Ep. 05: Types of Book Editing with Natasa Lekic

This week, we’re joined by professional editor Natasa Lekic to chat about all things book editing. Join us as we learn more about the different types of book editing and why professional editing is an important step in the self-publishing process. 

Your favorite authors probably all have one thing in common: they worked with a book editor. Editing your book is an important step in the self-publishing process, but it can sometimes be overlooked. Today, IngramSpark is joined by the founder of New York Book Editors, Natasa Lekic, to learn about the importance of a professional editor in the book publishing process. You’ll learn how to find the right editor for your book—and how the author/editor relationship works! Then we’ll dive into the different types of book editing, from critiques and comprehensive edits down to copyediting and proofreading. Once you've made it through the final steps of the editorial process, you’re one step closer to your dream of self-publishing a book. Publish today with IngramSpark.


Justine Bylo [00:00:08] Hi everyone! Welcome to Go Publish Yourself, an IngramSpark podcast. I'm Justine Bylo, the Author Acquisitions Manager for IngramSpark, and unfortunately, today we do not have Robin Cutler, the Director of IngramSpark. She is at a conference and unable to join us, so we will miss her deeply. However, today we are joined by Natasa Lekic. Natasa, how do you say your last name?

Natasha Lekic [00:00:33] Lekic, it's a funny one.

Justine Bylo [00:00:37] We've got to go to the source. She is the founder of the New York Book Editors, an editorial service that connects authors to veteran industry editors. They help authors find editors who are passionate about their work, which is when the magic happens. You provide a really essential service to writers and authors everywhere, Natasa. Thank you for coming on Go Publish Yourself today. We're really excited to have you.

Natasha Lekic [00:01:04] Thank you so much for having me! I'm excited to be here, I'm excited to meet you also today.

Justine Bylo [00:01:10] We're talking about one of my absolute favorite topics today, that I admittedly get very uppity about when I speak at conferences, and that's editing, book editing, and we're going to get really nerdy with it today. I'm going to pull out the soapbox, I'm just going to do it and...

Natasha Lekic [00:01:34] Do it, do it!

Justine Bylo [00:01:35] I hope you join me on this soapbox. Can you please, please tell our listeners why it is so important, pivotal, absolutely essential that they involve a professional editor in the self-publishing process?

Natasha Lekic [00:01:55] Yes. Let me begin by saying any author they've read and admired, any author who inspired them to write, whether it's Stephen King, Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, they actually had the same amazing editor, Maxwell Perkins. Everyone had an editor. Every author we look up to has that in common. Books that flow well, that are compelling, don't come from one person alone. They needed a lot of trusted feedback to get to that level. It's often daunting for an emerging author to look at these books and think, "Well, how can I ever get to that point?" When you know that they had help getting there, there's something encouraging about that.

Justine Bylo [00:02:48] Yeah, absolutely, you can't do it alone.

Natasha Lekic [00:02:51] You can't do it alone, exactly. Every self-published author who wants to make their story as compelling as possible to readers should really find an editor.

Justine Bylo [00:03:03] I completely 100 percent agree with you. Honestly, writing can be really solitary. Having an editor with you through the process does make it a lot easier, in my mind, even though it can be harder in the moment. It really is the friend that's going to guide you through the process.

Natasha Lekic [00:03:33] Often being alone with your manuscript can feel like being in the middle of a jungle or a forest, and they always say you can't see the forest for the trees. An editor can often give you a map of sorts, saying, "Okay, this is what you're doing really well. You know, this is kind of, you want to use this more, your talent lies here. Here's the weakness, let's figure out how to improve on that, let's mitigate that." It's a blueprint, it's a map of sorts that can be the key to figuring out your manuscript.

Justine Bylo [00:04:17] That's such a good way to put it. A good place to start is, a lot of our listeners I think go into the editing process thinking that it's just moving commas around. I hear that a lot. And the editing process can be much, much more. What different types of editing are there? Because there's a few different kinds.

