The editor’s role in producing your book

The editor’s role in producing your book is to edit the manuscript to make sure it  is well-structured and error-free, so it is ready for the next stage of production.

A brief overview of the editing process

Structural or developmental editing

Based on the information you’ve given them, the editor needs to decide whether the language, style and overall design of your manuscript meet the needs or expectations of the intended audience.

If it’s non-fiction (e.g. a memoir, or academic text) the editor may recommend  structural changes; for example, moving chapters around, deleting chapters or sections, making the style consistent, making sure the pace is interesting/ appropriate to the various parts, or writing or rewriting paragraphs or even whole chapters to make sure all the information is clear and easy to read.

If it’s fiction (e.g. a novel) the editor may recommend developmental changes/ improvements such as moving chapters, deleting chapters or sections, changing the style, changing the point of view, ensuring characters develop through the story, rewriting paragraphs or even whole chapters or writing new paragraphs or even whole chapters.

In structural or developmental editing, the editor makes the suggestions via a report, and often also via track changes comments or suggestions in the manuscript document itself. The editor does not make the changes, or decide whether to implement their suggestions. That is up to the writer to do, after the structural or developmental edit has been done.

For more information go to: Structural editing

rough Copy edit (Line edit), FACT CHECK ETC.

First, the editor needs to clarify the manual to be used as the main guide when editing the manuscript. There are several manuals that could be used. The main guide I use when editing Australian publications is the current edition of the  Australian Style Manual.

The editor creates a style sheet to ensure the language, style and formatting are consistent throughout the manuscript. For more information about how to create a style sheet go to: IPEd – the editing style sheet.

Non-fiction manuscripts should always be edited so they have correct grammar, spelling and punctuation. Fiction and creative non-fiction manuscripts need to be edited so they are consistent in style, will be easily understood by the reader, and are ‘believable’ – that is, they show what people really would say and do in those situations.

The editor may need to fact-check the manuscript by cross-checking the information in the manuscript with other sources to make sure it is correct. Information that may need to be checked includes descriptions of items, places or events that are based on real things; photo captions; references, links and names of items in the bibliography; quotes from other publications.

Fact-checking may be undertaken as part of the line editing process, or as a separate stage.

fine (or final) Copy edit

Copy editing (which some people call ‘proofreading’, especially in regard to reports and documents that are not going to be designed and published as books) means correcting the spelling, punctuation and occasional grammatical errors remaining in the document, so that the manuscript is ready for the graphic design stage.

Copy editing a manuscript includes ensuring the following are correct: inside pages text, cover text; captions, footnotes and/or end notes; and ‘extras’ such as introduction, preface, half-page information and appendices.

For more information go to: Copy editing explained.

How many edits does a manuscript need?

Most (but not all) manuscripts need to be edited more than once, and each time a manuscript is edited, this is called an editing ‘pass’.

  • If the manuscript needs major structural corrections, the editor will need to undertake at least one structural editing pass to ensure the manuscript is ready for the line editing stage.
  • If the manuscript needs a large number of grammatical corrections as well as spelling and punctuation corrections, the editor will need to undertake one or two copy editing passes, or more if required, to ensure the manuscript is ready for the copy editing stage.
  • If the manuscript is more or less correct apart from spelling, punctuation and occasional grammatical errors, it usually only needs one copy editing pass.

What happens after the copy editing stage?

If self-publishing:

  1. Graphic design: Stay posted for my upcoming article about the graphic design stage.
  2. Proofreading: go to Proofreading hardcopy publications, and Proofreading the ‘final proof’.

If you are not self-publishing:

  • It is not the editor’s role to help you find a publisher or agent; you will need to do this yourself. These tips will help:  Finding a publisher or agent
  • You will probably need to submit your manuscript to a publisher or agent as a plain Word document (not a designed document, or a PDF document)

Helpful links to more information about editing

The information in this article is drawn from my own experiences as owner/operator of On Time Typing, Editing and Proofreading: editing a number of publications; editing reports and policies; and writing, compiling and self-publishing hard copy publications. 

Proofread by Dee Sansom, On Time Typing

Image: Pixabay – Creative Commons licence (no attribution required)

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