Tuesday, February 6, 2024

Giving an Editor Credit or Not: What Should You Do?

I've had many conversations over the years about whether an editor should be credited or acknowledged in a book. It has led to some great discussions, mostly with newer editors who want to know how to navigate the issue, but occasionally with authors too. After another of these discussions with colleagues a while back, I came across this article and this one and bookmarked them because I found them to be a good overview of the topic. 

The gist is this: while it's lovely you want to credit your editor in your book, consider asking them for their preference, first. If your editor says, “No, thank you” and you’re confused by this, then below are some reasons your editor may politely decline being acknowledged in your book.

Editors' reputations rely on how their work is viewed by the public, and many people don't understand the scope of different types of editing. For instance, if you worked with a developmental editor to nail down the structure and plot of your story but didn't hire a copy editor or proofreader to clean up the grammar and spelling, you could accidentally create the impression that the editor you credited in your acknowledgments didn't do their job cleaning up the text. But it’s not a developmental editor's job to clean up the text...and because readers don't know that, they may blame the developmental editor unfairly for any typos.

Or let's say you hired a copy editor or proofreader to clean up the manuscript, but then before publishing, you added some last-minute text...including that unfortunate typo right on the first page that Word's spellcheck didn't catch. This actually happened to me with a book that got a lot of visibility, and several people thought it was funny to tease me for that one typo in a piece of writing I never even saw before the book was published. It’s not a big deal at the end of the day, but based on some people’s reactions, you’d think it was the Great Typo Debacle of 2023. 

(And just a note to editors who work on high-visibility projects: get ready to develop thick skin. There’s something about the internet that causes people to poke at minor things. In my case, I was touched that the client was happy with my work and came to my defense, even though he didn’t have to.) 

Here’s another thing to consider: everyone involved in the production of a book—author, editors, proofreader, layout person, cover designer, your cat walking across the keyboard—is human. (Okay, not that last one. 🐈) A mistake can be introduced at any point in the process, and one or two will absolutely slip through. There is no such thing as perfection...but we copy editors and proofreaders will do our utmost to get your work as close to perfection (grammar- and punctuation-wise) as we can. In our industry, there is an acceptable error rate (and depending on who you ask, you might get a different answer), but even the best editors will miss a few things here and there, and we can't control anything that happens to the file after we've handed it off.

At the end of the day, all decisions regarding the book, whether it be research, creative direction, art placement, adding text at the last minute, or accepting/rejecting an editor's suggested changes (and they are suggestions based on our expertise, but suggestions all the same) are up to the author. 

So what should you do if you’re happy with your editor’s work and you’d like to acknowledge them? Simply ask them if they are okay with acknowledgment, and if they say yes, ask them how they'd like to be acknowledged. If your editor chooses not to be credited for editorial work, please don't be offended or worried about it. Other ways to support your editor include:
  • recommending their services to other authors
  • writing a testimonial
  • mentioning them generally in the acknowledgments along with anyone else who helped you
I'm always touched when an author wants to give me some sort of credit, but I am fine with staying in the background too. (Though getting a shoutout from a client during his band's concert was REALLY sweet, I have to admit! 😊) These days I usually opt for a general mention in the acknowledgements. I feel it's my job to support my authors' work and not take any more credit than helping them polish it up, and I try to make that very clear when people ask me about editing anyone's book. Any credit truly should go to the author for the content itself, so if you think you've read a great book, please consider leaving a five-star review for that author and/or reaching out to them (via their newsletter, website, or social media) and letting them know how much you enjoyed it. Authors deserve (and thrive on) that feedback. 


To all of the authors who have so sweetly supported me in my journey as an editor by giving a referral to your friends or colleagues, writing a testimonial, or thanking me in the acknowledgments, thank you! I really like you, too! 😃

PS: Thanks to the editor who helped me make this a better article than the first draft had been. You rock!

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