DO I NEED AN EDITOR?

One of the questions I get asked the most by clients interested in the Publishing Package is, "Do I need an editor?"

The short answer is yes. Yes, you do.

Even if you’re publishing a memoir or an autobiography you should engage the services of an editor. While it’s true that only you are the leading expert on your life and your lived experience, it is not likely that you are also the leading expert on communication, semantics, and grammar.

Editors are partners in the writing process. The exact role of an editor can vary depending on how involved you want them to be, but ultimately they make sure you’re saying what you intend to say, in a way that your target audience will understand.

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WHY DO I NEED AN EDITOR?

  • As an author your are usually too close to your material to see when you are not being clear. You know what you’re talking about, so it can be difficult to see where you might be tripping up your readers. You need a fresh set of eyes on your work before going to print.
     
  • Editors help you in a variety of ways; they can identify inconsistencies in the plot and fallacies of logic, they can recommend where to prune and where to elaborate, they monitor the rhythm of the manuscript ensuring your story flows, they address structural errors, they can identify awkward phrases and incorrect grammar, they can ensure your voice (and the tense you write in) is consistent, they can ensure your word choices will suit the intended audience (especially important for young readers, academic texts, and manuscripts with lots of industry-specific jargon), they can factcheck, and they can address the strictly technical issues, like proper punctuation.
     
  • Editors help you make your manuscript as print-ready as possible.
     
  • Editors edit for a living which means they do it faster, better, and more cost-effectively than most writers. 

 

WHAT DOES EDITING INVOLVE?

The work an editor does can be broken down into three main sections: substantive editing, copyediting, and proofreading. A comprehensive edit involves all three phases (and is the traditional publishing model), but as a self publisher you can choose specifically what you want to hire an editor for. 

 

SUBSTANTIVE EDITING: STRUCTURE AND FLOW

This is the big picture stage. A substantive edit may involve rewrites as it deals with the structure of the manuscript (in fact, it is sometimes called a structural edit). The substantive edit works with the flow of story (even non-fiction books have a story), ensuring it is organized for the greatest impact, that the ideas lead soundly from one to the next, and that the conclusions drawn are clear and supported in the text. This stage can be the most challenging — and certainly is the most challenging for the ego because it involves the most constructive criticism. The editor will identify weaknesses and suggest how you can strengthen them. The editor will also look at sentence structure, ensuring there is both variety and clarity in how you write. 

 

COPYEDITING: GRAMMAR AND STYLE

This stage is all about accuracy. The copyedit focuses on grammar, punctuation, and consistent style. It is a lengthy process as the editor will review the text multiple times to ensure consistency. If you are self publishing and do not have a “house style”, you can speak with your editor about preferences and develop a style guide together.

 

PROOFREADING: DOTTING THE IS, CROSSING THE TS

Once the manuscript has been formatted for print it should be proofread for any typographical or mechanical errors. This includes fine details like ensuring the dash between dates (i.e. 1990–1991) is an en dash instead of a hyphen, and more glaring details that may have been missed in the content-based editing phases. 

 

As a self publisher you get to call the shots; you get choose if you want an editor, what type of editing you want, and who you want to work with. No matter which option you choose, I am happy to help you with the production process of your book, but I do always recommend working with at least a proofreader.