Readers hold a high standard for books because of the expectations set by traditional publishers. That means that whether you’re going the self-publishing or traditional publishing route, you need to meet the current market standard.

We all know traditional houses have entire teams focused on taking a book from good to great. But it doesn’t mean your book can’t compete. You just need to take the success steps traditional publishers do as soon as you can.

And how do you set yourself up for success? Editing.  

Yep, get cozy with this idea because editors are writers’ best friends. Maybe it’s more accurate to think of the editing process as building a bestie circle. Because you’re going to need different “friends” to help you create a great book.

Allow me to introduce your go-to squad in the editing world, and explain how each of them can help you (even before you start writing).

 

 

Manuscript Assessment

This type of edit focuses on the big picture. And it is especially great if no one has read your book yet.  Signing up for an assessment gives you the chance to get constructive feedback from a professional. Typically, this kind of editor will carefully read your manuscript and provide you a report on your book. It comes in the form of an in-depth letter; where they will tell you, what is and isn’t working with your manuscript. Plus give suggestions on how to fix it.

These editors focus on the important elements of your book: the opening, structure, voice, style, characterization, and ending. They will also give you feedback on problem areas that may be page-specific or chapter-wide. Their feedback is geared to ensuring your book works and is compelling.

How can this feel challenging to a writer?

It can be hard to open and share your writing with anyone, let alone a professionally trained person. After all, they are still a stranger! And it’s likely this is the first set of eyes on your book. The kind of eyes that may tell you uncomfortable things. Or things you don’t want to hear, even though they’re helpful. Scary!

How you can end feeling challenged:

  •         Ask beta readers to review your manuscript beforehand
  •         Understand all writers must show their work at some point
  •         Remind yourself this is a new process and you’re learning
  •         Remember your story is important and it takes help to get it into the world
  •         Keep focused on your goal and the idea that this person is here to help

 

Developmental Editing

This is another kind of big picture editor. Except, these editors go through each page of your manuscript asking probing questions and moving pieces of your story around. They also high five you by letting you know where you’re on target. So, there’s a coaching element associated with this edit.

Developmental editors will share tips on revising but may also help you with craft; some will even assess your book’s marketability.

By big picture, I mean they focus on the overall structure and style of your novel. They will fill your manuscript with notes on plot holes or gaps, problems with your characters, and what’s happening with your story arc—all to help you hook your readers.

How can this feel challenging to a writer?

If you’ve never experienced an edit before, having a developmental edit can feel jarring. Especially when the editor suggests cutting up your story and moving it around. Basically, it’s uncomfortable and you may want to resist. A good developmental editor is evaluating your content while considering your target audience and saleability of your book. This can throw you off if you’ve gotten too attached to the current structure.

How you can end feeling challenged:

  •         Build a great relationship with your editor
  •         Ensure communication lines are open
  •         Choose an editor that enjoys or specializes in your writing genre
  •         Know they are suggesting what’s best for you AND your book
  •         Understand that new experiences don’t always feel great

 

Line Editing

The goal of line editing is to make sure that each sentence in your book is necessary, uses fresh language, appropriate words, and keeps the reader reading. So, this editor will go through each sentence of your book to determine if it belongs, reads well, and is correct. It might include some developmental editing notes, but generally your line editor will focus on words and sentences instead of the overall picture.

The important thing to understand is a line editor is going to identify and fix any problems, and suggest ways you can revise a word, sentence, or paragraph. Things you might see from this editing type are corrections of awkward sentence constructions, wordiness, overused words and phrases, inconsistent verb tenses, and flowery language.  If I had to get down to the nitty gritty of line editing, it’s to make sure the most readable and authentically voiced version of the book happens. 

How can this feel challenging to a writer?

As writers, it’s a given that we love words. We love playing with them and using lots of them. But each of us have favorite words and phrases, that are often repeated without conscious awareness. You can be assured a line editor will send these words and phrases to the cutting room floor. And if you love using metaphor and it’s too common and/or doesn’t move a story along – you can expect a RIP from a line editor.

How you can end feeling challenged:

  •         Understand more words doesn’t make your story better
  •         Look at it as an opportunity to be concise with your language for larger impact
  •         Know your book shines brighter with unnecessary elements removed
  •         Explore new ways to describe things in your novel

 

Copyediting

A copyeditor makes sure that your manuscript tells the best story possible. They get the dual role of checking on small details and keeping the big picture in mind. But that doesn’t make them a spellchecker—they are so much more than that.

