Types of Editor – Which One Should You Choose?

Every author gets to the point where they can finally write “The End” (then take a picture of their laptop and empty coffee cup for Instagram). And then, if they’re normal nitpicky humans, they’ll go over each chapter and rework it and change bits of it and look for errant commas. But then, there’s a point where one can do no more. Nothing can really be added or removed, and the piece is ostensibly finished. However: any piece needs final polishing. Between that triumphant “The End” moment and the nitty gritty work of actually getting the book into a reader’s hands, comes a lot of difficult decisions.

First, all authors must decide between traditional and independent publishing. There is a minefield, here, as vanity publishers and scammers love to rear their heads at this point. The honest guideline is this: no author should be paying to have their book published in this day and age. Reading fees, paid print runs, paying to keep the book in print – no reputable press will demand this of an author.

If going the traditional route, the first thing to do is query agents. There are lists of reputable agents online, as well as sample query letters and synopses. This is a harder road in the beginning for most authors, as getting onto this rung is a big step. But once on, an author is well taken care of. The agent will shop the book around to publishers, and if it’s accepted, the cover, formatting, editing and marketing are usually done in house. The author receives the royalties and hopefully enough interest to justify book signings.

The indie route is entirely different. Here, the author must arrange everything for him or herself. Publishing on Amazon KDP is free, and then of course there’s IngramSpark and other services. Here an author is faced with several hurdles: finding an editor, finding a book cover artist, getting the book formatted and uploaded, and buying advertisements on Amazon and Facebook, or on Google.

The main thrust of this article is information on the main types of editor an indie author might need.

Developmental or Structural Editor – This is the top of the editor totem pole. He or she looks at your overarching plot, your characterisations, how your storyline fits together, and whether your theme is carried throughout the piece. Plot holes and flaws in character motivations will most likely be dealt with by this person. If scenes need to be tossed out or major arcs fixed, it should be done here, and as early as possible.

Line Editor – also called a stylistic editor, and for good reason. This editor looks at the creative side of the work, the flow of the piece, the style of writing and the author’s voice. Word choice (diction), point of view, tense, and descriptive inconsistencies are the field of focus.

Copy Editor – the copy editor is there to focus on the smaller, but not less important, things, like grammar and consistency. The overall look and feel of the writing is raised by looking at minute details, such as spelling and grammar, capitalisation, word usage and repetition, dialogue, number or numeral usage, shifts in point of view or tense (don’t get me started on past perfect) and inconsistencies in descriptions. If your character is brown eyed in chapter two but hazel eyed in chapter five, a good copy editor will notice and correct it.

Proofreader – This eagle-eyed person is in charge of finding every typo, every widow or orphan line, every spelling or punctuation error. He or she can work electronically or by marking printed proofs. In the end, the goal is a manuscript completely free of errors and ready for publication.

Of course, if you’re writing non-fiction, you may need a fact checker or an indexer. You might need a format editor to ensure the book is perfectly output and ready for sale.

Whatever you do, I hope that this article has been of help to you.

(Some definitions sourced from reedsy.com).

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