About 300,000 books—traditional and self-published—hit the American market every year. What will make yours stand out? Besides a killer hook, hot topic, and sizzling marketing/business plan, you need a great editor.
How do you find one? Shop around!
There is no one-size-fits-all editor. Find a professional who specializes in your genre/field. And don’t be shy about interviewing. Editors appreciate clear, direct communication and expect you to ask for references and samples. Before researching candidates, think through the services your manuscript requires. A general breakdown follows.
Manuscript Review: Examines purpose, audience focus, content development, readability, style, tone, voice, need to rewrite, structure, cohesiveness, flow, and word choices. (In fiction, also examines hook, characterization, point of view, conflict, plot, setting, time frame, awkward passages, and detail.) A critique does not involve proofreading, copyediting, line editing, developmental editing, or rewriting. It is an overall review of the text so the writer can address major issues to shape the manuscript.
Developmental Editor: Addresses format, logic, structure, style, tone, voice, cohesiveness, clarity, flow, text to rewrite, information gaps, and unfocused copy.
Heavy Copyeditor: Performs basic copyediting. Addresses style, tone, voice, readability, logic, structure, cohesiveness, flow, consistency of content, elimination of ambiguity, triteness, wordiness, jargon, redundancy, appropriate word choices, context, and smooth transitions.
Basic Copy Editor: Addresses grammar, usage, punctuation, spelling, capitalization, mechanics, cross-references, and order.
Proofreader: Checks basic grammar, punctuation, capitalization, spelling, and mechanics. Cross-checks table of contents, tables, lists, and other matter.
If you’re a first-time author, a manuscript review is a wise investment. It’s a reality check on how much work your text requires before you turn it over to an editor. Also, be aware of rates when negotiating. The Editorial Freelancers Association provides a general industry guide.
Catherine Hamrick has edited and co-authored branded lifestyle books for Oxmoor House, Southern Living, Better Homes and Gardens, Home Depot, Lark Books/Michaels, and Ortho. She blogs at Random Storyteller and is completing a memoir.