Natasha Lekic [00:04:44] Right. An editor will typically do either a critique or a comprehensive edit. There are different names for that. But the biggest difference is, are they doing a line edit or not? A critique is purely a structural edit. At that point, the editor is saying, "Look, there's a lot of foundational issues with the story, with plot and character development," maybe it's a thematic issue, maybe it's voice, maybe it's perspective. Things that are widespread, pretty widespread in the manuscript that need to be revised. When that happens, you get a critique. You get margin comments and a memo, a letter to you, and a phone call of course, saying, "Okay, here's sort of a roadmap of what the issues are with this manuscript," and how it can be improved with some revisions. The next level, a comprehensive edit, includes a line edit. There's still typically structural issues, but they're not as extensive, right. Maybe this opening chapter isn't quite working. "Let's shift things around ," or "let's add this scene," or "let's enhance the character in this way." It includes a line edit, which means that the editor is actually looking at the language and changing things around for clarity, for pacing, for flow. Maybe there's an overwrought character description that they'll tighten up, things like that.

Justine Bylo [00:06:28] That's when it really starts to gel. The book comes together.

Natasha Lekic [00:06:36] Yes. With a line edit, usually the author looks at it and they're like, "Oh my gosh, yes. You know, why didn't I see this in my own prose?" Just from cuts here and there, some additions of words or phrase, it just really does start to sing.

Justine Bylo [00:06:56] Then we start to get into the more technical stuff, because you have to have the diamond in order to polish it, right?

Natasha Lekic [00:07:06] Yes, exactly! Perfect way of putting it, yes. Yes, then we get to a copy editor. Once the edit is done. A copy editor is a different person nine times out of ten. It's a different role, it's a more technical role; it's more objective. It really focuses on the grammar, spelling, syntax; it tracks inconsistencies, such as, well, "This minor character had brown hair on page 20, but on page 130 it's blonde."

Justine Bylo [00:07:39] People notice those things and they get mad!

Natasha Lekic [00:07:43] They do, they do! "Is the author paying attention?" It's hard! People don't understand when you're writing an entire novel, it is challenging to keep up with all these little details. The copy editor is there to make sure everything is consistent. That also is true of factual consistencies. They'll say, "Well, the father couldn't have been a Vietnam War vet, because the timeline doesn't work according to what you said here." Things like that that would also really rile up a reader.

Justine Bylo [00:08:19] Oh yeah! I have seen so many angry Amazon reviews where people figure out that stuff and the author hasn't. It's so fascinating.

Natasha Lekic [00:08:28] Yes, yes, it is. A copy editor will actually research things and look up and say, "Well, okay ... or geographically, this can't be correct," like that too.

Justine Bylo [00:08:38] Those little things matter. They really finish a book.

Natasha Lekic [00:08:46] When there's something like that it pulls the reader out of the story, because it makes them just focus on that incorrect minor little thing, but it takes away from the momentum that the author has built up in a scene or whatever, they're suddenly pulled out of it.

Justine Bylo [00:09:05] We were chatting before we started recording and I was telling you this story, but I'll tell the listeners. One of my friends is an audiobook narrator, and she received a book that had a ton of grammar and spelling issues that were not caught. She was reading the book, it didn't make sense. You have to read a book as it perfectly is on paper for Whispersync, for her audible. She didn't know what to do. Even not only for your readers, it has other ramifications elsewhere that authors don't necessarily tend to realize.

Natasha Lekic [00:09:46] I don't know if you wanted to share, but your friend was so perplexed as to how she could read it that she asked you, how should she advise the author to get an editor.

Justine Bylo [00:09:57] I felt so bad for her. She called me and she was like, "I don't know what to do!" Not everyone has a friend who works in publishing, so I was like, "Oh, she needs an editor. She needs an editor." Once you're done with copy editing, what's the last step?

