What does a book editor do? Part 2
What kind of editing do I need?
Every manuscript needs an evaluation before it’s published, whether that feedback comes from beta readers, a professional book editor, or both. The first comment you receive should not be in the form of an Amazon review for the world to see.
Some level of editing should follow, but how much? This is where having constructive feedback really comes into play. Your evaluators should let you know how much of the story needs work, and you should know your own limitations. Will you need help making those revisions? How much help can you afford?
Every manuscript needs some level of line editing or copy editing, as well as proofreading. But how much? This depends on your skillset as a writer, your self-editing abilities, and your dedication to thorough self-editing. If you choose not to self-edit, your work is likely to need a substantive line edit followed by copy editing, which is going to be more expensive. Self-editing can save you money, and it also makes you a better writer.
Proofreading is essential! An abundance of typos will dampen your readers’ experience, and you’ll lose credibility as a serious author. “But I’ve read my story a thousand times”—this statement actually makes it more likely that you have lingering errors. The more we see our own words and what they are supposed to say, the more we miss.
A note about vanity publishers
I have few positive things to say about vanity publishers, especially their editing process. Too many of my authors have come to me from vanity publishers, complaining that their book is still a mess even after they paid thousands more than what I quote for book editing. Go the route of vanity publishing if it appeals to you on other levels, but don’t pay for their book editing services. I say this boldly, without reservation, for your sake.
How can I find a book editor?
A referral from a fellow author whom you respect is a great way to find a book editor. Ask your author squad, if you have one. (Romance authors are especially good at networking with one another.)
Browse for an editor from the Editorial Freelancers Association, or post a job to their job board. EFA members pay a yearly fee, meet with each other locally, and continually hone their craft through webinars and conferences. These aren’t requirements; rather, they are membership benefits that typically attract more serious editors.
Reedsy and Upwork are freelancing platforms where you can find and connect with remote professionals, like book editors, book cover designers, and PR/marketing support.
Be sure to vet prospective editors with a few email exchanges or a phone call and a sample edit of your work. Keep in mind that some editors charge reading fees or a small fee for a sample edit. This is normal and acceptable. Make sure you connect and gauge her level of enthusiasm for your project, but don’t waste her time or efforts by asking for too much support before she is paid.
Book Editing Pitfalls
Bad editing – Vet prospective editors to be sure they are qualified, experienced, and experienced with your genre. Don’t pay for a bad edit.
Overediting – It’s okay to be a perfectionist; I’m a perfectionist with my own work and others’. That said, there is a time to put the red pen down. Know when you’ve got the best version of your manuscript in your hands—or on your screen—and stop there. Some authors don’t do this, and the quality of their manuscript starts to go the other way. Stop. Focus further efforts on your next book.
Being emotional – Being inherently sensitive is not a bad thing. Often, it’s the thing that makes you able to write and convey meaning well. You feel your emotions and then turn them into words. That’s pretty amazing! But when it comes to the editing stage of your writing process, it’s important not to let those emotions get the better of you—or your work. If multiple people or an editor you trust thinks there are problems in your manuscript, be thick skinned. Sometimes you need to “shoot your darlings.”
This is relevant after you’ve published, too. Not everyone is going to like your book. (If you haven’t received a negative review, you’re not yet a successful author!)
Misuse of tracking changes – Editors typically use “tracking changes” in Microsoft Word to show where they’ve made changes, and comments to sometimes explain why or leave reader reactions or other feedback. Learn how to properly use this feature so you don’t inadvertently “mess up” an editor’s changes that you wanted to keep. It’s easy to accidentally add or remove spaces, whole words, sentences or paragraphs. Learn how to properly track your own changes; accept, reject, accept all, reject all; reply to comments; and hide or show markups while you work.
To demonstrate some of the specific editing techniques I use, I created this video. It’s a couple years old but as relevant today as it was then.
Have more questions about book editing? Leave a comment or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’m happy to help. 🙂