When most people think of editing, they think of proofreading. Someone writes something, and then it gets “edited“. Many people, especially new writers, do not often know that book editors are much more than that. The book editor cost for a new writer is usually a significant and necessary chunk of their budget and an essential part of the publishing process.
So, what does a book editor do? This article will discuss what book editing is and what it encompasses, the different types of book editors, and more.
Types of Book Editors
Most writers who finish a book are barely halfway through the process and on their way to publication, even when they go with self-publishing rather than traditional publishing. The book publishing process is very involved, and the writing of the text is just the first small part of the process of having a completed, published, well-received book.
Revisions will take up the bulk of your time and energy as an author, and that is where the help of a good editor or team of editors comes in. There are different types of editors, and if you can afford them, you should employ as many as you can to get your book ready for publication.
1. Book Editor Job Description
A book editor, defined in its simplest form, is a professional who reviews the written word and looks for mistakes. There are many different types of editors, from magazine editing to ad editing to book editing—they are all generally employed to take a piece of written work and find the errors.
Any editor’s task is to take something written by someone else, find the issues, and offer ways to improve them. Even the best writers make mistakes, and editing services exist to help catch and correct those mistakes so that the reader of the eventually completed book will get the best experience possible. An editor spends a lot of time pouring over each sentence of a book, and editing services are one of the essential parts of the publishing process.
It is important for a writer to maintain good working relationships with all types of editors encountered along the way. Nothing is personal, and they are not insinuating that you are a terrible writer. They give you invaluable service, and good communication and trust are key.
2. Developmental Editor Job Description
A developmental editor has a big job. In the book editing process, the book editor looks at the overall content and looks for plot holes, continuity problems, concept issues, and hiccups in the actual story. They work with the concepts and plot of the entire manuscript, and editing books look a bit different for them than it does for other types of editors.
If you have a character who behaves in one way at the beginning of the book and then switches personalities or behavior for no reason other than to fit the plot in the second half of the book, it is the job of a developmental editor to catch it and bring it to your attention. A good editor will offer suggestions about what you could do to fix the issues in the overall big picture of the book. However, most editors will leave the creative bits up to the writer, at least in the beginning stages of revision.
Developmental editors often have a strong background or familiarity with creative writing. Authors usually see the level of their writing skills after the developmental editing of their book takes place. Some books go through developmental editing many times before they are cleared for the next stage in the publishing industry.
3. Copy Editor Job Description
A copy editor does not pay much attention to the story’s content and does not care much about the plot. The job of this professional book editor is to go through and focus on grammar, syntax, clarity, and punctuation.
A copy editor is the book editor who focuses on all of the technicalities in grammar and makes sure that the sentences make sense and are clearly articulated—that the writer used the correct punctuation and that syntax all makes sense in the text. This is the fiction editor who has to really buckle down and take your book sentence by sentence.
As a writer, if you are not highly knowledgeable in grammar and everything else, it is essential to have a good editor of this type. If you cannot afford one through a publishing house or agency, look into hiring a freelance editor. But do not skimp on this person. Copy editors are a must when publishing a book. Another option is to use software such as Grammarly. Which can help reduce the cost if you’re on a budget and self-publishing.
4. Proofreader Job Description
This is the last line of defense when it comes to professional editors. This is the editor who takes the book and goes over it once more with a fine-toothed comb and tries to catch anything that the previous editors did not.
As a writer, especially one who is not going through publishing houses and has opted instead for the process and self-publishing, do not decide to forgo the other types of editors and jump straight to a proofreader. If you expect a proofreader to catch everything, you will only set yourself up for disappointment.
When scouting prospective book editors for your new book, look for experienced editors of all types. The more intensive the editing, the more complete and polished your book will be. Leaving your book in the hands of just one type of editor is a common mistake in self-publishing and should be avoided if you can afford it.
If you cannot afford all of these editors, you or the literary agents you work with can find a good editing service to take the place of the proofreader and the copy editor. If you want to be a successful published author, you need to be willing to put your work in the hands of an editing team.
