If you’re hiring an editor to look at your manuscript, it’s important to understand that there are a variety of editorial services available to you. They range from providing help to develop a book concept to polishing a fully formed work. All levels of editing are not typically done concurrently, and editors generally specialize.
When you’re self-editing, you won’t draw lines between levels of editing. It’s a fluid process. But when you hire an editor, you want to be sure to find someone who is proficient in the kind of editing your manuscript requires. For example, if you’re still unsure about issues like plot or character development, you want to hire an editor who knows how to give you big-picture feedback. And it would be a waste of money and effort to have your manuscript copyedited when it is—or should be—still in a state of flux.
Here are some definitions of editorial skills:
- Provides big-picture direction to help the author form a vision for the book (may include market research)\
- Suggests content and organization
- May suggest restructuring of a manuscript
- Coaches the author to ensure that vision is successfully executed
- Provides detailed notes in the form of a “manuscript evaluation” or “editorial letter”
- In fiction, addresses big-picture issues such as plot, setting, characters, pacing, point of view, style, and appropriateness for genre
- In nonfiction, addresses clarity, clear and logical flow of your ideas, consistency, style, and effectiveness for genre
Substantive & Stylistic (Line) Editing
- Editor works directly on the manuscript
- Clarifies or organizes and presentation of content
- Flags or suggests rewrites at the chapter, paragraph, and sentence levels
- Focuses on mechanical issues including: spelling, grammar, punctuation, syntax, and word usage, while preserving the meaning and voice of the original text
- Checks for and imposes consistent style and facts
- Prepares a style sheet that documents style and formatting decisions
- May do fact-checking
- Checks proofs of an edited manuscript.
Terminology varies and these definitions are not comprehensive. They are meant to help you think about the kind of editing your manuscript might need and are a starting point as you search for an editor who can help you achieve your vision for your work.