What many writers, especially first-time authors, don’t understand is that there are different types of book editors, and which type you need is dependent on where you’re at in the writing process.
Technically, there are five types of book editors, but since the focus of this website is on self-publishing, I’m going to skip acquisitions editors (those who acquire manuscripts for publishing companies) and focus instead on the remaining four types that every independent author should consider. Along with a description of what each type does, I will also mention when they’re best utilized.
Four Types of Book Editors for Self-Publishing Authors
- Developmental Editors
These book editors provide unbiased feedback about the content, structure, and organization of your writing. They will help you determine if your manuscript is interesting and believable (at the heart of every story is truth) and will let you know if your writing is too dense or convoluted and if your plot is sporadic or inconsistent. They may also recommend reorganizing certain sections of your text, identify problems with tension and/or conflict, and more.
Seek a developmental editor after you’ve written your initial rough draft.
- Line Editors
Line editors pay close attention to the overall language and readability of the manuscript, such as proper sentence structure, phrasing, and pacing. They will also offer word choice recommendations and note weak content areas that can be improved.
Both line editors and developmental editors work closely with you to identify your purpose for the book. They understand that each manuscript is as unique as its author and they strive to make your book the best that it can be while staying true to your vision and retaining your voice.
You can utilize a line editor following a developmental edit.
Copyeditors read primarily for punctuation and grammar. In addition, copyeditors frequently serve as fact checkers. If you state that a certain event happened in 1958 or that a famous person said xyz, then copyeditors worth their salt will investigate to make sure that your statements are accurate. They will also check for consistency, making sure that such things as names and places are spelled the same throughout the manuscript.
Hire a copyeditor after you think you’ve done everything possible with your manuscript, before sending it off to the designer.
Although this position doesn’t incorporate the word “editor,” I believe it’s important to include it in the editorial group. Proofreaders review your manuscript one final time to make sure that all of the markups you approved from the copyeditor have actually been applied to the final draft. They will also look for any random or previously overlooked punctuation and spelling errors.
Perhaps the most important part of a proofreader’s work, however, is to analyze the text as it appears after layout and design. Therefore, obtain a proofreader after your work comes back from the designer. The proofreader will make sure that photos and artwork are properly captioned and credited, that running heads and footers are consistent, and much more.
Working with Book Editors – Q&A
Do I need to hire four separate editors – one for each type of editing?
Rarely. Most professional book editors are fully qualified and capable of serving in all four capacities, but some editors prefer one type of editing over another. It’s also a matter of researching to find the best fit for your work. For example, if you’ve written a simple children’s book, one editor is sufficient. If, however, you’ve written a lengthy tome with extensive dialogue, statistics and facts, artwork/photos, and/or footnotes, then you would probably benefit from having more than one pair of editorial eyes on your book. Note that it’s not necessary, however. A single editor will simply require multiple opportunities to read through the manuscript in order to ensure accuracy.
Look at all of those corrections! Are all of them really necessary?
You may be surprised (many authors are often dismayed) at how many corrections and changes editors make to your document. Be assured, however, that they are only doing so to improve your book, not to inflate their egos or belittle your work.
And remember, when you’re self-publishing, you have complete control over your book. You can reject editors’ suggestions and corrections, but I encourage you to first ask questions when something doesn’t make sense or if you strongly disagree. Quality editors are always willing to explain their suggestions and offer alternative solutions so that your intent and proper usage align.
How exactly do I find a qualified, professional editor?
This question actually requires a two-part response: knowing where to locate them and what questions to ask in order to find one that is a good fit for your particular work. I will share everything you need to know regarding these concerns in my next post, “How to Find a Qualified Book Editor.”
Until then, keep writing and if you’re not already convinced that you really need an editor, be sure to check out my previous post, “Why You Should Hire a Book Editor.”