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Types of Editors

AliceBaine

Dreamer
Hey everyone,

I've finally reached a point in my book where I've done all the editing I can do myself. As much as I want to say it's good enough, everything I've read says you have to get a professional editor to review your book.

I'm leaning towards self-publishing, and have been using Reedsy's marketplace to find an editor.

This is the graph Reedsy has to help you pinpoint what type of editor you should look for.

Editorial assessment​

Developmental editing​

Copy editing​

Proofreading​

Manuscript evaluationDevelop your book from bare concept or first draftBrings completed manuscript drafts to a more professional levelFinal editing before publication
A one-off report on all aspects of the manuscriptMajor restructuringConsistencyGrammar
Good first step if you are unsure what you needClarify conceptsAttention to style / toneSpelling
Improve characterizationFact-checkingPunctuation
Assess plotGrammarUsage / diction
Development focus on craftPunctuationError-free
Improve accuracyUsage / diction
Learn moreLearn moreLearn moreLearn more




Originally I thought I needed a copy editor, but I recently spoke to a friend who works as an editor for Harper Collins. She was insistent on saying that you need to start with a developmental editor as that's what all accepted manuscripts go to first in the traditional field.


The editors I've spoken to already (copy editors) have said my book looks to be in great shape, and is ready for the copy editing stage. But I'm a little hesitant they're just pumping my tires in the hopes of landing a job.


Anyone have any sage advice on finding/working with editors when self-publishing? Do you go for a developmental editor, or skip straight to the copy editing?


Deep down, I think I'm afraid a developmental editor is going to try and restructure my entire book, yet at the same time I'm worried I'm too emotionally invested in my book to spot what might need changing/improving. Then there's the financial aspect of paying for multiple editors.


It's a very overwhelming stage in publishing a book. Any advice would be greatly appreciated!
 

pmmg

Vala
I'm in the same boat as you, but I was wanting to see what it was all about, so I wanted in on the first floor.

The editor I spoke with, and am hoping to use, said they would combine the function of development and copy.... So, you know, I expect that means if it need more of one and not the other, they will move more in that direction.

I think initially, unless you get a good reference, or they are willing to do a sample so you can rate them, you are just shooting in the dark. You might ask if they would be willing to do 10 pages or so to see what they got. It might also help to have a mistake and see if they catch it.

In business, its always the game to get three quotes and compare. Its not a bad model. But I am more of take a chance and see what happens type. If the one I picked works out, I would be willing to recommend.
 

ThinkerX

Myth Weaver
I ended up skipping the professional editor part because of costs. Just went over the manuscripts again and again and a again, looking for different things each time.
 

skip.knox

toujours gai, archie
Moderator
I don't see how an editor can declare you need a dev editor without seeing the manuscript.

I agree that you should ask for ten pages or so. If they won't, go to the next
 

pmmg

Vala
I had meant to say editorial assessment. Just confused the terms. I wanted an assessment but she sad should combine that with the next one up. Anyway…
 
You don't have to use an editor (when self-publishing). There's no law that states that you must, and Amazon doesn't require you to prove that you've edited your work. Also, remember that there often is a different between how traditional publishers approach publishing and how indies authors do. I would expect an editor at a big 5 publisher to say that you need to get a developmental edit. That's basically saying their job is important.

Having said that, I do believe getting an edit for most indie authors is important. It can help the work immensely if you have a good editor. Also, keep in mind that the different types of edits are different expertises. A copy editor telling you that the manuscript is fine for copy editing is about the same as any regular person telling you it's ready for copy editing. Except that they might be looking at it from a business point of view. Telling you to go ahead with the copy edit is basically telling you to give them money to do work instead of going to someone else. Even if they don't do it consciously, they're still advocating for their own service over someone elses. So always be wary.

