The book publishing industry is going through a huge transition. It’s easier than ever to get a book out into the world. All the resources you need to publish a book are available you. You no longer need to go through the traditional gatekeepers (publishers) to publish a quality book.
Because it’s so easy to publish a book and get it out to market, authors sometimes skip the critical part of editing. No matter how good of a writer you are, you need to hire an editor. If a book has too many typos, readers typically stop reading. Not having an editor go through your work is like sending an untested drug out to market.
So, you’ve written your manuscript and have gotten feedback. You’re now ready for the next step in self-publishing: hiring the right editors. Different editors perform different job functions. I’ve compiled them below to make sure you pick the right person for your work.
1. Developmental Editing
A developmental editor will take your manuscript and work with the content itself. If needed, they might reshape your work and rearrange sentences to make the book flow together better. This type of editor helps an author find their voice and help refine their vision.
When looking for a developmental editor it’s important to choose one who has experience in your genre or specializes in your book topic. Don’t pick a travel editor for your romance book. If the editor has only edited magazine articles it might not make sense to have him or her do a developmental edit for your book. Working with an editor who you connect really well with is key. Sometimes, authors hire someone without speaking on the phone or getting a sample edit first. I always recommend doing a face to face via Skype or FaceTime. When looking for editors get a list of some of the other works they’ve edited to make sure it’s similar to what you’re looking for. It also helps to interview the editors’ past clients to see what feedback they’ve gotten. Most editors will do a sample edit on a few pages or a first chapter to help you get a sense of their style.
Not everyone needs a developmental editor, but if it’s your first time writing a book and you haven’t had a thorough critique of your manuscript, then hiring a developmental editor is a good place to start.
Developmental editing can also be called substantive editing/heavy line editing.
2. Copy Editing
Copy editing is a crucial step in the publishing process. A copy editor goes through and catches spelling mistakes, adjusts for grammar, punctuation, capitalization and consistency. A copy editor will check your manuscript line by line to make sure your work is consistent and syntax error free.
When hiring a copy editor make sure to get a list of the work they’ve copy edited. Hiring a magazine editor or someone who edits articles works fine in this scenario because they are mostly checking for syntax, grammar and other errors. Always ask your potential editor to do a sample copy edit of your manuscript to make sure you agree with their changes. Before you work with anyone make sure you check their LinkedIn profile and checked out their reviews.
A proofreader makes a final check of the work before it gets published or goes live. They’ll catch any mistakes that a previous editor hasn’t caught yet: spelling mistakes, extra commas or spaces, and other minor errors.
When working with anyone it’s best to agree on timelines and a payment plan up front and ask a lot of questions. Editors will usually do sample edit for free but usually require a deposit before they start work. If you’re the type of person who likes to meet face to face, then hire someone local from your area.
By making sure you hit all the editing steps you CAN get publisher-level quality for your self-published book.
Further Reading from Miral Sattar
Miral Sattar is the CEO of BiblioCrunch, an award-winning author services marketplace that matches authors with quality, award-winning professionals to get new books to market. She has worked in the media industry for 11 years, most recently at TIME where she launched several digital initiatives. Her writing has been featured in PBS, TIME, CNN, NY Daily News, among other media publications. She has a MS in Publishing (Digital + Print Media) from NYU and a BS from Columbia University in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. You can follow Miral on Twitter @miralsattar.