Book editors have an important role to play in taking manuscripts and getting them ready for publication. If you have been asking, “Why should I hire an editor for my book?”, we provide some answers. 

The role of a book editor

A crucial step in book publishing is the editing process, and the book editor plays a vital role in this process.

Book editors review, reorganise and rewrite manuscripts written by authors to facilitate their publication. Some of these tasks include:

  • Fine-tuning and polishing the manuscript
  • Incorporating knowledge and information that the writer may not be aware of
  • Drawing readers’ attention to the main ideas
  • Ensuring that the book maintains the author’s voice
  • Enhances the logic, flow and structure of the manuscript.

The role of book editors has changed over the years.  Though editing may not be a cost-effective process for the publishing house, the fact remains that an effective editing process is fundamental to creating a good manuscript.

Types of book editing

A good editor will look at a manuscript on several levels. These include:

  • Development editing – this begins at the early stage of the book. With a developmental edit, the editor provides guidance and advice to the author. This can include fine-tuning the topic and structuring the book most effectively. 
  • Structural editing – with a structural edit, a professional editor will assess and improve the structure of the book. This can include moving chapters around, moving text within chapters, and moving content between chapters. 
  • Line editing – this drills down another level to consider factors such as tone, style, word usage and consistency. These are issues that many readers won’t notice but make a difference in the overall quality of the publication. 
  • Copy editing – with a copy edit, professional book editors correct more obvious mistakes, such as grammar, spelling and punctuation. 

In addition to these types of edits, there’s proofreading. This is the final stage when the book is in the designed stage. 

Some book editors also provide manuscript assessments. These are mostly for works of fiction – like a short story or novel – and consider the overall quality and commercial viability of the work and needs to done to improve it. 

Finding the right person for the job

Often, an editor is misinterpreted as someone who checks for grammar or spelling alone. But in reality, the role of a book editor is quite different and complex. In fact, there are different types of book editors, such as acquisition editors, developmental editors, substantive editors, copy editors and proofreaders, who perform a range of editing functions.

Though at times, the same editor can perform two tasks, it is often rare to find a book editor who performs all of the editing processes. Since the role of a book editor is not limited to one or two tasks, finding the right person for the job is very important, and the definition of ‘right editor’ can vary from author to author according to their requirements. Here’s a brief description that can help you in finding an editor. 

Acquisition editors are the ones who determine if the book would be a profitable choice for the publisher.

Developmental editors work closely with the authors to structure the content of the book. They have a precise idea of the big picture and hence shape the book to cater to the target audience. Developmental editors often work with authors of non-fiction.

Substantive editors work towards improving the overall clarity, logical flow and readability of the book. In the case of non-fiction writing, the substantive editors also ensure that only the right conclusions are drawn from the text presented.

Copy editors look for factual inconsistencies, examine the style standards of the book and make sure that there are no copyright or legal issues. The final edited hardcopy of the book goes to the proofreader who scours for errors in punctuation, grammar, style and formatting. A proofreader may also check different versions of the book to completely eliminate errors.

Editors can also be categorised as fiction or non-fiction editors. Non-fiction editors are more interested in enhancing the readability, structure and factual accuracy of their manuscript. They make the right word choices to connect with the target audience. Non-fiction editors may also suggest ways to link the chapters to improve the overall consistency of the book.  On the other hand, fiction editors pay attention to the story, plot and length of the work.

Editors also work in a variety of ways. Some will be in-house with publishing companies, while others are freelance editors working on a project basis. 

How a book editor works with an author

Generally, the editor is the single point of contact between the author and the publishing house. A book editor liaises between the author and the publisher to explain mutual needs. An author is generally sensitive to what he writes. During the editing process, the author’s work is under constant scrutiny and subject to many alterations. An editor gives much-needed reassurance to the author during this stage. Book editors need to be gentle but persistent until they achieve their desired result.

Book editors have a clear and concise idea about what they want from their authors, how to sweet talk authors to cut down on unwanted material or include new information and when to leave their authors alone.

The role of an editor is to enhance the writing of an author. This person will have a strong vocabulary and an eye-for-detail and often challenge their writers to reach new heights and are quite resolute souls.  Although all the limelight is on the author and publisher when a book becomes a bestseller, the editor does a fantastic job in the background.

The cost of a book editor

The cost of editing is an important question for authors, especially when most are funding their own projects without the support of a sponsor. Considering book editors in Australia, they generally charge between $40 and $70 per thousand words. It all depends on the quality of the writing and the amount of work required to get the manuscript into shape. 

Get in touch to discuss your book editing needs

At Word Nerds, we have completed many book editing projects for self-publishers and authors wanting to improve their work before submitting it to publishers. We are book editors in Melbourne who have helped authors across Australia with all types of books, whether a biography, memoir, business book, self-help or other genres. 

If you need book editing assistance, contact us to speak with a us or visit our Proofreading and Editing Services page.