They will look for and fix grammatical and punctuation errors; incorrect facts and glaring typos are also part of this process. These editors go line by line in your novel, focusing on the little things. Copyediting is a technical process. These editors are trained in styles like The Chicago Manual of Style, APA, or MLA. They build up years of experience to catch over 95% of errors. And because of that, they are at the front lines of elevating your book to a professional level.

How can this feel challenging to a writer?

If you’ve already written several drafts of your manuscript and someone points out a ton of errors, it can feel like you’re not a good writer. Or like you’re not getting anywhere with your book. 

I’ve known many great writers who don’t have the best grammar; but they have a great story to tell. And the fact is, no matter how good a writer you are, we all make mistakes, and you can’t catch every one of them. No writer can. That’s why we need copyeditors.

How you can end feeling challenged:

  •         Look at it as freedom from needing to be perfect
  •         Spend time finding and aligning with a great copyeditor
  •         Understand multiple copyedits are normal
  •         Remember, they are here to make you look better

There’s one more hidden helper I can’t neglect. Especially since they sit at the final gate of the publishing process. They are proofreaders. They aren’t exactly editors even though they do provide corrections to your manuscript. Read on to find out how this special group of professionals aid in your book’s greatness.

 

Proofreading

This is the last step before the publishing process. These professionals take the original edited copy of your book and compare it to the proof, (aka the final copy of your manuscript). They act as quality control before the book goes into mass production.

Even though many eyes have looked at your book, errors still happen. Technology steps in and book formatting can throw kinks into the writing process. So, in swoops a proofreader to polish your final files and ensure that everything is as it should be.

Proofreaders also scan for the tiniest errors in spelling or punctuation that may have slipped through the cracks in previous edits. They even address errors you accidentally added when you made changes to your book at the last minute.

They give your book a final line-by-line scan to catch typos. They fix formatting issues like bad breaks, extra or missing paragraph returns, missing page numbers, and more. While they may do light editing (such as correcting inconsistent spelling or hyphenations), the professional proofreader is not a copyeditor. If they find too many errors, they will return the proof for further copyediting.

Their focus is to make your writing professional and suitable for the competitive publishing world.

How can this feel challenging to a writer?

To be frank, this is the least challenging process for a writer. Everyone is usually pretty excited for this phase of their manuscript. It means the physical book you’ve been dreaming of is becoming a reality.

However, a lot of time can pass between your book idea and having a finished novel in hand. So, I can’t neglect the feeling of exhaustion a writer may have at this point. Especially if this is your first book and you’re nearing the end of a new process.  

 How you can end feeling challenged:

  •         Celebrate how far you’ve come
  •         Share this great news with your supporters on social media
  •         Take note of all you’ve learned
  •         Decorate your writing space with representations of your success
  •         Do something special for yourself as you near the finish line

Can you see how editors take your book from good to great? Look at all the love and expertise they pour into your manuscript! Just like you, they want to see your book succeed. That makes them great friends and needed helpers on your book writing path.

Still, it’s important to remember that hiring an editor (or editors) doesn’t exclude the need for self-editing. Not bothering to look over your book is like saying “I’m almost there” for dinner at a restaurant when you’re still at home in bed. That’s not the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

Besides, you are fully capable of identifying large issues in your manuscript on your own. It also helps your editor(s) focus their energy efficiently. For example, if you have a ton of spelling errors, use appropriate programs to fix them for you, saving everyone time.

Remember, an editor and a writer want the same thing: a killer book. Both also want a relationship built on trust and professionalism. So, taking the time to fix what you can goes a long way with your editor. It also conveniently lays the foundation for a pleasant long-term connection when you’re writing future books.

If you need some help getting started with self-editing, I recently shared Five Steps to Building Your Editing Skills. It will get you going in the right direction. And as a bonus, it will level up your knowledge on the craft of writing.

Are you ready to build your bestie circle up with editors? How about adding a proofreader to your squad, especially if you’re choosing to self-publish?

Let me know in the comments which editing bestie you want to add to your circle and why. And if you already have a great relationship with an editor, go ahead and gush on them a bit in the comments, will you? Editors can always use some love. 

 

Kelly Notaras is the founder of kn literary arts and the author of THE BOOK YOU WERE BORN TO WRITE: Everything You Need to (Finally) Get Your Wisdom Onto the Page and Into the World, published by Hay House. An editor for 20 years, she’s worked at HarperCollins, Penguin, Hyperion and Sounds True. She speaks regularly at the Hay House Writer’s Workshops and offers consultation by appointment. Find out more about how she can help you with your book.