I finished my book and all my friends love it. My mom says it’s the best thing she’s ever read. I followed advice and hired an editor, even though I didn’t think I needed it. Now a publisher says I should have my manuscript edited before resubmitting. Was I scammed?
In all likelihood the writer was not scammed. Although scammers do exist, this writer probably started with the wrong type of editor.
Editing is a step-by-step process with grammar, punctuation, and proofreading as the very last step. Yet that is what immediately comes to mind when a new writer finishes the self-editing phase and, often reluctantly, begins to look for an editor.
The writer may know a retired English teacher who would love a few extra dollars, or perhaps has a friend who knows something about writing. After all, friends and family love it and have found a few typos.
That is not what is meant by editing. Editing is a specialized skill that can turn a decent book into a good book, a good book into a great book. But there is more than one skill needed in the editing process. You must know where to begin, and you must be willing to learn from the advice you are given.
Before hiring an editor, you must first decide what level of editing is needed. What is your goal? What is your measure of success? If you are writing a story to amuse your friends, or writing a memoir for your grandchildren, then an editor who cleans up the typos and fixes the misplaced commas is perfect.
If you want to sell books to an increasingly impatient yet sophisticated modern reader, you need to make sure you present a book that is professional in appearance and substance. Writing at this level is a business, and every business needs an initial investment. You need to hone your craft over years, and one of the best ways to do that is to learn by working with a good editor. Choose wisely.
Developmental editor, Content editor, or Substantive editor is the person concerned with the basic structure of the book. Structure is the most fundamental level of editing. Is the story sound? Does it flow smoothly for the reader? Is anything missing in the plot? Or side roads that lead nowhere? Are the characters well developed? Are they distinct and consistent in their actions and motivations? Following the advice of a content editor may result in the need for extensive rewrites. Writers just starting on their path might be wise to find someone earlier in the process.
Book doctors, book coaches deal with the author on the same structural level as development editors, but they are usually engaged while the book is still a work in progress. The book doctor or book coach can provide instruction and guide the writing process, which may save extensive rewrites.
Line editor works on the manuscript on a different level. The line editor helps with awkward sentences or paragraphs, changes passive voice to active prose to add punch and drive. The line editor points out static sluggish dialogue and helps transform it into active scenes with life-like conversation. Line editing requires a skill that is hard to find. A good line editor can transform good writing into great writing without losing the voice of the author.
Copy editor, proofreader is what most people think of when they hear the word editor. This is the person who corrects grammatical mistakes, finds typos, makes sure commas are in the right places, and makes sure the usage and spelling is consistent throughout the manuscript. Unfortunately, a poorly constructed story will still be a poorly constructed story after the copy editor has done his or her work. Any rewrites will probably introduce more typos and grammatical errors, thus making another copy edit necessary.
Every writer, no matter how experienced, needs an editor. Research the types of editors, ask for references, listen to advice, and persevere. You’ll love the result.