As an up-and-coming author, you’ve worked extremely hard on your manuscript. You’ve put in time and effort and have gone through several rounds of revisions. Now, with a completed draft finally in hand, it’s time to start looking to get your work published! But not so fast. Before sending your draft out to publishers, it might be a good idea to get a fresh perspective on your work. This is where professional book editors come in. So, what does a book editor do?
A book editor is a professional who can help you prepare your manuscript for its next stage in the publication process. Professional editors offer crucial feedback on how to improve your manuscript. They may work with you on things ranging from large-scale organization and plot to smaller-scale grammatical and mechanical issues.
Most importantly, a professional editor has expertise in identifying the kinds of issues that keep your manuscript from getting published or sold. And they can show you how you can fix them.
In general, book editors work with authors to make their work as professional as possible. In most cases, editors focus on a variety of different areas when editing a manuscript.
Often, editors have specific knowledge of the target audience or industry that an author is writing for. They can help in more effectively meeting the demands of that audience by proposing specific types of revisions. Throughout the editing process, your editor can help you edit your manuscript according to both general and genre- or industry-specific standards.
In providing objective feedback on your manuscript, editors can help you better prepare it for publication.
If your grammar, for example, needs some polishing, they can identify any errors in spelling and syntax that you may have missed. They can also provide broader feedback on your book’s plot, development, and organization.
On the one hand, the relationship between an author and an editor may seem to be somewhat adversarial. After all, the editor is suggesting you make changes to the book that you’ve worked so hard on! But rather than being professional sparring partners, authors and editors should work together with a spirit of mutual respect.
The key to a successful author-editor relationship is remembering that both of you have the same ultimate goal in mind. And that’s the publication and success of your book. If you remember that your editor is also invested in your work, you’ll be more appreciative and accepting of feedback.
There are three primary types of editors that you may work with. These are developmental editors, copy editors, and proofreaders. Of course, they may overlap in their specific duties and in the feedback that they offer. However, they do tend to focus on different areas of your writing.
Therefore, when seeking out an editor, it’s important that you get a good idea of what kinds of revisions you want to make and what kind of feedback you need. Regardless of the specific type, a quality editor can offer helpful and meaningful feedback on key issues with your writing while maintaining a respectful, cooperative, and tactful tone.
A developmental editor looks at a manuscript in terms of large-scale issues. These can involve things like plot, characterization, pacing, focus, organization, and other global concerns. Developmental editors therefore usually go over a work as a whole, focusing on how it may be effective or ineffective in the context of its target audience.
Related to copyediting is line editing. Line editing, like copyediting, involves going through your manuscript on a line-by-line and sentence-by-sentence level. However, line editors tend to focus on stylistic as well as mechanical issues.
A good line editor offers helpful feedback on things like word choice, flow, and direction. Line editors usually recommend changes that require more in-depth revisions of your manuscript not just simple spelling and grammar corrections.
Copy editors tend to focus on specific issues in individual lines and sentences, rather than global concerns. These can include areas like sentence structure, grammar, style and tense consistency, logic, flow, and so on.
In this sense, copy editors are less concerned with the overall effect of a manuscript. Instead, they concentrate on how “professional” a manuscript looks on a line-by-line and sentence-by-sentence level. A manuscript that’s sound in terms of global issues still isn’t very readable if it’s full of awkward sentences, grammatical errors, and inconsistent style!
Finally, proofreaders serve as the last quality control checkers before publishing. A proofreader meticulously combs through a manuscript to find and flag leftover grammatical, spelling, punctuation, style, and formatting errors for the editor or sometimes a designer or typesetter to fix.
As a writer, you may be familiar with different style guides detailing essential dos and don’ts for professional writing. For example, publishers may use the Associated Press (AP) Stylebook, the Modern Language Association (MLA) Handbook, the American Psychological Association (APA) Publication Manual, the Chicago Manual of Style, and so on. The sheer number of different styles and formats, each with their own specifics and each preferred by different publishers and different fields, may be a bit overwhelming for a new author!
Here, professional editors can help you navigate the somewhat complex world of writing styles. When hiring an editor, look to see if they have particular experience with the relevant style guide. If you need to write according to a specific style, a professional editor can help you ensure that everything is on point and correct for your publisher.
Depending on which genre or area you are writing in, where you want to publish, and your target audience, you might be dealing with specific requirements in style and formatting.
For example, if you are writing fiction, the editor that you hire should understand things like plot development and characterization, so that they can help you with larger developmental points in your writing.
With academic writing and general nonfiction, the requirements for formatting and style are often fairly strict. Nonfiction editors should deal more with the organization of your information and the clarity of your main points.
If you are writing in a particularly esoteric field, you may also want to seek out an editor who has unique knowledge and experience with that field.
Book editors can serve as an essential resource for both new and established authors. Good editors are usually familiar with the industry that you are looking to publish in and therefore know what works for your intended audience.
