Em the Editor

Em the Editor says ...
Your book's best friend is your Editor!
Bring your book into the spotlight with professional editing …

Publishing a book is a wonderful life accomplishment – whether it’s your first book or another in your exciting series. 

In today’s publishing industry, professional editing is more important than ever, as novice authors compete head-to-head with seasoned writers. Don’t be left in the dark about why your book needs editing polish.

If you haven’t added the shine to your book yet, and not clear about what type of editing you might need, take a look below. This article is a simple explanation of the levels of editing and what they can do for you. Still have questions? Ask me!

Why do I need an independent editor?
I’m knowledgeable in proper grammar and punctuation, isn’t that enough?
In nearly all cases, no. You’re too close to it. You’ve been teasing it, babying it, living it; and you know how “love is blind”? Even setting it down and picking it up again an hour, day, or week later, generally won’t allow you to see through the forest of familiar words and phrases, to spot the typos and grammar that spellcheck programs miss.
In a long piece like a book, especially, you need someone who has never read it, and has expertise in editing, to spot obscure typos and inconsistencies – and be honest with you about content.

My mother, father, sister, brother, pretty much everyone in the family and my best friends, are all teachers, professors, or authors – they’ve offered to edit for me. I don’t need a costly, independent editor.
            Ah, contraire, m’dears! A couple of reasons why these wonderful people should not be the only or final means of editing your book:  
                   * Love ‘em though you do, and they you, most likely your family members, et al, are not trained to spot the intricate and sometimes ambiguous details. They will also tiptoe on the vicarious edge of honesty … they love you!
                   * And, let’s face it, when you hire a professional editor, they are much more apt to give close attention to the fine points and not be worried that you won’t love them anymore if they’re truthful.

With so many independently published books these days that fall into the self-editing trap, don’t you want to stand out as a polished, professional writer?
How do I know what type of editing I need?
            Aha, confusion reigns! And Confucius say, “Research your editor.” OK, well maybe he didn’t really say that but I bet he would have if he were trying to publish a book today!
            Types of editing tend to blur more than a photo taken with a shaky hand. Knowing your book’s “type” and editing terms is essential.

Time to get down to the taste-test of editing.
First and Foremost: What “flavor” is your book? Mmmmm, peanut butter! Great – now make sure your editor LOVES peanut butter!
Many first-time authors especially, simply find an editor they can afford. That’s fine, but know what type of editing makes them tick. If she/he knows nothing about peanut butter (fiction) but everything about oranges (non-fiction), look for an editor with peanut butter stuck to the roof of her/his mouth.
In other words, make sure your editor is familiar with and experienced in editing the type of book you’ve written.
Taking that premise another step further, some books should have more than one editor. Technical tomes, historical tales, Sci-Fi and fantasy novels, just to name a few – may require special expertise to police your book’s specific topic.
Quite often, however, a good copyeditor with enhanced, well-rounded skills, can suffice.

Standard editing labels (general, abbreviated definitions):

* Proofreading
            The lightest form of text review … often helpful to iron out the obvious kinks before sending to your content editor; and/or someone who follows your content editor prior to submission to a publisher, as a final, “polish” editor.

* Copyediting (aka Mechanical editing; Line editing)
            Follows a style sheet either you or she/he create and/or the primary style books which stipulates style, in part on:
                        tables and lists/formats
                        use of abbreviations
                        attention to grammar, syntax and basic usage

* Manuscript editing
            Broad term used for any book or manuscript editing service.

* Content editing
            Closely related to Substantive editing (below), adds paragraph structure, pattern of the text and overall flow. Non-fiction books and novels with complex plots especially benefit from this type of editing.

* Substantive editing
            More involved than copyediting, again, generally follows the line-by-line method and usually includes organization and arrangement of existing content, rephrasing, with an eye for ambiguities, and offering comments toward simplifying or expanding.

* Developmental editing
            Tends to be a writing coach or instructor, often working in-depth with an author who may not be a terrific writer, but has an intriguing story or extensive knowledge to share. May work with the author from conception and guide her/him all the way through, as an integral contributor. Or, work with the first draft. (Closely related to ghost writer.)

* Format editing / a final process prior to layout
            Are your lines on straight? This type of formatting ensures your book is consistent with your headings, page setup, and overall “look” of the text and spacing. (Especially beneficial in today’s world of eBooks, and for independent authors, frustrated by Microsoft’s complex DIY layout procedures.)

[LR Note:
Please do not submit your book to an editor in chapters, as you go – even if they say, “Well, OK.” They don’t mean it – believe me, I know. Or, they may charge more for their editing service. Why? Because it is harder on both of you … it is too piecemeal to easily maintain a cohesive hold on the flow. Time is money.]

How do I find a reputable and knowledgeable editor?
            With the Internet as their billboard, they’re everywhere! Key words above are “reputable” and “knowledgeable.”
Best way? REFERRALS. Ask other authors who write in your genre and are pleased with their editor.
            Some additional tips if you must research:
* Ask for references.
* Request a sample of their editing on a couple pages of your manuscript (3 to 5 pages or approx. 1,000 words), to review their style - it should be at no charge.
* Do they have an organized and detailed website? It’s a good sign they will be meticulous with your manuscript, too.

How much should I expect to pay for editing?
            In 2014, 2¢ to 3¢ per word (but up to as much as 5-10¢) is average for proofing, copyediting, and some content editing. (See reference link in Resources, below.) It escalates from there. Some editors charge by the page, some by the hour (average is 4-10 pages per hour, at the industry standard of 250 words per page).
            My payment preference is by the word. Why? Because it offers great transparency for both author and editor. My rates are based on the original manuscript I receive, before any editing is performed (according to Microsoft’s word count).
            With payment by the word, there won’t be the concern of whether an editor is ethical about their time spent, or whether they padded the hours.

What can I do to make my book better before approaching an editor?
            Create a style sheet – it doesn’t need to be as involved as an editor’s, but should state your general preferences, and any special text handling. You may want to indicate:
                   * How you treat lists.
                   * Word list (i.e., email vs. e-mail; other hyphenated words?); any uncommon word treatments – unusual figures of speech – colloquial.
                   * What words are unusually capitalized (perhaps for emphasis).
                   * Technical terms.
                   * Specific formatting requirements.
            Brush up on the basics every author should know:
                   * There is only ONE space between sentences.
                   * When dialogue or a quote is split between two (or more) paragraphs, there is a quote mark at the beginning of the paragraph but none at the end, except on the final paragraph of the dialogue / quote.
                   * Be aware of standard gaffes like misplaced apostrophes, your commonly misspelled words, words or phrases used over-abundantly, and words used incorrectly (than vs. that; where vs. were, etc.).

Remember, a good editor will not rewrite your book, but guide it with a caring hand.

Happy Writing!


* Editorial Freelancer’s Association
* My Book’s Published – Now What??? by John F. Harnish w/contributions by LinDee Rochelle (2008, Infinity Publishing).
* Para Publishing / Dan Poynter, the Book Guy; links to publishing industry suppliers and more.