What’s an editor and why do I need one?
What’s an editor and why do I need one? Remember back to grade school, when an -or/-er is added to the end of a word it means “one who,” therefore an editor is one who edits. The dictionary says: “Editor” is a noun for a person in charge of determining content of a book, magazine, newspaper, or blog. But editors also edit film and video, not just moving pictures, but sound quality, and more.
Editors, within their area of expertise, are tasked with making the product the best possible. Editors are professionals. Editors get paid to edit. The better and more experienced the editor, the more they charge. Writing and publishing a book is not free or cheap, if you do it right, meaning you’re creating a top-quality product.
I hear writers say, “I won’t hire an editor again because I paid someone $500 to edit my 500-page manuscript and I don’t think they did anything. I still found mistakes.” Do the math, that’s $1 a page. Basic line editing will cost more with an experienced editor. Buyer beware!
Editors do their job within time and budget constraints allowed, which is a consideration for hiring. Let’s face it, time and money are always issues. And like everything else “you get what you pay for” with the hiring selection here, too.
Back to this great question. In teaching writing workshops around the country, and talking to published authors and agents, I find those writers who don’t know what an editor is, but want to know, and then heed the warnings, are the writers most likely to succeed. Meaning writers who will most likely publish a quality book they’re proud to put their name on. Most likely to succeed in selling their book to the intended reader, who will in turn enjoy it.
These writers start out not knowing the difference between a developmental editor, content and continuity editor, or line editor, but learn.
What is a developmental editor? A developmental editor is a writing coach working as an accountability partner, coauthor, or ghost writer. I’m a developmental editor. As a writing coach, I help someone who wants to write a book figure out the process from start to finish. We begin with addressing marketing issues to create a sellable book. Then we get into the writing process and finish a manuscript step-by-step. As a developmental editor, I often find myself working a little bit like a life coach with clients who can’t find time to write, have a fear of writing, or let the lack of skill stump them. I help clients through all of these issues to get to the end result of writing their book.
What is content and continuity editor? Most people think of these terms used in film editing as the person who makes sure the movie flows seamlessly from scene to scene, from beginning to end. Also, monitors costuming errors for period pieces, for example, watches on the arms of gladiators during a medieval era film. Continuity also means the main characters are dressed exactly the same through a film where the story takes place during 24 hours, but requires 4 weeks to film.
A content/continuity editor is looking for things like if the female lead walks across a room to put a purse down on a table, but came in the door without a purse. Or if the male lead is wearing a belt or dress shoes in one scene, but no belt or tennis shoes in another. A content and continuity book editor does the same thing. As a nonfiction specialist, when editing an expert’s manuscript for communicating to a specific customer who doesn’t know trade terms, I make sure those terms are explained so the target market sees their problem and the author’s solution as a match, therefore, the potential client hires this expert. This kind of editor can also check facts, warn about possible copyright infringement, check story flow, catch character and scene inconsistency, delete redundancies and more, yes, even in nonfiction that’s necessary.
What is a line editor? A line editor is the final step in the editing process because it’s line-by-line editing for grammar, spelling, punctuation, consistent tense use, and sometimes formatting. A line editor doesn’t look at story line, character development, or scene and setting consistency in general or within a specific time period.
Most editors do one or another type of editing as their strength, but are not necessarily good at all editing tasks. The ones who do all, are rare treasures.
Most editors do not consider the marketing aspect of a book when editing either. I’ve found I’m uniquely qualified to edit a nonfiction book so it is both top quality and sellable because of my marketing expertise.