Natasha Lekic [00:10:21] You're almost there. You've done a great deal of work, and the very last step is proofreading, which happens after the book is typeset. It's mostly to see whether the typesetting has caused any issues, any strange breaks. It's also a light copy edit. It's sort of another pass, to make sure that the grammar and consistencies are okay.

Justine Bylo [00:10:50] Stuff like that does happen, when the book gets typeset. You never know what's going to get messed up by accident.

Natasha Lekic [00:10:58] Yes, and I just want to say to self-published authors that they shouldn't feel discouraged by how many passes an edit has. This happens in traditional publishing as well. It's not uncommon to go through two copy edits, at a traditional house, so they shouldn't see all the red marks and feel like, "Oh my gosh, I'm so behind." That's not the case.

Justine Bylo [00:11:28] That leads to the next topic of, how long can it take? I think that this is something that authors are not necessarily prepared for. But it can be quite a process that you have to be emotionally prepared for.

Natasha Lekic [00:11:45] It's better to set the right expectations. The first thing I want to say, even before the edit, comes a self-edit. Don't skip out on that. Because if you do the self-edit, you're also investing in an editor. You want them to be responding to more nuanced, advanced issues, rather than things you could have picked up on yourself. Definitely, definitely do a self-edit, if at all possible. I know how difficult this is. Once you do the self-edit, put your manuscript away. Don't look at it again for two to three months, longer if you can stand it. When you come back to it, you'll come to it with a fresh perspective, you'll notice so much more than before. If you do another self-editing pass, it will make a big difference before you find an editor.

Justine Bylo [00:12:47] Fresh eyes make such a difference. When you're in it, you're so in it, and you just don't see those things. You're so blind to them.

Natasha Lekic [00:13:03] It's the best piece of advice I can give before finding an editor.

Justine Bylo [00:13:07] That's great advice.

Natasha Lekic [00:13:09] Then, so at that point, sometimes a book, depending on how advanced the writer's skill set is, can go straight into comprehensive edit. They can get a line edit. Especially if you've done this self-editing write process. Hopefully, it's at that stage where you don't need a critique. But that's okay, sometimes a critique is necessary. These are all averages. Usually, a critique will take three to six weeks. A line edit will probably take six to eight weeks, meaning a comprehensive edit, which is the full package name. It also depends on the editor's availability... That's the start. Once a critique or a comprehensive edit comes back, it can take a while to incorporate the edits. We often don't hear back from authors for six months.

Justine Bylo [00:14:15] Wow.

Natasha Lekic [00:14:16] That's normal. There are a lot of changes that need to be made, there's a lot to process. Take your time. This is a normal process. It doesn't mean that you're dilly-dallying, or that you're far behind. That's what it requires, there are usually a lot of changes that need to be addressed.

Justine Bylo [00:14:40] Just because it is taking a lot of time doesn't mean that you are failing at it. It means that you're doing it properly.

Natasha Lekic [00:14:50] Exactly, exactly. It means quite the opposite, isn't it ironic? It means that you're doing it properly.

Justine Bylo [00:14:56] You don't want to do it slapdash. This is your baby.

Natasha Lekic [00:14:59] This isn't a fly-by-night process. Think about the time you put into writing it. This is just the continuation of that. Perfecting it can take a while.

Justine Bylo [00:15:13] Totally, it really does. You really want a finished product that your readers will love at the end of the day, and that takes time.

Natasha Lekic [00:15:23] That takes time. That's why it's so rare and so appreciated by readers. That's why when a reader loves a book, they tell everyone about it, "Oh my God, you have to read this one." It's not that easy.

Justine Bylo [00:15:37] It's not, it's not! I always say that the hardest part of all of this is actually writing the book. Mainly because I personally have a hard time finishing them. I can publish them, but I have a hard time finishing them.

Natasha Lekic [00:15:52] I'm in awe every single day of everyone who finishes a manuscript. That has never left me...

Justine Bylo [00:15:58] Agreed.

Natasha Lekic [00:16:01] It's such an accomplishment.

Justine Bylo [00:16:03] As soon as someone types "The End," I'm like, bow down.

