I often see writers asking for an editor on social groups.
Frequently the post asks for ‘someone’ to ‘help edit’ or ‘look over’ their book. (Which is not a book at all just a manuscript and more often than not, only part of a first draft.)
Occasionally the person posting may ask for a ‘beta reader or editor’.
The common factor is, to the eyes of an experienced author or publisher, the people asking have no idea who they need, what skill set that person should have or, indeed, the actual reason they need ‘someone’ to ‘edit’ their work, which, in all honesty, will be a far cry from the thoughts they hold when they ask the question in the first instance.
This naivety is not wrong. We have all been novice writers.
However, my issue is twofold.
Firstly; whilst inexperience throws up challenges and situations one has not encountered previously, we live in an age of information, of high-speed access to seemingly limitless data.
It is simple to research almost any subject using the interweb.
Therefore, the questions posted should, at the very least, show some understanding, reflect some basic perception of the subject enquired.
My second issue is; those who openly show such naivety are susceptible to exploitation by those who prey on the gullible and there are many sharks swimming in the social media pond.
Too many times do I hear or read about a writer paying a large fee for very little, if any, return or results from the promises made by charlatans and thieves.
Too many times, do I see indie authors and newbie writers fall foul of ‘schemes’ run by the scammers who scoured the internet looking for those types of naïve questions.
Don’t get me wrong.
We all need help and to ask questions from time to time. But please, research first. Do some homework beforehand, so when you do ask, if you still need to ask, you can define your question to specifics.
This will not only deter many of those sharks looking for easy prey but will allow genuine respondents to answer your queries more accurately and with alacrity.
Now, here are twelve, yes, twelve editorial roles.
Okay, I am being a little loose with the term ‘editorial roles‘, but I am doing so in response to the type of questions asked on social media, the ones which prompted me to write this article in the first instant.
The first two roles, possibly three, of the following are not, at least officially, considered ‘editors‘ in the true sense of the word.
The reason I have added them here is they do or at least can form critical roles in the process of readying a manuscript for publication.
The first is the oft-misunderstood role of the Beta Reader.
Beta readers are people you ask to read your work, often at a relatively early stage, to get their opinion.
Experienced authors will give each beta reader a certain task and will often create a questionnaire for them, ensuring the author gets the correct form of feedback they request.
Beta readers are initially chosen from the public, as volunteers. Often authors build up relationships and trust with several readers and ask them to review on a frequent basis.
However, there is a rather scary rise of the ‘professional’ beta reader. This is someone who will charge you to read your work on the premise of ‘experience’. It is doubtful they will hold any editorial, journalistic or academic qualifications.
This anomaly of the growth of the ‘professional beta reader’, is due to Amazon clamping down on ‘paid for/professional’ book reviews.
Those people have simply changed the way they operate, the outcome is as false and as fake as it ever was.
My advice; give them a wide berth. No, even wider than that… RUN in the opposite direction, fast!
The second is the frequently overlooked Critique Partner.
A critique partner tends to be a writer, or experienced author, who coaches another writer to help raise the quality of their work.
Not a true editor but will undoubtedly play a part in identifying editorial issues as the work progresses.
You only need a critique partner for guidance when developing a story for publication.
I find this a ‘dodgy term‘, Online Editor.
Basically, the term ‘online editor’ includes anyone you can find online to look over your content.
The people who call themselves online editors are most likely freelancers and their skill sets will vary enormously.
If you hire an online editor, it will be in your own interest, both financially as well as regarding peace of mind, to ensure they are well-versed in the type of editorial work you are employing them to undertake.
AND… I cannot say this clearly enough. Be certain they are qualified AND experienced to edit in the language you require. For instance; even a well sort American editor may not fare well with a British English work.
Some online editors are genuine professionals with qualifications and a good client list. Others may not know one end of a pencil from the other.
Okay, that is those three out of the way. Now the list of professional editorial roles.
A Commissioning Editor.
Sometimes referred to as an Acquisition Editor.
These people are the ones who look for books and/or articles for publication.
This is the person you address your enquiries to should you not use an agent or if you are a freelancer who wishes to pitch an idea.
Commissioning Editors are generally employed by organisations and companies and have little to do with the indie community.
The Developmental Editor.
Developmental editors work with writers to get their manuscript ready for publication.
If you need guidance on moving your story forward, it is the developmental editors place to help. They will also aid you in producing a manuscript to a publisher’s house style or preference.
Some Developmental Editors are also professional ghostwriters.
Content Editors is the role most writers refer to when speaking of an ‘editor’.
Content Editors consider all the writing encompasses.
Regarding fiction, a Content Editor takes a full overview of the story. They will highlight inaccuracies and suggest changes to the plot, the characters, settings, locations and such.
Copy editors, also known as Line Editors. Occasionally these are also Content Editors, look at everything from the factual content to the writer’s use of grammar and the formatting of the manuscript.
These editors can and often do, do it all.
Often whatever they find will go back to the Content or Developmental Editor who will make, or advise the writer, to make certain changes to the work.
While you can ask friends and fellow writers to read your work and pick up any errors, nothing beats a good, experienced and qualified proof-reader, not Spellchecker or even Grammarly, ProWritingAid, WhiteSmoke or GingerSoftware combined.
A Proofreader will look over your content, usually after it has gone through the other stages of editing. This means a Proofreader is the last type of editor in the chain of editing.
Major publishing houses contract proofreaders for a final perusal of a book just before it is due to go to press after it has been typeset and formatted. This is to pick up any glaring grammar and punctuation errors created during these processes and any that have been missed previously.
Generally, a proofreader will not give feedback on quality, content or development.
This is not one many indie authors will use. Associate Editor.
Associate editors mainly work for newspapers or magazines. This position is also called the ‘section editor.’
Associate Editor often has the same type of responsibilities as an Acquisition Editor in that they seek stories or content for publication, but it is more often limited to a set area, such a politics, celebrity or world events and so on.
Contributing editors usually work with publishers of magazines and newspapers. An older term not used so much nowadays is that of Roving Editor or Editor at Large, both mean the same thing.
Some indie authors and writers may cross paths with a Contributing Editor should they write articles for publication in magazines or newspapers on or offline.
Also, Executive Editor. The person in overall in charge of articles, story and/or content. They are the ones responsible for the final product.
The Editor-in-Chief oversees the editing department and manages the other editors.
They are responsible for maintaining the voice of the publisher’s imprint, upholding its philosophy and mission.
I hope this clarifies the editorial roles and where they apply to indie authors.
Paul White has produced two books especially to help writers and authors of all abilities to make the most of their resources.
Each of these books is crammed with facts and information which answer most of the questions posted to writers and author groups on social media.