Formatting for print · self-publishing

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.


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?

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?


30 thoughts on “How should you credit your editor? Advice from a former publisher

  1. 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. 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!

    1. 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. 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.

      1. 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!

    1. 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.

    1. 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….

  4. 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.

  5. I hope I’m not too late to the party! This article was posted a year ago. Great topic, good observations and I thank you for it.

    I’m in a bit of a “situation” and unsure how to proceed. In my case, I formed a nonprofit with a partner. We can both write, but he’s already published and successful in that area; my “area” has largely been business and marketing. We’re creating and publishing (for starters) books aimed at children who have lost a parent (or two) for various reasons (death, rehab, incarceration, etc.). My partner is a psychologist, Ph.D., and professor.

    Although I am doing all the editing and sometimes a great deal of it (and many other tasks – creating the books; formatting and designing the books; at times illustrating the books) and sometimes writing some of the content, I don’t see myself as co-author and since my credentials are in business while his are in psychology, it doesn’t seem reasonable to be “co-author.” I thought about putting myself down as editor on the cover. Why? Because I am the one who speaks to the public, who speaks to possible investors, puts the together marketing plans or fund raising campaigns, and as such, it feels that having my name out there gives someone, perhaps, confidence of who I am and of my role. I couldn’t care less ego-wise or as far as simple recognition goes. It IS recognition, but for a purpose. If I am speaking to someone who has never heard of us, someone who may want to send funds our way, it seems that once I send them to our site and list of books, they may notice my name on some covers and that seems like a good idea.

    But I was uncomfortable with this simply because it feels like I’m trying to get attention. 😛 After reading your article, I understand what you are saying and I know that I have basically seen editor credits on books, as you say, that are collections. So I don’t know what to do – to continue or to pull my name. That’s the reason I went into depth, so that you can see the reason I was on the cover. I am assuming that many people will look at the website or the books and never buy one or look inside, so my credit on the inside doesn’t really serve the purpose I intended. Do you have a moment to comment and tell me what you think about this? I’m sure you’re BUSY BUSY so please don’t waste time on this! But if you have a moment, I would be most grateful. 🙂

    1. Hello Edward!
      I see your dilemma. If your name is on the cover you look like a more substantial contributor, which is important when you’re having meetings about continuing the series. What about putting your credit as a ‘with’? eg ‘By xxx xxx WITH Edward H’? That puts you clearly in a back-up position but demonstrate you’re significant.
      A short answer for your long scenario – but I hope it helps!

  6. Very helpful, so glad I found your site while doing a Google search. I’ll be scouring for further details as I’m in the final stages of self-publishing my first book 😮 Hope you have a wonderful day ❤

  7. Hey this was a great and thorough answer. However, what if you have written your memoir and as your editor comes through they ask to be mentioned on the cover as with ______. ?

    They weren’t a ghostwriter, helped with grammatical foes and chronological organization. But the book was entirely written prior to their final edit.

    Interested to know your thoughts.

    1. Hi Jenny! Interesting situation. There isn’t any hard and fast rule. What did you agree beforehand? If such a credit was mentioned in your discussions or in your editor’s terms and conditions, they could claim you had agreed it. But the request seems strange to me as what you’ve described is ‘normal’ editing work. A publishing house wouldn’t add an editor’s name for that level of input, it’s simply behind-the-scenes editing. It’s important work, of course – but it’s the invisible mending that is routinely not credited.
      Hope this helps.

  8. Hi! It looks like the last comment was in May–but I am facing a similar dilemma. My husband is the author, but I have been doing all of the editing, formatting, text design, and have collaborated with him with a few of the scenes. I was going to put my name on the copyright page for text design and editing, but now I’m not so sure. . . 🤷🏼‍♀️

Your turn!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.