If you are a writer who has ever been confused by the jargon surrounding types of editing, you are not alone. You’ve poured your heart and soul into a project but apparently, you’re not done. You’ve been told your manuscript needs editing, but what kind? And does it matter what order they go in? How do you know how to pick a good editor?
If you’re not familiar with the editing process, there are multiple phases, which can vary depending on if you are pursuing indie publishing or if you are being published with a traditional house. If you are working with a traditional press, often the timeline will be much longer, and multiple editors will work on your manuscript. If you are choosing indie publishing, your timeline will be shorter, but due to finances or other constraints, you may choose to work with just one editor through one phase of editing. But in general, the phases a manuscript will move through are:
- Developmental: Completed before the first draft is done, provides direction for the entire manuscript and vetting for ideas and concepts.
- Substantive: Also called line editing. This is the macro editing phase of the finished first draft and ensures overall flow, cohesiveness, plot holes are addressed, etc.
- Copy Editing: Micro editing which focuses on grammar, typos, formatting, consistency. Answers the question “Do I have spinach in the teeth of my manuscript?”
- Proofreading: A final read-through after the book has been formatted. Author may choose to do this step themselves.
In my opinion, for indie authors, copy editing should be the bare minimum editing that a MS goes through. So if you are looking at copy editors, here’s what to look for and ask about:
- Appropriate experience: Have they edited something similar to your project before? How long have they been editing? Where else have they worked?
- Good fit/flow of communication: Even if they have had an illustrious editing career, they may not be a good fit for you and your manuscript. It’s worth it to keep hunting for a good fit, even if it may mean the editor you choose has slightly less experience. If they seem to care about your project and are organized and prompt with communication, chances are you will enjoy that author/editor relationship.
- Timeline on the project: Every editor is different, so be sure and ask when they think they could start working on your project and how long each phase of editing should take. They should be able to give you a ballpark figure.
- Payment/contract methods: It is fairly standard to pay a deposit when beginning an editing project. Editing projects unfold over at least four weeks (potentially longer) and it’s unfair to ask an editor to wait that long to receive any payment for the hours and hours they have already put into your work. Be sure the terms of payment and other details are clearly detailed from the start, preferable in contract form because that protects both parties.
- Delivery of edits: This will likely be spelled out in the contract, but make sure you understand how they will be editing your work and how you will need to respond to edits.
A good copy editor, or really any editor, should be a guide, not an overlord, though you have to understand the unique tension they face in their work. This article from Chicago Manual of Style explains it well! Editors are aiming for all that enhances clarity within a manuscript: consistency, correctness, conciseness. Yet they also make room for how language evolves and the needs of individual authors. The bible of the publishing industry, the Chicago Manual of Style, embraces this by using the word “usually” in many of their rules. Publishing houses and publications operate off their own “style guides” for certain word treatments, and you as an indie author can ask to create your own style guide when working with your editor.
I know the editing process can feel intimidating, but that’s why I’m here editing away in my own corner of the internet: I want to guide you through that editing process and provide you with quality editing so that your writing stands out in the crowd.
Don’t live in the fog of the editing process any longer. I offer a free discovery call for all potential clients to see if we would be a good author + editor fit. Now that you have a list of questions to ask me, send me a message, and let’s get your call scheduled!