your process, your book is your creative product, not theirs.
The editors you see listed for collections or anthologies refer to the person who has creative control over the content of the book. Don’t confuse this person with a manuscript editor who provides developmental editing or line editing or copyediting. An anthology or collection editor is creatively shaping the book; manuscript editors are providing a service supporting it.
But wouldn’t any type of editor welcome credit-line acknowledgement for their work? Not necessarily. Your manuscript editor may not want to accumulate multiple profiles across Amazon and other book sites. In an industry where Google-juice drives incoming business, independent editorial professionals want control over where and how potential clients find them.
Copyeditors and proofreaders are especially sensitive about being listed in books for which they haven’t personally overseen the final edits. Their reputations rest on the final results. If the author rejected many editorial recommendations, or if new material or extensive revisions (the infamous “just a few tweaks”) were introduced since the editor’s pass, it’s inappropriate to attach the editor’s name to the project without permission.
What to do instead
- Send a testimonial. Write something short and specific about your editing experience that your editor will want to use on their website.
- Recommend your editor to other authors. Many authors’ groups have strict rules against self-promotion, so editors can’t share their business information there. They often can’t even share articles that might be pertinent to the discussions. Help promote your editor by telling other authors who you’ve chosen for your editorial team and why.
- Offer to serve as a reference. Potential clients sometimes want to email or speak with past clients (or at least to know that you have satisfied clients willing to do so).
- If you have their permission, list your editors in the acknowledgment section of your book. Broad language such as “thanks to my editorial and production team, John Doe and Mary Smith” ensures you don’t misconstrue anyone’s role. If you want to be specific, talk with your editor about how to correctly attribute the type of work they did on your book (developmental editing, copyediting, proofreading, and so on).
Some editors like being acknowledged anywhere and everywhere, and others prefer to stay in the background. If you would like to acknowledge your editor’s contributions, it’s so simple to ask first. Just as with the editorial feedback that goes into your manuscript, good communication between everyone involved makes all the difference.
Article updated 2/4/21
If you’re looking for a leg up writing books, I offer short-term coaching on story development and writing technique and long-term coaching from concept through editing. For manuscripts that are ready for editing, I specialize in manuscript critiques, developmental editing, and line editing.
Sound like the kind of help you’ve been looking for? Let’s talk!