There is no way to know until you give it to a reader. Especially not if it's your first (or one of your first) completed novels. If you want my advice then it would be to look for a few beta-readers. They need to be people who know your genre, and who will be honest with you. This usually disqualifies family and friends. But a writing group or other authors might be fine. I think there are also beta-reading sites and facebook groups where you can find readers.

As for an editor completely changing your story. Normally a good editor will try to make your story better, without changing your intent or style. Which means he works within the frame of your story. Of course, it could happen that he suggests big changes, but it might then actually be the case that those changes make the story better. Don't be afraid though. Most editors will try to help you craft a better story. There's always a chance of finding a bad editor, though I think Reedsy does vet theirs, which means they should be decent enough. You could always get an Editorial assessment instead, which should give you a bit the same info without going into as much detail. The upside is that it's a lot cheaper usually.
 

Mad Swede

Maester
Writing this as a traditionally published author. Start with the editorial assessment, this will tell you what areas of your manuscript need developing. Then I'd go with the developmental edit, because unless you're a very talented first time author the editorial assessment is going to pick up quite a lot of things which need work.

To put this in perspective, if your manuscript were to be sent to a publisher (either by you or by an agent) then the publisher would do some form of editorial assessment (here in Sweden it's called a lektörsutlåtande) before deciding whether to accept your manuscript. You may not see that assessment (in Sweden you do see it), but if your book is accepted then that assessment is the basis for the developmental edit that the publisher pays for.

I'll be honest and say that I learnt more about writing from that first lektörsutlåtande and the subsequent developmental edit than I'd ever learnt anywhere else. It was hard work, but my writing improved out of all recognition. And the subsequent books did quite well.

Editing, especially developmental editing, is all about trust and understanding. When you pick an editor, try to treat it like a job application. Interview them over Teams or something similar, because you both have to be comfortable about working together. Ask for a sample edit. Always remember, you should be aiming for a long term relationship with your editor because your understanding of each other, your working relationship and above all your trust only develops over time.

A good editor, one whom you trust and who understands you and your writing, won't change your intent, tone or style. What they will do is try to improve your story, suggesting changes to things like structure, pacing, dialogue and the small details that fill in your setting.
 

AliceBaine

Dreamer
Thanks everyone for the great advice.

It sounds like an editorial assessment would be the smartest first step. I agree with Prince of Spires, in that whether it's intentional or not, an editor would be pretty dumb to tell a potential client not to work with them because the story isn't good enough for a copy edit. It's like a carpenter turning down work because the house plans aren't good. Money is money.

Does anyone have any experience using Reedsy? All the editors have reviews from authors they worked with, as well as a portfolio of books they've edited, so I feel like you're pretty safe with someone with a couple dozen 5-star rating.
 

Ned Marcus

Inkling
Reedsy worked well for me, but you still want to get a sample edit if possible (they may not do this for an editorial assessment).
 

pmmg

Vala
It sounds like an editorial assessment would be the smartest first step. I agree with Prince of Spires, in that whether it's intentional or not, an editor would be pretty dumb to tell a potential client not to work with them because the story isn't good enough for a copy edit. It's like a carpenter turning down work because the house plans aren't good. Money is money.

I cant go with that. There is reason, which is their professional reputation. In the assessment I am paying them to give it to me straight. And if its not ready, they need to say so. If what they say does not jell, I will come to a place like here and say so, and that will not be good advertising for them. What I want most as an editor, is for them to tell their friends about me. Not that I led them astray. Anyway...as the writer. What I want most is the trust, and their good faith effort to help me reach my success goals. If its not there, I may move on, but if they blow smoke at me, I'll also throw up flags telling others there are better choices. No one wants that.
 

AliceBaine

Dreamer
Thanks for the input, Ned. I agree 100%. Nobody's getting a dollar from me without a sample edit, though so far, everyone has been very willing to provide them.

I'm assuming you self-published? Did you start with an editorial assessment, or skip ahead to developmental or copyediting?



