As a writer, you’re probably not overly concerned with dotting your i’s and crossing your t’s. Besides, your focus is on giving a tangible form to your ideas, which makes it harder to spot holes in logic and other problems that could cause your readers to disconnect. This is why every writer needs an editor! A professional book editor will not only check the technical aspects, such as grammar and punctuation, but also offer valuable advice from the perspective of your target audience.
While editorial support can take a range of forms, from ghost writing to proofreading, most authors look for either one of two service levels—referred to generically in this article as “copy editing” and “substantive editing.” Different companies offer these under different labels, but you can use the following guide to compare across services.
Copy editing – for meticulous attention to grammar and style
The primary focus of copy editing is to produce a book that is ready for publishing. Accordingly, a copy editor performs a line edit to correct the technical aspects of writing, such as
Substantive editing – for consultative support
Substantive editing is useful for authors who need expert guidance on plot, characterization, and core concept, in addition to in-depth line editing for the technical aspects. This service helps authors make their material more cohesive and interesting for their target audience, without altering the author’s voice. The editor will provide comments about
Given the depth and scope of the editor’s involvement in a substantive edit, this service calls for greater collaboration between the author and editor, and might involve multiple rounds of editing until all the issues are satisfactorily addressed.
Some companies offer more intense editorial support in the form of developmental editing (also called manuscript critiquing or literary review). Such services are typically sought in the early stages of book writing, but they can be useful even after the writing is completed. The editor goes over the entire book, or a substantial portion of it, and provides comments on specific aspects in an editorial letter and/or page margins. Such services are aimed at helping authors develop their books and do not typically include any line editing.
Tip! If your budget does not support hiring a professional editor, you could tap into pools of beta readers who would critique your book for free. While beta readers are no substitute for professional expertise, their feedback would give you the constructive criticism you need to publish a stronger version of your book.
How to choose the right editor?
Like with any service, there is really no way to be sure without personal experience or the recommendation of someone you trust. But here are a few tips to cut through the clutter of book editors and find the right one:
Lastly, remember that good writers do not necessarily make good editors. At the very least, editing requires an eye for detail and knowledge of the stylistic conventions applied to published works. Imagine a situation where your readers point out embarrassing but avoidable errors in book reviews! Investing in professional editing will help you publish work that you can be truly proud of. After all, even bestselling writers need the services of professional editors.