What does a book editor do? Part 1

MichelleOn WritingLeave a Comment

What does a book editor do? Part 1

Put simply, a book editor’s job is to critique, correct, and enhance an author’s manuscript. A good editor finds enjoyment in your genre and has experience in that genre. She loves a good story, appreciates the power of words, and has the skill to increase your likelihood of success.

A “book edit” is not a single task. There are many different kinds of editing, which should be performed in stages. Some books need to go through every stage; others don’t.

Manuscript evaluation
Low cost: Free
High cost: $500-$1000

The first person to read your book should never be the first person to buy your book. You need a story critique, or an evaluation of your plot, pacing, characters, and voice—before you publish. Is the story readable, compelling, enjoyable? Is it confusing? Which parts?

Some authors are able to find a productive group of beta readers. A good beta reader does more than say if they love it or hate it. That kind of feedback isn’t helpful. If you can’t find beta readers, or your beta readers don’t offer constructive feedback that helps you sell your book, you can hire a book editor to perform a professional critique—also called a manuscript evaluation.

Developmental editing (structural editing)
Low cost: $500
High cost: $3000+

Did your story sound better inside your head than it does on paper? Is it incomplete, or failed to engage beta readers? Do you know it has problems but aren’t sure how to fix them?

A developmental editor has a bird’s-eye view of your story to help you put the pieces together. She can help you focus on your audience and clarify the direction and tone of your manuscript. Developmental editing is the most collaborative and requires a great deal of trust, respect, and open communication from both parties. It should be performed before line editing, copy editing, or proofreading.

Developmental editing can sometimes involve a bit of ghostwriting on the editor’s part, so it’s important to find an editor who is also a skilled writer and can “capture your vision” in her own words. This kind of editing is typically charged hourly, so the cost can vary greatly depending on the condition of your manuscript and your editor’s skillset.

Line editing and copy editing
Low cost: $1000
High cost: $2500

Your story is engaging and flows well, but you still have problems like word/phrase repetition, inconsistencies with voice, tense, or point of view, maybe a few clunky sentences or paragraphs. Line editing and copy editing are a little different, but I include them together because the goal is the same: to remove awkwardness and confusion, ensuring you “say what you mean and mean what you say,” with respect to your voice and artistry.

This stage of editing often requires deleting entire words or phrases, even whole paragraphs (but probably not whole chapters or scenes, which is more structural editing). The purpose is to reveal the gems of the story, and your writing itself, by removing that which isn’t needed, and tightening up that which is.

Low cost: $150
High cost: $1000

Proofreading is the last stage of editing before the work is published. It should be performed by an eagle-eyed editor who can spot typos like misspellings, wrong word choice, and missing or incorrect punctuation. Ideally, the book will be formatted (or “laid out”) so the proofreader can check for formatting issues, too. Proofreading turns your manuscript into a book!

Authors should not pay a fortune for proofreading. It should be easy, because your manuscript has already been through an evaluation, possibly some developmental editing, as well as line editing and/or copy editing. To be clear, line editing and copy editing will probably fix for several errors, but it is not proofreading. Typos are bound to linger, especially after a substantive line edit or copy edit.

If your manuscript has more than 1 error per 10,000 words, it has not been properly proofread.

Click here to continue to Part 2 of this blog.

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