In the “good old days” book publishers had editors on staff that could mold and shape a manuscript into a publishable state. Sadly those days are gone as publishers operate on leaner staffing levels. Enter the rise of freelance editors. Not surprisingly this has been a big growth industry within book publishing. Many high quality and experienced editors, either by choice or by necessity, have set-up their own boutique editing service.
And that is excellent news for business authors and all entering the self-published world.
However there is some basic understanding of what editors can do for your tome which will determine what you need for your work. And the status of your work is the most important factor as you begin this process.
Let me state right here one of the most critical aspects in producing a book:
EVERY MANUSCRIPT NEEDS EDITING. ”
Please don’t let people tell you your book is perfect – and don’t delude yourself with the thought that it’s good enough to hit the printing press today or tomorrow. If it hasn’t been reviewed by an experienced editor it is akin to trying to sell your house with a damaged roof or holes in the kitchen cabinets. The flaws are quickly apparent and any potential buyer (or reader) heads for the hills.
The first step is to understand what kind of editorial service you’re looking for. Editors work with manuscripts in different ways. There is the “big” picture point of view – there needs much reshaping and rejigging while at other times the structure is sound the writing is shall we say “rough”?
Which is right for you? Do you want someone to tear your work apart and reconstruct? To suggest alternate endings, or to move chapter 3 to the beginning, delete chapter 6 and remove others that aren’t necessary? Or do you want someone to simply check the spelling?
Here are the basic editing areas:
Substantive or Developmental Edit
This might be considered by some as “manuscript evaluation.” This service invites an editor to critique your overall manuscript. The editor doesn’t actually change anything in the document itself. A detailed report or memo is usually issued.
For nonfiction manuscripts, the feedback will focus on the impact of your content: its clarity and conviction, the flow of ideas, and the effectiveness of the writing style. There is less emphasis on the narrative style or character development for instance.
If your work is unfixable or your writing will need massive amounts of work – this is the place where it can be shall we say “internally reviewed” by you before moving forward?
Line editing represents the highest level of the editor’s craft and makes your writing shine. That means that sometimes a line editor will make actual content changes to a work. An experienced business book editor will understand your audience and that is critical at this stage.
Line editors consider what can be trimmed, condensed, or cut in order to improve pace, avoid repetition, and make the experience of a book as engaging as possible. A line edit might include:
- Eliminating wordiness and inappropriate jargon.
- If there is narrative – giving dialogue more “snap” and bite.
- Smoothing transitions and moving sentences to improve readability.
- Developing examples, adding subheadings.
- Deal with graphs, charts, lists and where they might fit (or not)
- Suggesting—and sometimes implementing—more comprehensive additions and deletions, noting them at the sentence and paragraph level.
Copy editing is what most people envision when they think about editing. The book remains largely in the order and at the pace that it was, and editorial changes happen at the sentence level.
Copy editing may include:
- Editing for clarity, format, syntax, obvious factual errors, and continuity.
- Canadian/British vs. American spelling issues are dealt with at this point.
- Correcting faulty spelling, grammar, and punctuation.
- Correcting incorrect usage (such as who for that).
- Checking specific cross-references (page numbers, references, etc.)
- Flagging inappropriate or over-used figures of speech.
- Changing passive verbs to active.
- Flagging ambiguous or incorrect statements (very important in business titles).
This is usually the final step in editing, when a detail-oriented, meticulous editor goes word-by-word to correct grammar, spelling, usage, and typographical errors. Proofreaders make sure that spelling, hyphens, numerals, and capitalization are always consistent. Proofreading fixes what our computer spelling and grammar checkers miss. We are all guilty on this last point – computers programs make life perhaps a bit too easy!
Let me reiterate – all manuscripts need editing. It is a matter of what stage your work is at to determine which service you feel you need.
This post is the fourth in a series on the Fundamentals of Self Publishing Your Business Book.
More articles in this Fundamentals Series: