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#EditingWeek: What exactly does an editor do?

So, you’ve hired an editor because everyone told you to, but what exactly are you paying them to do?

Below I discuss the responsibilities of an editor, so you know what to expect.

Editor Responsibilities

The editor’s primary responsibility is to edit your work, which means that they need to read your manuscript and highlight the issues found in the text (grammatical, punctuational, or spelling issues). Depending on the type of editing you’ve signed up for, the editor is also responsible for commenting and offering suggestions on the text’s writing style, content, and overall readability.

Editors typically use track changes to mark all their revisions so that you can see the problematic areas in your writing. The benefits of using track changes is that you can see exactly what changes have been made to your manuscript. Even deleting a space is recorded! Microsoft Word offers a ‘track changes’ feature that is similar to having your manuscript printed out and marked up with a red pen. 

Many editors also provide a typewritten critique and analysis of the manuscript in a separate document that summarizes all the changes that have been made.

What editors are not responsible for?

Many writers mix up the roles of editors and formatters. These are two separate jobs and, although connected, are typically not done by the same person. For example, the editor looks at the actual content of your manuscript while the formatter looks at the design (layout) of your manuscript.

The editor ensures that your book is ready for the formatters while the formatter ensures that your book is ready to submit for publication. Your editor can offer suggestions on the book format, but they are not responsible for this part of the self-publishing process. The formatter will correct the layout for your chosen book size, add headers/footers or page numbers, select appropriate fonts, and check margins. Essentially, formatters are interior designers who help your book look aesthetically pleasing and to ensure that your book complies with standards for your genre. Editors can offer suggestions on format, such as organizing blocky text into bullets, or splitting up paragraphs into shorter ones, or inserting page breaks.

Another thing many writers think editors are responsible for is rewriting sections of your book. Editors are responsible for editing your manuscript by reviewing the content but are not responsible for writing whole sections of your book. This means that editors will look at your sentences, paragraphs, and chapters as a whole, but they are not ghostwriters.

The purpose of an editor is to catch mistakes in your manuscript; they are not someone who adds content to your book. They may offer suggestions to help improve your work by highlighting sections that could be developed better and providing ideas. However, editors are not expected to research your topic and add content.

Also, when you receive your revisions from the editor, unless you signed up for multiple rounds of editing, the editor is not responsible for reviewing your changes or your entire newly revised manuscript. However, if you require some clarification on the editor’s suggestions, you can contact your editor to get some help. Otherwise, once your manuscript is returned, the editing job is completed and any additional editing requests is treated as a new project.

What if you disagree with your editor's revisions?

Editing is perhaps the most subjective activity possible in the field of literature. The editor will use their background and experience in editing the manuscript to offer their best suggestions to improve it. Still, the decision to accept or reject the editor’s suggestions is solely your responsibility.

You do not have to agree with all the revisions and can easily revert to what you originally wrote since everything is marked. Remember that the editor is offering suggestions, and therefore you do not need to accept them before moving onto the next stage in the self-publishing process. This applies to all suggestions whether its on word choice, punctuation, story development, or spelling. A classic example is spelling. Some authors prefer to write in Canadian-English vs. American-English. Although most books are written in US-English, the decision on language preference is again up to the author. For my book, ‘Hold on please, Emily,’ I decided to write it in Canadian-English, meaning that the words ‘tumour’ and ‘colour’ were both spelled with the letter ‘u.’

Remember that you have the final say for how your book reads and how your book looks like. Therefore, the editor is your second pair of eyes, not the one making all the decisions on your final product. That authority, no matter how many hands you pass your book to, is always yours in the self-publishing process.

If you want to learn more about how I can help improve your manuscript, feel free to contact me for more details.

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