How should you acknowledge your editor in your book?

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 sometimes 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 some editors feel it’s inappropriate to take credit for a service they are paid to perform.

Sometimes the way an editor’s role is described can create issues. Misrepresenting the scope of an editor’s work (say, crediting someone as an “editor” when their work was strictly limited to copyediting or proofreading) could portray their involvement in a false light or even tread on another editor’s toes. Nobody wants hard feelings over something as innocent as a credit line.

When edits are heavily rejected

Editors who work with indie authors have other concerns. Many editors feel burned by having their names attached to books for which the author rejected key edits, made extensive changes after editing, or introduced copious additional errors after editing.

This puts the editor in a quandary. Editors always 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 work. It wouldn’t be fair to credit it as such. If such a book goes on to negative reviews based on its editorial quality, the editor’s professional reputation could take a hit.

Copyeditors and proofreaders are especially sensitive about being credited for work on books in which the author has continued to make changes after 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 checking with them first.

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. In an industry where Google-juice drives incoming business, independent editorial professionals want control over where and how potential clients find them. In the end, editors want the same thing authors do: control over where and how their name is used.

Don’t list manuscript editors in the metadata

No matter how your editorial team members feel about being acknowledged, don’t list them as editors, additional authors, or contributors on retail pages such as Amazon. The editors you see listed there refer to people with creative control over the content of the book.

Don’t confuse editors listed on the cover or retail page of a book with manuscript editors. An anthology or collection editor creatively shapes and directs the book, securing and approving content and overseeing the entire project. Manuscript editors provide a paid service to develop and polish the text.

Editing is a paid service that you purchased. Credit lines are for creators. No matter how instrumental your manuscript editor has been in your process, your book is your creative product, not theirs.

How to credit your editor

When you want to acknowledge your editor’s contributions, there are many wonderful ways to do so—and it’s always a pleasure to be acknowledged!

  • Recommend your editor to other authors. Many authors’ groups have strict rules against self-promotion, so editors can’t share their business information there. Sometimes they can’t even share articles that might be pertinent to the discussions. One of the most helpful ways you can thank your editor is to recommend their work in writers’ groups and to other authors.
  • Mention your entire publishing team in the acknowledgments section inside your book. It’s great to share the credit for the whole team, and as an editor, I warmly welcome the opportunity to be mentioned there. Broad language such as “thanks to my editorial and production team, John Doe and Mary Smith” ensures you won’t misconstrue anyone’s role. If you want to be specific, check with your editor about how to correctly attribute the type of work they did on your book (editor, developmental editor, coach, copyeditor, proofreader, and so on).
  • Send a testimonial. Write something short and specific about your editing experience that your editor will want to use on their website.
  • 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).

Some editors like being acknowledged anywhere and everywhere, and others prefer to stay in the background. It’s so simple to ask first, when you’re writing your acknowledgements. Just as during your edit itself, good communication makes all the difference.

Article updated 8/23

Lisa Poisso, Editor and Book Coach

Understanding how stories work changes everything. I’ll show you how to back up your creative instincts so your ideas hit home. It’s time to accelerate your journey from aspiring writer to emerging author. 

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