At the recent Novelists’ Inc conference in St. Pete Beach, Florida, Mary Theresa Hussey and I offered a panel discussion on the role of freelance editors in the publishing process. The notes below are an adaptation of the points made in our discussion.
Where Do Editors Come In?
Good Stories Well Told
The Write Touch
Types of Editors and Services:
Be aware that there is no one set definition for the terms listed below, and authors and editors can blend them together, particularly during the past few years, as traditional and independent publishers change duties, or cross borders and countries. Ask for clarification about the roles and make sure your expectations and your editor’s are similar.
Concept/Consulting Editor – works on early stages of proposal or series to work out potential flaws in editorial or marketing concerns.
Developmental/Content Editor – does a deep dive into the manuscript, looking at structure, language, plot, characterization.
Line Editor – focuses on grammar, language, sentence structure, repetition, etc.
Copy Editor – does a final polish with a grammatical eye.
Beta Reader – first reader. Can focus on one aspect, or overall feel or reader appeal.
Proofreading – final check of spelling/grammar/missing words and so on.
Manuscript Critique/Editorial Assessment – often a lighter developmental edit.
Bible Creation: Many editors have experience in creating bibles (detailed outlines of characters, plots, themes, arcs, setting, family ties), over 4/6/8/16 books. Depending on needs, it can be high level or detailed.
Additionally, editors can assist a group of authors to coordinate the bible. Sometimes an outside voice can help negotiations on the handling of continuing characters and plots and makes sure that the continuity works across the breadth of the series.
Editors can also work on post-bibles. Do you remember all your minor characters? What season the book is set in? Where your characters went overseas? An editor can help organize this for you.
Are you working on an idea in a new world and need some early feedback? Can your duke actually inherit the title? Can your heroine work as a riveter in the 1940s? Will your family tree work? Was that a state at the time? After you’ve come up with the initial concept, bouncing an idea off an editor can help refine your themes, explore possibilities and give suggestions on how to make your “crazy” idea work!
Are you doing a cozy mystery series? What is unique about your idea? What will make your series stand out? What can you do to incorporate that information?
Editors have varying experience in marketing, but most with a background in traditional publishing have developed some marketing expertise that you can tap into!
Marketing-related services include the writing of back cover copy, taglines, and title development.
Some editors can also perform brand evaluations– looking at reviews on Goodreads, Amazon, B&N to pull out key and consistent phrases; looking at Amazon for metadata and presentation; offering feedback on website appearance, themes, colors; determining if there’s consistent presentation across website and covers and books; and helping to work out the unified vision of your brand;
Your editor may also be able to offer marketing advice–discussing career goals, competitive authors, talking through the benefits of traditional vs. self-publishing; advising on release schedules, and offering feedback on art and logos.
Do Your Homework:
- Find the editor who works well with your goals and style
- Check experience, references, recommendations
- Ask for a sample edit of a couple of pages (most are willing to do this)
- Many editors have a contract you can use to clarify responsibilities
- Are there opportunities to talk/before after the edit?
- Are the time frame, costs and expectations clear?
The Actual Edit:
- Indicate areas you want specific feedback on
- Ensure you are agreed on the end result
- Some editors will question, some will fix—make sure you know what you’re getting (this can also shift according to the stage of the edit)
- Agree on the process: will you get the marked-up manuscript, a revision letter, a memo, notes, a conversation, or a combination of these?
FINDING THE RIGHT EDITOR:
Recommendations from agents and fellow authors
Check out dedications/acknowledgements/Amazon info in books by favorite authors
Social Media: Twitter/Conferences/Websites
Some websites: (not in any particular order)
EFA –Editorial Freelancers Association
Publishers Marketplace –
Independent Editors Group
Association of Freelance Editors, Proofreaders, Indexers –
Society for Editors and Proofreaders –
New York Book Editors –