How should you credit your editor? Advice from a former publisher

Celeste_Holm_and_Oscar_from_Gentleman's_Agreement_trailerShould your editor be credited as a contributor to your book? What about your proof reader, copy editor? And where should you credit them?

Long ago, I ran an editorial department in a small publisher, so I thought it might help to give some guidelines.

Here’s my post about front matter, which explains all the fiddly stuff like title pages, half-titles, contents pages and so on. Today, I’ll concentrate on those editorial people you’d like to thank. And indeed, whether they would be better not mentioned at all.

Collections

If the book is a collection of curated material, eg short stories, poems or essays, it’s usual to credit the person who put it all together. Put it on the main title page, the cover and the spine – eg ‘edited by Roz Morris’. That would also go in the ‘main contributor’ section of the book’s official listing on KDP, Smashwords, CreateSpace, Ingram etc.

Non-fiction with many contributors

The rules are the same as for a collection. When I was a publisher, I had a number of titles that I conceptualised, outlined, found contributors for, edited and shaped. Individual authors were credited in their own sections, but I was the guiding force behind the work. So my name went on the cover, spine and title page.

Does it seem like I’m labouring this? That’s because I want to make the point about who is in charge of the final book.

Let’s talk about editors of novels, memoirs and single-author non-fiction.

Novels, memoirs and non-fiction – credit the editor or not?
No.

Some indies put the editor in the front credits along with the author, or as an additional contributor. Do not do this.

If you’d like to mention them as a significant influence or supporter, a better place is the dedication or acknowledgements, according to how strongly you feel about them, obviously. The same goes for your proof reader or copy editor. But … and it’s a very big but.

Like this: BUT.

Please ask them first. Many editors have a policy that they do not want to be mentioned.

Now that might seem harsh. And they would surely find the exposure helpful, wouldn’t they? A mention in the credits would surely do them nothing but good.

Well no; it’s not as simple as that. The developmental editor, copy editor and proof reader are merely giving guidance. The final text of the book is down to you, the author.

This especially holds for developmental editors, who might give extensive notes for reworking. Some books leave my desk needing considerable revising, and I might not see them again. That’s fine; that’s my role. But I shouldn’t be credited in the published book if I didn’t see the final version. I’ve had editing clients who have added reams of extra material they didn’t let me see – and then wanted to publish the book with my credit. This is an extreme example, and most writers wouldn’t do that, but that credit might harm my reputation.

Equally, I see a lot of authors whose editors are very happy to be namechecked, and their supportive partnership warms everyone’s creative cockles. The bottom line is this: please ask.

Do we need a group hug? Here’s a post about why your editor admires you.

If the editor is happy to be named, where’s the best place?

The dedication before the book begins
Remember the reader has limited interest in your cheerleaders at this stage. Also remember, they have a blipvert attention span for your sample, and you should be getting them ensnared in the guts of your book.

If you want to explain at greater length what everyone did, the place for that is in ….

A longer acknowledgements section at the back
As the reader takes leave of you and your words, they’ll be happy to let you list your influences and influential people.

And check how your various folks would like to be described. A developmental editor from the book’s formative years might be described as ‘guidance and support’. Someone who had more direct control over the final book might be named by role – for instance your copy editor and proof reader.

But don’t feel obliged to mention us. It’s not compulsory. The bulk of the work, by far, was yours. Not ours.

Thoughts, theories? Have you named editors in your published books, and how did you handle it? Editors, copy editors, proof readers – what do you think?

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  1. #1 by Peter Snell on September 13, 2015 - 11:27 am

    And should you credit a long-suffering, supportive spouse? If so should you also credit your cleaner who has released you from everyday drudger to toil over your book? what about the teacher who turned you on to words? Where to stop and draw the line is surely the point to learn.

    • #2 by Roz Morris @Roz_Morris on September 13, 2015 - 11:45 am

      Ha ha, Peter. I ALWAYS credit my spouse. But he’s also my critical scourge so he has professional input too.

  2. #3 by Rachel Daven Skinner on September 13, 2015 - 4:53 pm

    I used to work for a fiction small press who wouldn’t allow the author to mention any freelance or in-house person by name in their acknowledgment section. I always found it rather odd, and it was especially irksome when I’d see a lovely line of thanks in the final manuscript that I knew would be changed to something generic in production. On the flip side, I’ve had indies misspell my name or refer to me generically as “editor” when I’d much prefer they specify my editorial role so as to make it clear what elements I did *not* have a say in. I recently added a bit to my contract to specify wishes about being mentioned in acknowledgments. It remains to be seen whether authors will recall it by the time the project is wrapping up!

