Good book editing ensures a book is credible for its market and has the best chance of pleasing its readers. But the editor’s contribution goes well beyond grammar, spelling, and house style. Self-publishers have the opportunity to use an editor to bring out their true talents and aptitudes.
Dare to Be Different
When you self-publish, you get to choose a book editor who most closely suits your style and vision. At a traditional publisher, the editor has to serve the imprint’s agenda. As an indie publisher, your book editor works directly for you and can advise you on how to suit your market and also nurture you according to your individual strengths and interests. An indie editor will discuss what you want the book to be, which can sometimes open up new options you didn’t suspect you had.
A good book editor can spot when a writer has instincts that are untapped, or is working against their natural inclinations. And the editor can help them find a niche where they are more likely to publish successfully.
Second Novels . . . And Beyond
In traditional publishing, your first book sets your style and seals your fate. If you write a second that appeals to a different audience, a traditional publisher might try to make you stick to what you did originally, as traditional publishers are less inclined to take "risks". With your earliest books, you may only just be discovering your potential. The self-publishing world is full of traditionally published novelists who went indie because they developed in a different direction after their first published works.
If you’re an indie author, your editor can help you embrace new directions. And if you move beyond the editor’s specialities—which sometimes happens—you can find another editor who more closely fits your developing talents.
In a nutshell, a good book editor is like a personalised creative writing course. They can help you become the writer you should be, which will be all the better for your self-publishing career and for your readers!
Different Types of Edits
Developmental Edit (also called a content edit)
This type of edit checks that the book is suitable for the market and polishes the content.
If the book is non-fiction, has it explored its subject completely enough? How does it compare to other books currently out? What else could be done to make it more appealing or competitive in the market?
If the book is fiction, the developmental edit checks that it hits the right notes to be satisfying for its readers—in plot, characters, and tone. That probably sounds cookie-cutterish, but actually it allows for huge individual variation. Each genre has defined characteristics. For instance, antagonists—the kind of antagonist who would be satisfying in a literary novel might bore or irritate readers of a romance. A plot in a work of historical fiction should be representative of the concerns and issues of their times. So a developmental editor has to be well-versed in your particular field.
This edit comes after the developmental edit and takes a closer look at the details. The copy edit picks up grammar, spelling, factual inaccuracies, and inconsistencies. It’s amazing what the copy edit finds! Characters suddenly disappear from the plot. The spellings of their names might change. They might change their names entirely. The copy editor also checks the book’s timeline—where a number of unseen problems might come to light. Can your characters get from London to Paris in the time allowed or should you track back through the manuscript and move some of the action to different days? A reader might notice—so the copy editor has just saved your bacon.
Proofreading is a final spruce to mop up any other issues. Copy edits inevitably find mistakes, and correcting them can cause other hiccups elsewhere in the book. A fresh pair of eyes is the best way to spot them—and that’s why you need this final check.
A Good Editor Helps You to Be Yourself
Successful publishing has two elements—commercial results and the deeper reward of satisfaction. This comes from two factors—good use of your writing craft and a thorough understanding of where you fit. If your heart truly beats for romance fiction, the devoted reader of that genre will sense it. They’ll also know if you’re painting by numbers. This is where a good editor can help you come into your own—to find your groove and be true to yourself.