As a writer, it may be a bit difficult for you to see your own work objectively. After all, you have intimate knowledge of what exactly went into its development and writing. Your audience, however, doesn’t have that advantage.
As independent readers and as professionals, editors can help you identify possible issues or areas for revision that you may not have noticed on your own.
When looking to publish your work, a central issue that you may face is that of self-publishing versus traditional publishing.
When seeking traditional publishers, it’s important to remember that the main thing a traditional publisher is looking for is new manuscripts that sell within their target audience. Additionally, an editor can serve as a helpful medium to move the manuscript toward what the publisher wants while maintaining the author’s core work and vision.
Editors may also know what appeals to different publishers and can help make it more likely a publisher will accept your work. In other words, an editor can help you make your work more sellable.
Even if—or especially if—you choose to go the self-publishing route, a good editor is a useful tool for your manuscript. While you may not need to impress a specific publisher when you self-publish, you still need to connect with your readers in order for your work to be successful. Your editor can help ensure your work is professional and therefore more marketable.
When first setting out to find a book editor, there are two main things that you should consider. First, what genre are you working in? In other words, who is your intended audience? Second, what level of editing does your manuscript need, and what areas need the most revisions? Once you answer these questions, you should have a better idea what kind of editor or editors you need.
As with all online searches, it’s a good idea to make sure that your search is as specific as possible. Simply searching for “professional editors” will probably leave you wading through thousands of irrelevant search results.
Instead, try to include things in your search like your genre, your audience, particular publishers, what services you need, and so on. This will help ensure that your search returns include specific editors who will be the best fit for your manuscript.
If you have any trusted writer friends, you can also ask them to refer editors that they use. This way, you know that an editor has a good track record with published writers. Even if these authors don’t work in your genre or industry, you can still network with them to build connections that may lead to meeting more helpful editors. And of course, you can make use of social media platforms—especially LinkedIn—to make connections and find resources.
Finally, literary events, such as book fairs and writers’ workshops, can also be great resources for getting in touch with editors. Many professional editors, alongside publishers and agents, set up booths at literary events like these, hoping to build their client base and find promising new authors.
Most of these events require an entrance fee, so you should take that, as well as any related travel costs, into consideration.
The specific cost of a book editor varies according to several different factors. In general, editing lengthier manuscripts usually costs more. The specific type of editing that you need may also affect the price.
If your manuscript requires extensive revisions or English is not your native language, it can also affect the final cost. And if an editor can offer an expert opinion on a very specific genre, publisher, or audience, they may charge you more for this valuable feedback.
Editors may charge by the word, by the page, or by the entire manuscript, depending upon what specific service they are offering.
Costs vary between developmental editors, copy editors, and proofreaders. In general, a good developmental editor will usually (though not always) be the most expensive of the three. Developmental editors, on average, will charge somewhere between $0.07 and $0.12 per word or between $7.50 and $20 per page.
Copy editors and line editors will normally be a little cheaper, charging between $0.04 and $0.09 per word or between $5 and $15 per page. Finally, proofreaders tend to be the cheapest, with usual rates around $0.01 and $0.02 per word and between $1.50 and $3.50 per page. For more global issues, such as book formatting, costs may start at around $329 for an entire manuscript.
Quality professional editors should not leave you in the dark about what kind of fees they charge. So you should get a clear idea up front about what you can expect to pay. If an editor needs to change the pricing as issues arise, they should let you know as soon as possible and get your agreement.
When approaching editors you are looking to hire, you should of course discuss with them pertinent details mentioned earlier (your book’s length, your target audience, whether you are going the traditional or self-publishing route, and so on).
You should also have a good idea of your budget and how much money you want to spend. The editor should, in turn, give you a comprehensive understanding of their fees and how they charge. Some editors may provide a sample edit to help you get a better idea of their abilities and competence for editing.
Ideally, an author-editor relationship should be one of mutual respect and effort. Your editor should respect you as a professional, even if you are just starting out as a writer. You, in turn, should recognize that your editor is not there to be the “bad guy” but is rather invested in getting your book published and sold to the largest audience possible.
Editors, of course, usually have multiple clients taking up their time, so it’s a good idea to set expectations for how much time an editor has to commit to your book specifically.
Good editors should have a solid track record of referrals and recommendations from past clients. When approaching a potential editor, you might ask yourself questions like the following:
Answering these kinds of questions helps ensure that the editor you hire is a good fit.
Many companies offer professional editing services for hire. For example, Elite Authors offers multiple levels of book editing, from developmental editing to proofreading—and you can bundle the services. Purchasing a complete editing package may be more beneficial and cost efficient, depending upon what kinds of services you need. If you feel your manuscript needs editing on several different levels, purchasing a complete package may end up costing you less money than purchasing several different services independently.
Ultimately, professional editing serves as an essential resource whether you are a new or established author to help you with your ultimate goal: publishing and selling a successful book.
If you are an author with an unpublished manuscript, it’s time to start looking for a professional editor today. Your future bestseller will thank you!