Working with Outside Eyes
No writer can ever produce a flawless manuscript alone. Writers are simply too close to the story to know if everything has been successfully translated onto the page. That’s why writers work with reader groups, critique partners, writer’s circles, or professional editors.
Other Writing Partners
But before we dive into the specifics, let’s talk about the roles we don’t call editors within a writing support network.
A professional editor is not a:
- Writing Coach
A writing coach is:
- someone who works with you as you make your way through the stages of coming up with an idea, writing it down, editing it, and sending it out for publication/query.
- an experienced writer who can guide you on the journey. They might be paid - or not.
- more hands-on
A writing coach might also offer suggestions on your manuscript itself.
A mentor is:
- someone with industry experience who gives advice, but is more hands-off than a coach
A mentor may or may not read the manuscript, based on your relationship.
A ghostwriter is:
- someone you pay to write a manuscript on your behalf.
As it’s your name on the cover and you keep the royalties, they don’t come cheap.
- Beta Reader / Critique Partner
A beta reader or critique partner is:
- A fellow writer you trust to provide you with feedback on the structure and big-picture elements of the novel
Beta reading/critiquing is usually provided on a trade basis, with the understanding that you will provide your readers with similar help when it's their turn.
What Do Professional Editors Do?
Ok, so what is an editor, and what do they do? For starters, the term “editor” is a professional designation. It is often used a job title or indicates someone has earned a certificate or degree in editing.
Editing includes a range of job sets with different titles that vary according to the size of each publishing house or the services you want to hire from a freelance editor. At smaller presses, some of these titles and job duties are often conflated.
Editorial job titles include:
- Acquisitions Editor
An acquisitions editor is:
- fairly hands-off the manuscript. Their job is to sort through submissions to the publisher, whether they come from agents or from the author slush-pile.
- responsible for determining whether a manuscript is worth acquiring for the publishing house they represent. They will generally have to make a case to the marketing teams, higher-ups, and other stakeholders in the company to ensure the manuscript will be a good return on investment.
- the one who will deal with your agent, or you the writer (or both), as the acquisition of the manuscript is arranged.
- your point of contact at the publishing house once the contract is signed.
In some cases, the acquisitions editor may offer developmental advice, depending on how involved they are in the revisions process.
- Developmental Editor
A developmental editor is:
- concerned is the big-picture structural and character-based edits that the publishing house thinks the manuscripts needs. They’ll usually provide an Editing Letter, which will outline what they love and what they’d like you to revise.
- not your enemy. They are not trying to change or ruin your precious baby book out of spite—they love it and want it to be the best version of the story that it can be, just like you do.
If you have concerns about their requests and suggestions, set up a time to talk through them together. You may hit on a solution that pleases both of you.
You can also hire a freelance developmental editor to help you polish up the manuscript before submitting it to agents or publishers, or to make sure the book is the best it can be before self-publishing.
- Copy Editor
A copy editor is:
- concerned with making sure that the words you used are correct, clear, and there’s no errors in the prose.
- not concerned with the big-picture stuff, nor with the nitty-gritty of punctuation and typos.
- the middle ground, making sure that the story-on-the-page makes sense and has no narrative errors.
If they’re freelance, copy editors often charge on a per-word, or per-page basis.
A proofreader is:
- the editor with the Red Pen of Doom. It’s their job to ferret out the last of the typos, comma splits, or missing quotation marks.
- responsible for making sure that if you’ve chosen to break the rules, you’re doing so consistently and deliberately.
If they’re freelance, proofreaders often charge on a per-word, or per-page basis.
- Management or Production Editor
A management or production editor is:
- not concerned with the content (i.e., the words or plot or style) of your manuscript, but in shepherding it through the various stages of acquisition, revision, copyediting/proofing, typesetting, designing, release, and marketing.
- interested in the book as a product, not in the manuscript itself.
Now that you know the differences between all the editing jobs, sit down and think about your current story. What types of editing should you be thinking about at this stage in your writing?