As a copywriter and editor, I work both sides of the writing and editing scene. I write articles for publications and work closely with editors and also edit health/wellness books. I also have a publishing background and marketed authors.
Since working with authors over the years, I learned that it is nearly impossible to market and sell a poorly edited book. Whether you contract with a traditional publisher or self publish, an experienced editor is the key to your book’s success. If you choose the self-publishing route, it’s important to know what to look for when hiring and working with a book editor. Not every editor operates the same way. Unfortunately, there are also scammers on the internet who make a quick buck off self-published authors.
As a writer, you might be confused as to what kind of editor you should hire. It’s helpful to first understand the differences between a developmental editor, copyeditor and proofreader.
Whether you write fiction or nonfiction, a developmental editor (DE) has a keen eye for organization and structure. A DE also carefully reviews the content and tone of your book. An editor’s job is to guide you in the right direction, but don’t expect them to rewrite the book for you.
A DE will specialize in fiction or non-fiction (or both) and should have substantive experience with your genre. Different genres and audiences require different pacing. A fiction editor looks at the story plot, character development, voice/style of your writing, etc. A good editor also has a firm grasp on your audience. Every subtle nuance of your plot needs to immediately draw in your reader and leave them wanting more by the time they turn the last page.
An editor who specializes in nonfiction should have a strong marketing mindset. It also helps if they are knowledgeable with your topic or industry. For example, a health coach may write about a specific topic as a way to promote their services/products. An editor understands how to set up the manuscript so the audience views you as a credible expert in your field.
A copyeditor usually focuses on the writing itself, and looks for spelling, punctuation, and grammatical mistakes. Before hiring a copyeditor, ask very specific questions as to how they plan to edit your book. Will edits focus just on grammar or will they provide detailed content/structural edits? How many editing rounds will they provide?
An editor may use the title “copyeditor” but their services may lean towards developmental editing. My edits go beyond grammar and spelling, and I send back very thorough edits to my clients. I look at the manuscript from the reader’s perspective. For example, do the chapters flow in a logical way? Can the audience easily understand key concepts as they read the book? Does the book include technical jargon and confusing language? Is this a marketable book that helps, educates, and/or entertains the reader?
The proofreader has a very important job in the editorial process. Some editors provide proofreading services, but don’t automatically assume that your editor will proofread your manuscript. In traditional publishing, the proofreader reviews the galley proof before the final manuscript goes to print. A proofreader provides a fresh pair of eyes and specifically looks for typographical errors. They point out any mistakes that you or the editor may have missed.
The writer-editor relationship
In order for the editorial process to run smoothly, it’s important to develop a cohesive working relationship with your editor that is based on mutual trust and respect. Here are three helpful tips on how to create a strong writer-editor partnership.
Here are three helpful tips on how to create a strong writer-editor partnership.
1. Leave your ego at the door and don’t take constructive criticism personally
There is a reason you hired a professional editor so trust in their expertise. An editor’s job is not to tell you what you think you want to hear or to inflate your ego. Be flexible and open-minded when working with your editor. It is their job to provide honest, constructive feedback about your writing.
Don’t take constructive criticism personally. Because you are emotionally invested in your book, you aren’t always the most objective when it comes to your writing. When reviewing your manuscript, an editor can easily spot trouble areas and show you how to fix and polish your writing.
2. Carefully read edits and listen to your editor
A common issue I find with my clients is that they don’t carefully read my edits and comments. Listen and pay close attention to your editor’s advice and feedback. The editorial process is an often lengthy and frustrating process so it helps to remain calm and be patient.
If you don’t understand the edits, ask your editor to thoroughly explain them to you. If you don’t agree with their edits, then give very specific reasons as to why you disagree. Editors are great problem solvers and they want to work with you, not against you, during the editorial process.
3. Follow editorial deadlines
When you sign a contract, make sure you both agree upon reasonable deadlines. Be realistic about your schedule. If you are too busy, then hold off hiring an editor until you can dedicate a substantial amount of time to work on your book. Book editing is not an overnight project.
If you don’t follow the agreed upon deadlines or suddenly change deadlines mid-project, you could be in breach of your contract. As a result, the editor could terminate your contract. When you hold up the editor’s job, your project will be pushed to the back of the line. This delay could affect and hold up your print deadline.
Editors are very busy people, and your manuscript is not the only project they have on their plate. Be respectful of your editor’s time. Remember that the writer-editor relationship works both ways. If your editor does not consistently meet project deadlines, you have a viable reason to end the contract and find a new editor.
Before hiring an editor, make sure to carefully research their editorial background and professional experience. Did they work for a traditional publisher? Do they specialize in fiction and/or nonfiction? Talk to authors they worked with in the past so you can get a feel for their editing style and personality. By working with a qualified, experienced book editor, you set your book up for success from the very beginning.
About the author:
Therese Pope is a copywriter and digital content strategist located in Northern California. She partners with a variety of companies and industries throughout the United States. Her area of specialty is restaurant and hospitality writing, and writes for publications that focus on the wine and craft beer industry. She also writes wellness and lifestyle articles and is a certified Zumba instructor. Follow her on Twitter @TheresePope or The Gold Country Foodista. Check out her marketing and writing-related posts on her blog: http://zenfulcommunications.blogspot.com