Writing a Book: Editors Are Wonderful, But…

Writing a Book: Editors Are Wonderful, But…
Shock, horror… You’ve heard from your editor.

You’re writing a book. You’ve completed a draft, and emailed it to your editor. It comes back, with lots of suggestions and corrections.

What do you do? A student asked this question because she was very upset.

Let’s address the upset first. It’s your book, you’re very close to it, and having someone make (what seem like) disparaging comments is upsetting. It’s normal to feel as if you’ve been kicked in the head. Every author gets stressed during editing. However, your stress is unhelpful. Your book needs editing, because you wrote it. There’s no way you can read it as a reader would. Editing makes your book better.

You’ll recover your equilibrium. Go for a walk, or the gym – go anywhere, and get some exercise. Wait for your initial reaction to pass…

All better? OK. 🙂

Now let’s look at the kind of editing your book got.

Writing a Book: Editors Are Wonderful, But…

What Kind of Edit Did You Get?

There are several different kinds of editing, including: developmental, copyediting (line editing), and proofing.

Developmental editing (also termed substantive editing) is basically a revision. It’s pulling your book apart, and putting it back together so that it’s better. (Or at least, everyone hopes it’s better. I’ve noticed that when indie publishers get a “real” publisher, their books get worse. Readers notice the change in voice, and don’t like it. )

Your developmental editor looks at the book, gets an overall feel for the book and how it might fit into the marketplace, and gives you suggestions for revision. She might offer suggestions for character development, or ask you to eliminate a subplot because you don’t need it, and so on. Developmental editing can be wholesale slaughter. Believe it or not, this is good for you. When you survive this, you’ll be a better writer.

Line editing is what it sounds like. The editor goes through your book, line by line, and offers ideas and suggestions, and asks questions.

A proofread isn’t strictly an edit. However, it can be. If you’ve hired an editor, it depends on what you’ve asked for. Usually the proofread is the final edit before the book goes to print, in traditional publishing, or before you convert your book into MOBI and upload it to Amazon if you’re self-publishing.

Editing and You: YOUR Name Is on the Book.

You need an editor. Every author does. Therefore, read all editorial suggestions carefully, and don’t dismiss them out of hand. When it comes down to it however, remember whose name is on the book. It’s your name. Not your editor’s.

An aside. There seems to be a fashion in traditional publishing, which started in the 1990s, and in some indie books too, for editors to get a credit in the front matter: Editing by… That’s cheer-worthy. YES! Share the blame. (I’m joking. Sort of. :-))

What if You Can’t Afford an Editor?

There’s no shame in that. Nor do you necessarily need or want an editor. Look, currently I’m writing some SHORT erotic short stories under a pen name. They’re around 5,000 words each ebook. Do I want an editor for them? Hell no. I can do it myself – revise, line edit and proof. These are shorts, written for a specific audience. If readers start quibbling about editing when they’re reading erotica, the ebooks have bigger problems than a few typos.

In indie publication, professional editing is nice, but you can do a lot of editing yourself. Or you can trade editing with another writer.

If You Must Say “No” to an Editorial Suggestion…

When you hire an editor, or find yourself edited by an editor at a publishing house, do your best to comply to editorial comments. But don’t be too ready to change anything in your book on an editor’s say-so: it’s your name on the book, so stand up for yourself. 🙂

Over the years, I’ve said “no” to editors’ demands and suggestions. The key when you reject something, is to be totally professional. Explain as much as you need to, but don’t over-explain. As we’ve said, your name is on the book.

Keep in mind that editors can be wrong. Developmental editing is subjective. And line editors (copyeditors) can be ignorant fools, to put it mildly. A copyeditor can correct things which don’t need correcting, and introduce errors. You’ll hear many authors swear about and at copyeditors.

Writing a book is an accomplishment. Surviving your edits builds your character. It’s an editor’s job to make your book better, and most editors are wonderful, so enjoy your edits. 🙂


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Angela Booth is a top copywriter, multi-published author, and writing teacher. She offers many guides, courses and classes to help writers to enhance their skills on her websites. She also provides inspiration and motivation for writers on her writing blogs. Angela has been writing successfully since the late 1970s, and was online in the 1980s, long before the birth of the Web. Her business books have been widely published.