You make a good point, pmmg. I'm sure if my story was a complete atrocity (though they only have a single sample chapter to base their opinion off), they would tell me, because it's also a waste of their time to put lipstick on a pig.

I think I'm paranoid because from previous experience in critique groups, I gravitate towards praise and tend to get all bothered over criticism, which I know is the wrong way to improve my writing. I've gotten a lot better, but I still catch myself leaning towards the editors who make me feel the best. For my own sake, I want to be sure I'm not paying for someone to pat me on the back.
 

Ned Marcus

Inkling
I'm assuming you self-published? Did you start with an editorial assessment, or skip ahead to developmental or copyediting?

I started with a developmental edit + a light copyedit. Both were extremely useful.

I agree with pmmg's point on editors (the only exception would be asking for editors in FB groups where, in my experience, the quality is low). One editor on Reedsy actually turned me down. I'm not sure why, but it seemed she felt we weren't a good fit.
 
There are lots of reasons to use all of the above if money grows on trees, but it all depends on where you are as a writer. I paid for a developmental edit with a great editor, but did she teach me anything? Nah. If you have a keen understanding of story, you don't need assessments. I guess I did learn she loved my writing and there wasn't much to do to the manuscript outside of a copy editings and proofreading, heh heh.

PLUS, you can write like crap and make millions (50 Shades) selling millions of copies, OR you can win major literary awards while selling a few thousand copies and barely afford your apartment, heh heh. Publishing is a weird, weird world.
 
I cant go with that. There is reason, which is their professional reputation. In the assessment I am paying them to give it to me straight. And if its not ready, they need to say so. If what they say does not jell, I will come to a place like here and say so, and that will not be good advertising for them.
I meant something different. I'm sure each editor will do the best job they can. What I meant was that a copy-editor, who is reading a novel to judge how much copy-editing work is needed, is probably just as poor a judge at giving developmental editing advice. Someone reading with a copy-editing frame of mind will not directly focus on details like the pace of your opening chapter, or if your character arc works, or which concepts need clarification or anything else. Even if they otherwise could do so, when they're reading for copy-editing advice that will be what they are focussing on, and what their advice should be taken on.

What's more, when you're asking for someone to work for you, you should keep in mind that they will want your money. Even unconsciously they might advice you that just going for their service is good enough.

Lastly, Demesnedenoir makes a great point. While good editing makes it a bit easier to sell a book, it is by no means a guarantee for sales. It's a combination of the right story at the right place at the right time, and good marketing.
 

Ban

Troglodytic Trouvère
Article Team
I wish I had the money to throw legions of editors on anything I write. Throw enough of them on a work and you might just end up with an entirely new book for you to read.
 

pmmg

Vala
I meant something different. I'm sure each editor will do the best job they can. What I meant was that a copy-editor, who is reading a novel to judge how much copy-editing work is needed, is probably just as poor a judge at giving developmental editing advice. Someone reading with a copy-editing frame of mind will not directly focus on details like the pace of your opening chapter, or if your character arc works, or which concepts need clarification or anything else. Even if they otherwise could do so, when they're reading for copy-editing advice that will be what they are focussing on, and what their advice should be taken on.

Totally understood. Everything even they say must be viewed with scrutiny, and there are no guarantees. The editing process is just trying to improve that chances of success.

This is why Reedsy (and others) have different levels of edit. An Editorial Assessment, is supposed to do the job of looking where the processes the work is. Does it need development, or just copy editing. Its to manage the project into the right boxes. One doing a copy edit ought to expect the developmental stuff is complete, cause of where they are on the hierarchy.

But all if is only an attempt to provide something of value, and decrease risk in the market. Mileage may vary..

What's more, when you're asking for someone to work for you, you should keep in mind that they will want your money. Even unconsciously they might advice you that just going for their service is good enough.

Ideal would be to try many, and compare and contrast. With money, one can. Without it, its a slower processes. Many things in life are this way.
 
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