    • #4 by Roz Morris @Roz_Morris on September 13, 2015 - 9:33 pm

      Hi Rachel
      good to hear your perspective. Yes, the traditional publishing world has a very different attitude to credits. The editorial staff are largely invisible unless the author writes an acknowledgement, but I’d never heard of a small press editing them out completely. Indies seem to be the complete opposite – which if course is disconcerting if they don’t realise what they’re implying. That’s a smart idea to add a clause to your contract about acknowledgements – but as you say, you’d probably have to point forcibly to it!

  3. #5 by victoryrock on September 13, 2015 - 10:16 pm

    Thank you so much for posting this… I’m right between the point of having written my dedication (wherein I thank my editor(s)) and getting ready to upload my manuscript. Good timing! I am emailing them to ask their permission now.

    • #6 by Roz Morris @Roz_Morris on September 14, 2015 - 8:07 am

      I’m sure they’ll appreciate that. Would you come back and tell us what the answer was? And good luck with your book.

      • #7 by victoryrock on September 16, 2015 - 12:07 am

        I’m happy to report that they all said they’d be honoured. Full disclosure – they are all writing friends as well as colleagues, and all of their input was voluntary. It’s the first novel that I’ve taken this far. So thanks!

  4. #8 by Cassie on September 14, 2015 - 1:16 am

    Reblogged this on My Etch-A-Sketch Life and commented:
    Great post!
    To credit or not to credit. It’s always best to ask.

  5. #9 by Sam on September 14, 2015 - 7:27 am

    Great blog post. It’s interesting to know the editor’s point of view in this.

  6. #11 by The Story Reading Ape on September 14, 2015 - 9:37 am

    Reblogged this on Chris The Story Reading Ape's Blog and commented:
    Thank you for sharing this great advice Roz😀

    • #12 by Roz Morris @Roz_Morris on September 14, 2015 - 1:35 pm

      Thanks for sharing it with your clan, Chris!

      • #13 by The Story Reading Ape on September 14, 2015 - 1:54 pm

        Welcome Roz – I’ve seen so many variations, I was beginning to wonder what the correct format and form was Roz😀

  7. #14 by Zoe Ambler on September 14, 2015 - 10:54 am

    Reblogged this on Zoe Ambler – Author and commented:
    Personally, I like crediting anyone who has a hand in the final product. Work is work, and greatly appreciated.

    • #15 by Roz Morris @Roz_Morris on September 14, 2015 - 1:34 pm

      We certainly enjoy the vote of appreciation, Zoe. But you have to be careful about what the credit implies because it’s someone’s livelihood and reputation that’s at stake. I’m seeing quite a lot of horror stories from editors in response to this post, particularly on Twitter.

  8. #16 by drewdog2060drewdog2060 on September 14, 2015 - 12:37 pm

    Thanks for this informative and interesting post. I named the gentleman who proof read my last 2 collections of poetry in the acknowledgements, together with the designer of both book covers. Kevin

    • #17 by Roz Morris @Roz_Morris on September 14, 2015 - 1:39 pm

      Hi Kevin!
      When I originally wrote the post I was going to include book covers, but with all the detail it got too long. I think the situation is much more certain with covers. Usually the reader sees the final work, as it left the cover artist’s desk. This isn’t the case with edited manuscripts.
      However, you might be safer crediting the proof reading, as that’s a final stage too. Provided you didn’t change anything afterwards….

  9. #18 by Courtney M. Wendleton on September 14, 2015 - 1:52 pm

    Reblogged this on Books and More.

  10. #19 by Carol Riggs on September 14, 2015 - 4:36 pm

    It figures I would have committed some unknown faux pas, sigh. I did credit any and all of my editors in my acknowledgements (back of my debut book). And I didn’t know I was supposed to ask them. It makes sense for the reasons you suggest, though–especially if the book has changed considerably after they’ve had their eyeballs on it.

  11. #20 by Alexander M Zoltai on January 21, 2016 - 4:49 pm

    Reblogged this on Notes from An Alien and commented:
    Yesterday was RozFest here on my blog🙂

    Today is a re-blog from Ms. Morris with info. I’ve never seen before; and, believe me, I’m always out there looking for info. for this blog…

  1. Top Picks Thursday 09-24-2015 | The Author Chronicles

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