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  • Writer's pictureMartin Svolgart

What kind of editor do I need?

There are different kinds, and they each have a specialty. Some of them are not needed for indie authors, so I’ll skip those here.

Some have different names depending on the industry, and others share enough skills to be able to function as one or the other.

In this article, we’ll focus on the following, as they’re the ones most prevalent and in need among indie authors.

· Self-editor (yeah, I made that up for the occasion)

· Developmental editor

· Content editor

· Line/copy editor

· Proofreader

Let’s break them down

You. Yeah, you’re the first editor! Rounds and rounds of self-edits. Sometimes ad nauseum. This is where we have to remember why we love writing. Nah, it’s not that bad, but it is a running joke in the author community. Some love it, some hate it, and the latter wants to delegate it. The good news is you can, but you can never be completely hands off—even if you have a traditional publishing contract in your hand.

You polish that baby until it shines as well as you can make it, and then you hand it over to someone even better at polishing words.

That would be the beta readers. I’ve already written an article about beta readers because they’re an important tool, yet also an area that’s fraught with dangers when approaching. There are many freelancers out there, and not all of them have your or your book’s best interests at heart. Some just want to read free books and can catch a typo here and there, and others want to steal it! Yeah…so please go read that.

Developmental editors are the ones to pull in if you need to develop anything in your story. They’re like turbo-charged betas who can juggle everything at the same time while drinking coffee! Their function can be as both coach, ghostwriter, cheerleader, sparring partner, and the janitor helping you clean up/out the overall mess that a manuscript in edits is well within its right to be.

Content editors have less scope than a developmental editor, meaning they don’t coach and cheerlead. They’re particularly useful for non-fiction authors as they work more fact and detail orientated with subject matters and the target audience. This is also the editor to go for if you’re unsure whether you hit the genre right. They are niche orientated and know what’s expected, what the audience expects, and what the market in general expect, which can also lead to great feedback on launch plan and marketing strategies for you new book.

Line/copy editor are your grammar Nazis! But any ol’ grammar Nazi on the internet won’t do (including your English teacher or professor!) because trained editors of this sort adhere to a Style.

The most popular style within fiction writing is The Chicago Manual of Stylea manual that began in 1891 and is still used by all big (and small) publishing houses today. I’ve had an English teacher mention in a review that it was a nuisance that I put all car brands (trademarks) in italics because there was no point to it. According to the Chicago Manual of Style, that’s how you do it when you mention trademarks in any publication to point out that it is trademarked. This is why your English teacher won’t do.

A trained line/copy editor knows what to do with a text to make sure we don’t get in trouble. This includes knowledge of how or when to use/not use song lyrics, quotes from movies, etc. They also know formatting and are often specialized within specific genres.

Proofreaders are the end of the line. Even though line/copy edits have been through it, they’re human, too. Also, they focus on more than merely the commas and the differences between peek/peak/pique, so those can sometimes slip past, even when most do two edits. The proofer has no other job than to find those last slippery buggers. They’re human, too, so there will be stuff hiding from their hawk eyes, too. If you get a book down to a max of one mistake per page, it’s good editing. Less of course would be awesome.

Editors and their magic

It’s not all wrong. It’s why you need to make a budget for every publication. I’ll go into that in further detail here.

But they’re human, and so are you, so finding someone you work well with and have chemistry with would be optimal. Someone you share humor with, too, because nothing’s worse than your editor not getting the brilliance of the joke you’ve been snickering at while writing. Betas? Get everybody because sometimes, we find a few people we jive so well with that only we few get the epic brilliance of a cat pun (or whatever).

Finding someone you can work with for years will help you grow more than any other cooperation. Switch out betas once in a while but keep your editor!

Laura! If you’re reading this! Skip the following paragraph until after Christmas!

I bought my editor the best organic white lemon crisp chocolate I know on the Danish market and sent it to her in the States with her yearly Christmas card. Having an editor like her in my corner for the past five years has, without a doubt, raised my abilities as a writer. If you can find someone like that, get possessive! And spoil them rotten.

Networking is King

Finding a professional editor of whatever kind you need will also open up for the possibilities of them knowing others in the industry with a good reputation. There are a lot of freelancers out there you can put money into with very little to show for it, yet editors are not new to helping new authors save a manuscript after a hack job.

If English isn’t your first language, close cooperation with an editor over the years can be very fruitful because they then know to keep an extra eye out for false friends and badly translated idioms or other references that make perfect sense to us but might miss the mark on the “big” market.

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