Professional Book Editors–Choosing the Right One
Not all professional book editors are the same or bring the same set of skills to the table. And nestled in among them are the faux book editors, who only claim to have professional editing skills. So how do you find the right editor to polish your manuscript? How do you make sure you hire a qualified person the first time, so you don’t have to pay for the work to be done over again? Here’s some information that will help.
Three Kinds of Freelance Book Editors
There are three levels of proficiency when it comes to editors advertising their services online or in print.
These people are typically writers—sometimes quite talented—but they lack the training and knowledge to provide comprehensive feedback and error-free editing. Writing skills and editing skills are quite different from each other. That’s why writers need editors. It’s why publishing houses employ a cadre of editors and don’t just put raw books into print. Even published authors can’t be trusted to accurately edit other authors’ books.
Copy Editors (Junior Editors)
The second group are the junior editors. These are people with experience working for a publishing house in the capacity of copy editors, which means correcting grammar, syntax, and punctuation only. They are not trained to edit for content issues, only to do the most basic of corrections.
Developmental Editors (Senior Editors)
Then there are the full-scale, senior editors—popularly called “developmental editors,” though the correct term is “content editors” or “substantive editors.” These highly skilled individuals are trained to edit the actual content of a manuscript, addressing such matters as ideas, logic, organization, structure, presentation, consistency, clarity, tense, redundancy, titles, subheads, tone, voice, references, and other substantive issues. If they have a background in fiction, they also can give reliable advice on issues particular to novels, such as plot structure, characterization, dialog, pacing, tension, dilemma, exposition, set-ups/payoffs, and point of view.
Senior Editors Supervise Copy Editors
In the publishing industry, copy editors are not permitted to edit for content, only for superficial issues. So if your book needs more than a simple read-through for grammar, syntax, and punctuation, you need more than a copy editor.
Truth behind the ‘Bargain’ Sites
In the current economy, publishing houses have cut back on staff, and many copy editors have lost their jobs. Some of them go online or advertise in writer publications. These people are totally qualified to do simple copy editing, but some represent themselves as full-scale, developmental editors (content editors), although they lack the specialized knowledge and training that content editing and critiquing require. Some even offer to developmentally edit novels, but without having studied fiction critiquing or fiction writing. Some are forced to work for peanuts on the discount sites. I’ve had clients who were burned by a “bargain” edit, only to find—after unveiling their book to the world—that it was riddled with embarrassing flaws, mistakes, and inconsistencies, some of which the editor actually added to the manuscript.
Alternatively, if you have a lot of questions about your project, you may wish to order a phone consult. Consultations include my review of the manuscript, my recommendations for what it needs to achieve marketability, and half an hour of phone time with me. I used to offer these consults at no charge until there were so many requests that it was cutting into my editing time. I now charge $150 for a prospective-client phone consult.
Don’t let unqualified people, pretending to be professional book editors or to have advanced skills they don’t possess, spoil your chances of being published and successful. I’m happy to honestly answer your questions, and tell you what I can do to help.