There are always cancellations and project delays, and in general, it’s not that big a deal when things get moved around. I’ll generally contact my wait list to see if anyone is interested in being bumped up. But you can save yourself (not to mention your editor) the disappointment by contacting your editor as far in advance as you can, even if you’re not 100% sure of the date you’ll be ready.
3. Tell the editor about your manuscript and publishing plans.
Some editors accept any type of manuscript as a matter of course; some give scheduling preference to certain genres; some accept only manuscripts that meet specific criteria. Whatever your editor’s policy, providing a few key details upfront will help him learn more about your book.
Give the page count, if you must, but the key number here is the word count (including the front and back matter, tables, footnotes—all of it). The page number alone is too subjective to be meaningful: the same manuscript in 11pt Times New Roman will have a drastically different page count in 12pt Courier New.
This is a key piece of information. If your editor knows who your book will appeal to, he can help you lead it along that direction.
You certainly don’t have to try to cram your story into a narrowly defined box. If your story is part science fiction, part romance, and part action/adventure, with bits and pieces of other undefined genres sprinkled in, no problem. Just fill your editor in so he knows what you’re going for without having to, for example, figure out how to tactfully question you about certain explicitly erotic bits in your sci-fi action story.
While formatting happens well outside the editorial process, there are good reasons to clue your editor in to your eventual plans.
Traditionally, a document would be set in standard manuscript format and edited, then the interior created from that now standardized manuscript. Today, since more and more authors are formatting their own books, I’m always on the lookout for irregular formatting that my client may expect me to leave alone.
Some editors won’t work on a manuscript unless it’s in standard manuscript format. Personally, when I copyedit, I always change body fonts to Times New Roman and left justify the manuscript (so the right margin is ragged): I’m more confident with that font and spacing because my eye has been trained to them.
It’s best to save the layout formatting until you’re through with your editor, but if you’ve already done a significant amount, ask your editor if she’d mind leaving most of it alone. She may, but if she doesn’t, she’ll know your preferences before unknowingly overriding them.
4. Ask questions.
You should be able to answer the basics just by looking at the editor’s website—but if you have any questions or concerns that haven’t been addressed, don’t be afraid to speak up.
In my experience and from what I’ve heard from other editors, there’s nothing inherently combative about the editing process; if problems arise, it’s almost always because of a misunderstanding or miscommunication.
If you’re not sure whether something is included in the fee you’ve been quoted, ask. If you don’t know if the editor’s invoice will need to be paid immediately or within a certain period of time, check your contract, then ask. No question is a stupid question—especially if asking it now will save an exhausting and emotional episode later.
5. Let your editor know if you end up hiring someone else.
When I put together a project proposal and suggested dates for an author, I do my best to reserve that spot; if another author contacts me in the meantime, I try to give the first author ample time to confirm the project. I would never sneak someone else into my schedule if it meant cutting off an author I’ve been in good-faith negotiations with. But that second author may not always be interested in waiting a few extra days while I figure out my schedule, and there are times when I never hear from that initial author again.
I always give authors the benefit of the doubt: emergencies happen, emails go missing. But when you correspond with an editor (or anyone else) about their services, especially over multiple emails, it’s just good manners to let them know if you plan to move your plans in a new direction.