10 things to include in your communications with authors
I have several clients who ask that copy editors send out initial copyedited files for review and communicate with authors directly. This might be for a journal or for chapters of a multi-author publication.
This isn’t quite the same as sending out author galleys or page proofs, as these typically comprise the typeset version of the author’s manuscript that includes formatted text, art, and tables.
To make things easier on my end, I have created reusable email templates for each client that I use to communicate with authors. Rather than writing a hasty email and just attaching the manuscript, I try to provide clear instructions and anticipate any concerns that the author may have.
Below I list 10 important things you should include in your email message if you have clients who ask you to perform this step as well.
First things first—you should briefly introduce yourself and explain why you are contacting the author. If, like me, you are a freelance editor rather than an employee of the publisher, it may be confusing if you email the author with no explanation of who you are and what your message is for. The author will likely not recognize your email address, so it’s important to use a clear subject line so the author will have some idea what the message is about.
Hopefully your client will have prepared authors to expect to hear from you, but this may not be the case. You’ll increase your chances of getting a quick response if you clearly indicate who you are and explain what the author needs to do on their end at this stage.
2. Confirmation of Receipt
To ensure smooth communication, ask the author to confirm that they have received your email. People switch jobs; email addresses change. I usually follow up in about a week if I haven’t received a response and sometimes may even do a quick Google search to see if the author’s contact information has changed.
3. Tracked Changes
If you have locked the track changes feature within the file (which I recommend doing), be sure to point this out to the author. That way it’s not confusing when they see their changes being tracked if they add or delete text.
It’s very likely that you added queries as you edited the author’s work. Explain where the author can find these and how to address them—are the queries formatted as comments? Are they added as footnotes? Should the author add a new comment to address queries, or should they edit the text directly? Clarifying this process helps the author know what to expect and helps keep the text organized. This also makes your job easier if you are dealing with multiple authors and multiple files.
5. Style Sheet
If you created a style sheet for this particular project, communicate this to the author as well and explain what this is for. Sometimes an author will have a specific reason for doing something a certain way—they may want to use British spellings, for example, or want certain words italicized. By reviewing the style sheet, the author can let you know if your style choices aren’t in line with what they want.
6. Special Sections
If the manuscript includes special sections—such as an appendix, supplemental materials, art, or tables—assure the author that these are included and explain how they will be addressed. Will the supplemental materials only be printed online? Will the art only be printed in black and white? It can be helpful to include this information to alleviate any concerns the author may have.
If the manuscript includes tables and/or figures, I often ask the author to confirm that these are all included, that they are in numerical order, and that they are labeled appropriately. If you have questions or comments on the figures, or if the art is attached as a separate file, it’s a good idea to point this out as well.
7. Copyright and Permissions Forms
If you need any additional forms from the author, such as a copyright assignment form or a permission form for a figure, be sure to attach the forms separately and ask the author to return these with the revised manuscript. If you think this may cause confusion, you can include a brief explanation of why you need these forms.
Let the author know when you expect to receive corrections back (I typically allow about a week). Follow up if you don’t hear back, and make sure you are available for questions.
9. Your Contact Information
Your message should also include your contact information in case the author has any questions about their edited work. If you’re not comfortable giving out your phone number, you should at the very least provide your email address, along with your full name, company name, and company website (if you have one). You can set up an email signature that will automatically be appended to outgoing messages to make this even easier.
10. Other Questions
It can be extremely helpful to both you and the author if you can anticipate major problems or concerns. At this stage, the author may be anxious about only seeing a Word file and not the formatted page proofs. If you will provide these at a later date for the author to review, say so. If you foresee multiple authors having the same questions about the process, it’s a good idea to address these in your initial communication.
Did I miss anything? What else is important to include in communications with authors?