From Jane Friedman:
As an independent developmental/substantive editor, I field a lot of the same questions every day. What is an editor? What do book editors do? How do I find one? How do I hire one?
The questions make sense—like book editing itself, an understanding of the editorial process happens almost exclusively in private author-editor interactions, and the specifics are rarely transferable between writers or projects. What’s an author to do?
For anyone embarking on a search for your first, next, or best editor, may this article be your comprehensive guide.
What an Editor Is
Much confusion about editors and editing begins right here, at the meaning of the word editor. Consider the following sentences:
- “I’m working with an editor to turn my keynote speech into a book.”
- “The editor said I should delete my entire fourth chapter.”
- “My editor caught all my typos.”
- “The editor did a final proof yesterday.”
Editor means something (and someone) different in each of those examples. It used to confuse me, too, and that’s because we use a catch-all term when we shouldn’t. We employ the word editor to describe anyone who has anything to do with preparing words for publication, and we don’t realize that editors, in this umbrella sense of the word, don’t actually exist. Nobody out there is just an editor—there’s always a descriptive word that comes before (or instead) to describe where that individual sits on the continuum of the book-editing process. For both traditionally published and self-published authors, the continuum looks like this:
Developmental Editor → Substantive Editor → Copy Editor → Proofreader
Practically speaking, what this means for authors is that you need to know the lingo that editors use to describe the work we do. Looking for “an editor” to “edit your book” won’t get you very far because no one knows what that means—editors included. I’m sure the copy editors are working on that, and maybe that will be funny later.
Link to the rest at Jane Friedman