Monday, June 27, 2011

Monday Musings: How Important Is Having Editor?

This week Over Coffee will be about different aspects of our writing careers, whether it's procuring a good editor, investing in writing conferences, or building a online presence.

Most authors come into contact with editors. There are all sorts of editors from acquiring editors to copy editors. They have all have an important role in an author’s career and the quality of their writing. They work with non-fiction and fiction authors and these professionals edited everything from articles to books.

Although I know several editors and their roles in publishing a good book, there was much I didn’t know. So I researched. With so many opting for self-publishing, or working with small indie presses, the need for a good editing is vital for your finished product—your novel.

In a publishing house, the acquiring editor is the liaison between authors, staff, and readers. They act as project managers. Their job is to make sure your work the best it can be. They take into consideration the overall picture of your story.  They contemplate your genre, writing style, and the demands of the market. All this involves a lot of ripping, tearing, and rebuilding of the manuscript. It’s not an easy process for authors or editors.

Once you sign your contract, the editor will read the whole manuscript. These editors read for story structure and may come back with a list of changes of necessary for your manuscript. This may be commenting on your setting, characters, conflict, pacing, plot, and word choices. You, the author, then revise your story according to these comments. It may take several revisions before both you and the editor come to agreement. Once all that is worked out the manuscript moves to another editor.

The copy editor is the one we usually think of when we think editor. Copy editors get the manuscript and read or *proof* it for grammar and punctuation, word usage, spelling and typos. They also check for consistent formatting of chapter headings, and more. This process may take more than one pass to get everything correct. Then it’s sent back to the author to do a final edit. Meanwhile THE editor finalizes all the pieces farmed out to various staff members (the design editors, the copywriters who might write the back cover blurb, the publicity department) approves it and now it’s off for publication.

There are a lot of extra steps in this simplified telling. I just hit the high points. One thing I have learned, not all editors are created equal. I found this out by letting a good friend who was a newspaper editor read one of my first stories. She’s very good at what she does for newspaper editing but it’s a different form of editing. Suffice to say, if ever I decide to self publish, I will be utilizing a fiction editor who has a good copyeditor around, or she can wear both hats well and I’ll be asking for references.

No wonder so many authors gush over their editor in their acknowledgements. A good Fiction Editor is worth having. They make the difference between an okay story and a great story.

  • As an author, what have been your experiences with editors? 
  • Would you put out a book without one? 


L. Diane Wolfe said...

How important is a professional editor? About as important as breathing!
I encourage all writers, even ones sending out submissions, to have their work professionally edited. For a self-publisher, his or her reputation is on the line, and for a submitter, it helps the work to stand out from all the submissions that haven't been edited.
And often books have multiple editors. My friend p.m. terrell says four editors work on her books, each one looking at different aspects.

~Sia McKye~ said...

Good point, Diane, on having even submissions professionally edited.

I'm not surprised to hear four different editors at work on one book.

Hilary said...

Hi Sia .. I can see that - but thanks for setting out the various roles so clearly. I had a book recently that wasn't right & it was uncomfortable reading .. put me off the flow of the story itself .. I had to re-engage. Then the spelling and the uncomfortable grammar .. again made me sit up and think 'quelle horreur' ..

So - very definitely worth knowing that four editors are likely to work on one book .. thanks for this - Hilary

~Sia McKye~ said...

Hilary, I hear you. The occasional misspelled word or typo doesn't bother me, but I do notice them and if there are several it can throw me out of the story. Not good for an author. I've started a few awkward books but rarely finish them. If I have to keep reengaging more than one or two times, I tend to grab another book.

Karen Walker said...

I would never consider putting out a book that hadn't been professionally edited. I hired an editor prior to self-publishing my memoir, then hired the editors at the self-publishing company I used. No regrets.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I've enjoyed working with my publisher's editor - she's cool. I had test readers for my first book who helped with edits, but my latest manuscript benefited from three critique partners as well.

Kat Sheridan said...

I haven't experienced editors working for publishing companies, but I HAVE had my work vetted by a fabulous freelance editor ( before I ever considered entering it in contests or submitting it. If a publisher sees that a manuscript is going to need a lot of work, and it's in contention with one that's almost perfect, which do you think they'll choose? It's always been true that you get one chance to make a good first impression.

Tonya Kappes said...

Good afternoon!! I'm drinking my cup of coffee looking out at the beach on vacay, but couldn't resist to comment.
I have been with a small publisher and Indie pubbed. I have to say that the small publisher did a crappy job editing and formatting all of my books and I don't even promote those because I hang my head.
Since Indie publishing, I have to say this whole edit thing is the hardest part of Indie. After the first book, I had a few awesome people step up to the plate to let me know of about ten wrong words. As Indie, they are easy to fix, but once it was sold with the mistakes it was out there. I was happy to know that when you upload the revised versions, people with Nooks can upload the new version free of charge, but not Kindle.
I even paid an editor $600 to edit it!!! What a shame!! First off, I think the editor didn't read the type of book I wrote and sent back silly questions about the plot when he was hired to line edit, nothing more. With my second book, I had three beta readers and an editor line edit those. It has a handful of mistakes, but nothing that will kill the book, in my opinion. Luckily I have heard from two people and I can make those changes.
All in all, I realize why it takes traditional published book sooooo long to come out~all the edits it goes through. Would I go back to traditional publishing even with the mistakes in my books~NO! I wouldn't!!
But I am more aware of my work when writing it the first time around, and able to look more closely at it. When I had an editor with tradition pubbing, I would let some of my own edits slid b/c I knew those would be caught. Now I've learned with a couple books on my own, and hopefully surrounded myself with great people who beta read and re-read to make sure I put the best book out.
And I'm always looking for a great editor who will catch those mistakes. Unfortunately, I haven't found that perfect editor...but then anyone perfect?

Kat Sheridan said...

Tonya, I really do recommend (the owner comments here as well). Not only is she thorough (and I prolly spelled that wrong!) but she's also *kind*, and really TEACHES what's wrong so you do better next time (though she hasn't yet been able to cure me of sprinkling commas like they were confetti!)

Jo said...

The more I read about writing novels, the more I am pleased that I never tried to write a book. It seems to be such hard work, writing tends to be the smallest part of it.

Alyson Reuben said...

Hi, Sia! Love how explained the roles of editors and copy editors. They're both very important.

Do I think editors are necessary? Absolutely! Placing it in their hands ensures that the book is truly ready for the public. I wouldn't dare publish without them.

My editor is Nan Swanson at The Wild Rose Press, and she's awesome! She's invaluable, actually.