Natasha Lekic [00:16:07] Exactly, exactly! We should all collectively bow down, I agree.

Justine Bylo [00:16:10] Yes. How do you find the right editor?

Natasha Lekic [00:16:17] Such a big topic. Well, I wouldn't say the biggest thing. There are a few factors to consider. The most basic one is genre, right? Has the editor worked in your genre? Do they read your genre? Does that interest them?

Justine Bylo [00:16:35] You don't want a romance editor if you're writing sci-fi, necessarily.

Natasha Lekic [00:16:40] Exactly, exactly. The other thing is, does the editor have experience? I always advocate for editors who were in the traditional publishing industry for at least four years, who have a track record there. Because the thing is, the only way to hone your skill set as an editor is to be apprenticed in a publishing house. There's no course for it, there's no degree for it, that's just not how it works. You learn by working under other editors and slowly earning the right to acquire your own books and edit your own books. That's just how it happens. I've seen the difference with people who don't have that background. You really want to look for people who have that background in traditional publishing.

Justine Bylo [00:17:33] The old learn by doing.

Natasha Lekic [00:17:35] The old learn by doing, exactly. You want to make sure that your manuscript resonates with the editor. They have to be enthusiastic about your story and your work. Absolutely before you sign up for a full edit, you should always have a phone call with the editor. That really gives you a sense right away, "Okay, this person really gets it." Their enthusiasm is there. You know intuitively when it's the right partner if you have a chance to speak with them.

Justine Bylo [00:18:22] Yeah, it really is like online dating.

Natasha Lekic [00:18:26] That's why I called it nerdy matchmaking! It really is like dating. But it's so important that the person's sensibilities match your own, and that they understand what you're trying to achieve with your story.

Justine Bylo [00:18:39] A lot of my authors describe their relationships with their editors akin to their spouses or partners. Most authors really have to think of it that way. Because you may be spending more time with your editor than your actual spouse.

Natasha Lekic [00:18:57] Right, right. Well you will be spending a lot more time with their edits.

Justine Bylo [00:19:03] Which is really just their voice in your head.

Natasha Lekic [00:19:04] Their voice in your head, yeah! If you get that right from the beginning, it really as you said at the beginning of this podcast, it just makes everything easier. You're not alone in this endeavor, you suddenly have a partner. When it feels like a true partner, whose advice you trust, it just makes the process so much easier.

Justine Bylo [00:19:28] Absolutely. That is a really great note to end on. With that being said, everyone please go out and hire an editor!

Natasha Lekic [00:19:39] Yes, yes, please go out and hire an editor!

Justine Bylo [00:19:42] If you take anything away, take that away.

Natasha Lekic [00:19:47] Sorry, I'll just squeeze in one more thing. Don't wait until you get the negative reviews on Amazon. Because you don't want them up there, related to your title, and then go back and revise it afterwards.

Justine Bylo [00:20:02] Preach. On that note, we're going to put away our soapbox about editing.

Natasha Lekic [00:20:08] Reluctantly, reluctantly.

Justine Bylo [00:20:11] But Natasa, it was so wonderful to have you on the podcast. Definitely check out her service, New York Editors. They are --

Natasha Lekic [00:20:22] New York Book Editors.

Justine Bylo [00:20:23] New York Book Editors. They are really fantastic, and provide a great, great service. So thank you for coming on the show.

Natasha Lekic [00:20:32] Thank you so much, Justine. It was really a pleasure.

Justine Bylo [00:20:38] Thank you so much for listening to Go Publish Yourself. If you like what you hear, please subscribe and leave us a review on iTunes or Apple Podcasts. The more positive ratings and reviews we receive, the more authors and publishers like you will be able to discover our podcast too. If you're ready to publish today, please visit the IngramSpark website. For even more tips on publishing like a pro, check out our weekly blog and free online self-publishing courses, available in the IngramSpark Academy. Talk to you soon! Bye!


Create an IngramSpark account