Should You Meet Your Editor Before You Sign a Contract?
My publishing house was located in Aurora, Colorado, not exactly a known hub for publishing. I've been doing freelance editing for eight years now, about half of that time in Texas. Between the two jobs, I've probably critiqued and/or copy-edited somewhere between 300 and 400 manuscripts. Granted, some were repeat authors, but I only remember meeting six before I either signed them to a book contract for the publishing company, or they hired me as their copy editor.
It is important to get to know your editor before you hire him or her, but these days it isn't a necessity to meet to do that.
We are in a different world from when a handshake ensured a deal. The reason there are so many copy editors out there is precisely because of the new world of communications. Think about all the ways authors and editors can establish a relationship without ever meeting these days:
Email is #1. (I'm still partial to emoticons to put some personality in my correspondence.) You can send pictures and attachments through it, as well as the contracts and the manuscripts.
There are hundreds of social networks for any author who wants to "see" his editor to confirm he's not talking to a fictional human, such as FaceBook, My Space, LinkedIn, NetLog, and Plaxo to name a handful. I have to admit I find it very annoying when someone posts a picture of his dog, instead of himself, on FaceBook. It was named "Face"Book for a reason, after all :).
Google makes it almost impossible for anyone who has cheated his customers to hide in anonymity anymore (and thus able to continue his cons), by hosting consumer complaints, all those gazillion articles about any subject under the sun, and because there are good Web sites, like this one, and like Preditors&Editors, that make it a point to expose iffy editors, agents, publishing houses/e-pubbers, or vanity publishers.
And let's not forget: There's still the telephone! We've grown up listening to people on the other end of a phone, which is not the same as talking across the back fence, but which we're comfortable with. We've learned that the entire world is right outside our back fence these days; to hobble yourself with arbitrary old world practices is, well, old world.
I have met many of those 300-400 authors (who live all over the planet) now and I count at least two dozen as friends. Not surprisingly, I've never met a single one of the authors who were afraid to hire me/pay me to make his book the best it could be because we couldn't meet first.