My publishing house was located in Aurora, Colorado, not exactly a known hub for publishing. I’ve probably critiqued and/or line-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 line 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 line 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 (and thus able to continue his cons), by hosting consumer complaints that expose iffy editors, agents, publishing houses/e-pubbers, or vanity publishers.
There’s still the telephone. We can reach people in almost any country.
I have (virtually) met many of those 300-400 authors (who live all over the planet) now and I count at least two dozen as friends. I’ve never met anyone who wouldn’t hire me because we couldn’t meet face-to-face first.
So, no. You don’t need a face-to-face. The best editor for your project could be on the other wide of the world.