Everybody needs an editor.
If you’re self publishing your book, you’ve probably heard this 1,000 times, and it’s true. Editors can help improve your book immeasurably. But what you haven’t heard 1,000 times is that not everybody needs the same kind of editor. Editors provide different services, depending on what sort of shape your manuscript is in. They can help you build your idea from the ground up, simply check your spelling and punctuation — or do everything in between those two extremes.
In other words, editing is never one-size fits all.
If you’re a self-publishing author looking for help from an editor, be sure to know your options before you start shopping around, as choosing the right editor will depend heavily on what kind of editing you have in mind.
Here’s a look at the most common offerings editors provide:
If you want a sense of how your manuscript reads in general but aren’t ready or able to invest in serious hands-on editing, this is a great option. An editor will read your book and write a report, typically 3-5 pages, giving you their reaction to your work as a whole.
The editor will note the strengths and weaknesses of your work. For example, if it’s fiction, the editor might tell you whether the characters are fully fleshed out; whether or not the plot holds his interest, and so on. If it’s nonfiction, he can let you know if the manuscript needs restructuring, if there are any problems with the logic of your ideas, if more research is required to buttress your thoughts, etc.
This is a great way to know if you are having the effect on your reading audience that you were hoping for. It’s also a good way to get to know a particular editor’s style and personality, which can help you determine if you would be comfortable having this editor do any further work on the manuscript you will be self publishing.
Developmental, content, structural editing
Different editors call this different names, but the work is basically the same: this stage of editing involves getting your manuscript in the best organizational shape possible for your material. An editor might move paragraphs or whole passages around. She might restructure the order of your chapters, as well as note where the content is weak and thoughts need to be fleshed out. Think of this stage of editing as building the framework for a house: you want to be sure the foundation is strong and the walls sturdy before you start putting more flourishes on it.
You’ve got the basic structure of your work in place. For example, if it’s nonfiction, you know the points you are trying to make and in what order they make the most sense. If it’s fiction, you know your story arc; your characters are all in place and doing what you want them to be doing; you’re ready to begin polishing the prose to perfection.
At this stage, an editor will look closely at your prose to make sure it’s flowing well, that you have chosen the right words to express your ideas, that you aren’t repetitive. The editor might indicate where your sentence structure breaks down, your paragraphs seem messy, your word choice is inappropriate, and so on. The idea is to refine your piece, sentence by sentence.
This is the final stage of editing. By now, your prose is in order; your sentences are well structured. The editor’s task here is to make sure you don’t use one word over and over again, that your spelling, punctuation and grammar is accurate and consistent, that you’ve said everything with as few words as necessary so that your writing is as powerful as it can be. It’s like polishing a stone. We’re not talking about reshaping the stone, just putting a sheen on it so that your book is flawlessly presented to your reading audience.
BlueInk Review was founded by Patti Thorn, former books editor of Denver’s Rocky Mountain News, and Patricia Moosbrugger, literary agent and subsidiary rights specialist. We offer serious, unbiased reviews of self-published books. Our reviews are penned by writers drawn from major mainstream publications, such as The New York Times and Washington Post, and editors of respected traditional publishing houses. Select reviews appear in Booklist magazine, a highly respected review publication that reaches 60,000 librarians.
If you are interested in receiving similar blogs with tips on writing and book marketing, please sign up for our mailing list.