A guest post by Kyle Weckerly
Editors are an elusive and sometimes intimidating breed.
They have the power to turn our stories into the polished gems we know them to be.
Or reveal the glaring flaws that would tear them apart.
It is that last one that nearly every author is afraid will happen. This is why some authors, even those who have run a marathon in Antarctica, will avoid hiring one.
After all, you’ve worked on your book for a long time, and handing it over to someone is risky. The editor is the professional, the one who is seen many manuscripts and could tell you if your book is worthwhile.
But editors need not incite fear in any author.
Like you, they’re a professional with a unique set of skills. They work to ensure the quality of your work shines through to the end. They handle the minor issues in your manuscript and bring major ones to your attention. Then they help you resolve them.
The Types of Editors
Every manuscript needs an editor, but not every editor needs to work on your manuscript. Read the list below to get an idea of the different types of editors and which one you might need for your work in progress.
- Developmental editors; These editors work with you before your manuscript is complete. They can even be a book coach for you. They work to flesh out the concept, ideas, flow of the story, and more. They’re not so much concerned with style guides and grammar. They look at the bigger picture.
- Substantive editors; This type of editor works to arrange the pieces of the book into a logical flow and adhere to a style guide. They look at the structure more than anything.
- Content editors; These are the analytical editors. They look for the specifics. Specifically, is the work going to resonate with the intended audience? Do the facts check out?
- Copy editors; These are the ones who look for the typos, the confusing sentences, and other details that an author can miss. They provide the objective view of the writing itself. They also handle formatting the manuscript to a specific style guide, like APA or CMS.
- Proofreaders; These are the most recognized type of editors. Their job is to find those spelling mistakes and punctuation errors. And if you think working with a proofreader should be avoided, then imagine how you’d feel if a reader pointed out a glaring mistake?
While this list of editors is daunting, take a step back. Not every manuscript will need all types. And the editor for your manuscript shouldn’t be doing all five specialties. Like doctors, don’t go to a doctor who offers to “do it all.”
At the very least, you’ll need a copy editor, content editor, and proofreader. Most likely two proofreaders. An editor isn’t the only professional you’ll need help from while publishing your book. But their contributions can be the most subtle.
One such author, let’s call him “Bob,” had written a book that explained his motivations for running a marathon in Antarctica. He also had lots of advice to share about recruiting, leadership, and training for a grueling footrace. The author was traveling to various business coaching groups and giving speeches.
Bob was a recruiter. Bob had been working for years trying to connect companies with talented individuals who “fit” with the company on many levels. It wasn’t just enough to find someone with an impressive resume. Bob worked to understand the needs of the company and what type of person would excel in that spot.
More than that, Bob worked to find people who desired those types of positions.
So, Bob had a unique way of assessing potential candidates.
He’d come upon this methodology after learning about Ernest Shackleton, the captain of the ill-fated Endurance. In the early 1900s, Shackleton and his crew attempted to cross the Antarctic Continent, only to get stranded there for nearly two years before finding safe passage home.
After he read about it, Bob became inspired to run a marathon in Antarctica. In training for the race, he’d also made some more discoveries about himself and how he could apply those to executive recruiting.
So, Bob decided to take this knowledge and package it in a book.
I had the chance to hear Bob speak in person. Bob was an eloquent speaker, and his expertise shines through easily. It was also fun to hear about training in a walk-in freezer for a year in preparation for the marathon, stories about Ernest Shackleton, and running on the bottom of the earth.
Then it came time to read Bob’s book.
Why every author needs a professional editor
There were typos, layout issues, and his cover looked cheap.
Bob mentioned, almost complained outright, that his speaking gigs weren’t as profitable as he’d like.
Five pages into the book and it became obvious he needed a professional editor.
Bob’s story— or the more accurately, the story of his book— highlights how someone with a lot of information and knowledge to share can torpedo their attempts without knowing it. While I never got to ask him about it, it looked as though he’d gone with the cheapest (read; most “cost-effective”) option possible with the intent of making more money that way. After all, if he could save on the cost of an editor and print more books, that would mean more speaking gigs, right?
Because of the low-quality book, Bob was having a hard time securing speaking gigs. Fewer speaking gigs meant fewer speaking fees.
The book may not have been the only reason, but it was hard to ignore, just the same.
Look at it this way; if Bob had paid for an editor to polish his manuscript, then he could have recouped the cost with more speaking gigs. Or speaking gigs that paid him more.
It doesn’t take a marathon in Antarctica to learn a simple lesson; get a professional editor for your manuscript.
With a good editor, the quality of your story shines through in your book. Independent author services, like the ones offered by 1106 Design, allow authors to publish books that achieve just that. And if you’re looking to connect with better speaking gigs, a quality book can’t hurt your chances.
Don’t be like Bob.
Hire an editor.
Kyle Weckerly is a writer in progress. He produces content, maintains social media, and monitors SEO. Beyond that, he’s pursuing his passion to write novels and apply his writing skillset to help others.