Ready to send your book to the editor? Here are a few things you should know.
In general not many editors exclusively edit for romance but it is important to find an editor well versed the genre you write. Look on their services page for clues.
- The portfolio – This will list past clients, their books, and genre
- Goodreads Profile – This will show you what genre they read in consistently
- Professional Affiliations – While belonging to a RWA does not disqualify the editor it can be a plus in the final decision.
The editor’s services page or terms of service should answer most questions. If you have specific questions that relate to your book then I encourage you to ask. After all the final product will have your name and stamp of approval.
A common question that is not always listed is:
How many passes do you do?
The term pass references the amount of times the editor will do a read through of your manuscript. Some explain their process up front but this is an important questions. Think about how you would edit a body of work. Do you think you would be able to read a book and catch all the errors and nuances the first time? Consider how many times you want the editor to read over your content.
Twice is the norm but some editors have a one pass policy.
Editors do more than correct spelling errors. They point out blatant errors yes, but they also look for continuity in your scenes and making sure the reader understands the language and the way it is put on the page. You should to read each editor’s definitions as the explanations vary from person to person and carry different fees as well.
This type of edit is deep and gives attention to the skill of the writing itself. If you are writing to a particular publishing house or want your manuscript to walk a certain line you would be looking for a developmental edit. This is also for authors who feel their actual storytelling is lacking and needs direction. The author could be advised to change their entire plot or re-write characters and scenes in their entirety.
Sample Edit – Test the Author/Editor Relationship
When you query your editor they may do a sample edit that can range from the first 3,000 words to the first 3 chapters in your book. This is an important part of the self-publisher’s duediligence.
I recommend getting at least two sample edits of the same words side by side from different editors. In this, you will see the editor’s style and how they approach your writing. You may not like either or see strengths in one that are lacking in the other.
Content Edit / Editorial Letter / Substantial Edit
This document is an overall evaluation of your manuscript, scene to scene, chapter to chapter. It will highlight necessary hits and misses. This includes notes on plot holes, scene organization, goal, motivation, conflict, tension and world building development.
Editors that don’t list an editorial letter usually will list a content or substantial edit. This typically holds the same weight as an editorial letter where the overall structure and flow of your manuscript is evaluated and discussed in a 10 to 25 page letter suggesting changes, re-writes, problems and solutions.
This is the type of edit that is most common even for first time publishers. The line edit speaks directly toward improving your paragraphs and sentences. It focuses on word choices, awkward phrases, showing vs telling, appropriate dialogue, and misplaced body parts.
The editor is in the text to help you put your best foot forward and make the manuscript shine. This may also include some light fact checking. Attention is given to world building in the narrower sense making sure the rules are logical and consistent throughout the story.
Character conflicts and relationship roles are watched for consistency and the author can be advised to add or delete scenes to either eliminate or expand on the storyline.
Here was the actual first sentence from Untitled MS with line edits:
John Tanaka pulled his suitcase from the conveyor and straightened his back to the aroma [JT1] surrounding him and the thousands of people either departing or arriving to the island.[JT2]
[JT1]Aroma of what?
Line Edits are normally made with track changes in Microsoft Word. This is the easiest way for the author to see what changes were made to each line and the fastest way to either accept, decline, or skip the change and come back later.
Copyedit / Copy Edit
Copyediting narrows the editors focus to detail and consistency elements. This makes sure that the character traits, eye color, tattoos, or quirks remain the same. They keep you story structure in mind so that the past and present don’t overlap.
A copyedit also encompases grammer, correct word usage, and adheres to a specific style guide or publishing house style. The most common in fiction is Chicago Manual Style.
A proofread is the basic triple check because editors are human too. This will be another person that reads through your manuscript like they picked it up off the shelves. This edit is a basic read through for minuscule mistakes as well as any formatting errors.
If you are saying to yourself, “This all sounds great! How much is this going to cost me?”
Typically if you are confident in your story structure, plot, and world-building then you can pick just one type of edit. Note: This would not be the proofread.
Line Edits typically encompass the most work needed on a well written manuscript. In a perfect world you will be able to find an editor that encompasses their types of edits tailored to your voice and style. And they give your manuscript at least two passes.
If you can invest a little more in the production of your book and would like to emulate the traditional publishing process you can do more.
Editors should work along side the author. This relationship is very important. If the editor doesn’t understand the nuance of your genre or get your humor/writing style then you are likely not a good fit. In addition, the author must trust the editor and their critique in order to make the best changes for the manuscript and not be defensive.
The most important thing is to be confident in your voice and skill. Authors are unique and you don’t want editing where your voice is stifled or the story doesn’t match the flow you intended.