In the world of publishing, there are two kinds of editors who review every book published-content editors and copyeditors. Self-published authors, however, often opt to forgo any editing, which can be a mistake. But do you need an editor and a copyeditor before putting your book out in front of the public? It depends, both on your budget, your commitment to your writing, and how well you write.
Keep in mind that New York Times bestselling authors of every genre, be it works of literary significance or category romances, have at least two editors review their work before it is published.
Editors and copyeditors have different roles and once you understand what those roles are, you can better choose whether to hire both or just one. It’s important to take an objective look at yourself and recognize where your weaknesses are.
Editors. Editors read a fiction manuscript and decide whether the plot makes sense, the protagonists are engaging, and if the story is riveting. With nonfiction, they determine if the subject matter is thoroughly explained, and written in a way that people will find readable. They will identify aspects of the book that needs improvement. For example, if you’ve written a mystery, the editor will determine whether you have offered enough clues or too many. If your book is a political thriller, the editor will tell you whether it’s “thrilling” enough and offer suggestions about how to change it.
Editors also pick up on such things as stilted dialogue and plot holes. Dialogue that seems witty and engaging to the writer can come across as mean or sarcastic to the reader. Remember, as a writer you know your characters-their thoughts, their beliefs, their backgrounds. But your reader doesn’t. An editor will be able to tell you whether you need to tell your readers more about a character or if you’ve said too much too soon.
Many writers belong to critique groups, and if you’re one of them, you’ve likely received many suggestions and comments from members of your group. They are, in fact, reacting to your story as an editor would.
Copyeditors. If you must choose between one or the other, choose to hire a copyeditor. These folks are more a meat and potatoes kind of editor. They find grammatical errors, confusing sentence structure, word usage errors, punctuation mistakes, and inconsistencies. Copyeditors don’t care if your story is boring or exciting beyond belief-their job is to simply polish your book to a professional level so that readers don’t become frustrated with basic mistakes.
Whether you’ve written a short story, an epic novel, or a how-to book, it’s important to have at least one other set of objective eyes look at it before you press “send” and put it out for public consumption. Most people find it difficult-if not impossible-to edit their own writing (which is why editors and copyeditors have jobs). So take yourself and your e-book seriously and make certain your book is reader-ready.