Becoming a Book Editor
Having the right editor can make a difference for a fiction or non-fiction book. Many editors take great pride in their work, and the good ones are highly respected in the publishing industry. If you want to leave the writing to the writers and think you may be interested in pursuing a career path in book editing, there are several things you are likely curious about. This article will tell you what you need to know, from the education requirements to the pay and formal training needed.
How much money do editors make?
Of course, you are supposed to pursue a career path that leaves you happy and satisfied, but you also need to pay the bills. Having an idea of what editors make for a salary is key for many in deciding whether it is something they actually want to pursue.
In 2018, the median salary for editors in the U.S. was just under $60,000 per year. Of course, several factors play into this, such as educational background, experience, how much content editors work within a year if they are employed by self-published authors or work for traditional publishing houses, and what sort of editing they do.
Obviously, the best editors make more than the median salary, but it can take a lot to get to that point.
You do not actually have to hold a degree to find work as an editor. Still, the more education you have, the better your salary will be, and the more likely it will be to secure a position of higher pay and reputation.
Many book editors hold at least a bachelor’s degree. It is not uncommon for the best editors to have a master’s degree in English Literature, Business, or other media coursework. You can seek employment as a freelance editor without any educational background in editing. This sort of editor is somewhat at the mercy of his own reputation. However, getting a job can take some time and a lot of marketing yourself.
You have to do your own work to get your name out there and prove your worth. Having at least one finished book under your belt that you edited or helped with will certainly help.
Why A Book Editor is Necessary
You may be asking yourself, “Do I need a book editor if I already know a lot about grammar, punctuation, and syntax? Can’t I just edit my own work?“
The answer to those questions is: It is not recommended.
Dan Brown, Stephen King, and J.K. Rowling are all teachers. They all understand the use of good word choice, the technical issues behind writing, the steps involved in publishing a book, and how to create a manuscript. However, each of these three bestselling authors, whose work went on to inspire films, followings, and countless fans, used editing teams to get to where they are today.
A Professional Writer is Not a Professional Reader
You could ask any book editor what they do for a living, and if their response was, “I read books“, they are not lying. While it is true that most authors read, they do not get paid to do it. Book editors provide certain services that take time and work out of the hands of the author, who is often too close to the work to see the errors and plot holes.
A well-edited book is iron-clad in its facts and details. Often, a work of fiction includes or focuses on a subject matter that the writer is not an expert in. This is where a developmental editor comes in. They will research and engage in rigorous fact-checking on a specific subject in your book to ensure accurate content.
For example, Stephen King has a short story about a man being bitten by a snake while playing golf (the type of snake and the effects of the bite are entirely made up). He wakes up paralyzed but aware of what is happening to him in the autopsy room.
King is not and has never been a medical examiner or mortician, and he has no real experience with the handling or care of the dead. He is a teacher who switched to being a writer. So an editor was tasked with fact-checking the manuscript for him.
2. Editors Provide Feedback
Another reason it is important to use the services of a professional book editor is that they provide feedback that is often key to improving your work and content in ways that the writer cannot see because they are too close to the work.
For example, if you wrote a book about an adventure when a group of teens sets out for a cross-country road trip, you may have it all planned out in your head and know exactly what will happen. If it does not translate so well in the manuscript, it is harder for you to catch it because you understood that the teens had to pass by Colorado to get to Las Vegas when heading west on their trip.
However, if you stated in the book that the teens stayed the night in Denver, and the next thing you know, they are on the Strip in Vegas, an editor will catch it. For you, it may not be needed to mention because you planned their route in your mind before you started to write.
3. An Editor Doesn’t Change Your Book
Your manuscript is yours, and as you gain experience working with editors, you will learn that there are some things that you can put your foot down on. Sometimes, an editor will suggest a title change, a setting change, or some other change because the title sounds clunky or is close to the title of another book.
These can be painful changes for a writer who has spent a lot of time working on a manuscript. It is not uncommon for a writer to spend ten years writing a book just to be told that the title does not work and needs to be changed.
This is a harrowing and scary thought, but you have the final say. It is still your work, and you can publish your book with the help of editors and have confidence that you are the last person who gets to put their stamp of approval on the finished manuscript. This is especially true for authors who are self-publishing. If you feel passionate about something an editor wants to change, you do not have to change it. But listening and taking everything they say with serious consideration is a must.