IMPORTANT: This article only applies to commercial publishing, not independent publishing.
If you are pursuing a path with large publishing houses, it remains current, but self-publishing, which has now become the better way for most fiction writers to earn a living from their work, requires you to work with editors as a publisher—and the rules are different. Read FAQs About Self-Publishing to find out how, and what you should do about it.
First off, let me tell you that you’re getting a writer’s, not an editor’s, perspective on how a writer should approach and work with an editor. The editing I’ve done has been on a high school yearbook, and on several newsletters over quite a few years, and while working as a writing instructor for Writer’s Digest (briefly), but none of those count as a professional credit, so I cannot give you the scoop from the other side of a professional editor’s desk. I have, however, managed to work with and maintain happy relations with the editors I’ve had, and I can tell you how I did that.
I’ll break the process down into several sections for you so that you can either read this whole thing or just hit the sections that apply to you. Your relationship with any editor will contain some or all of the following steps. Some steps you only have to go through once with any editor, while some steps you dance through over and over again for as long as you’re writing.