Publishing Services—Hardcore Truth of Book Editing

Book Publishing Services—Editorial

Many people have heard the expression: “You don’t know what you don’t know.” This has never been more apparent than in the field of self-publishing. 

Firstly, the term self-publishing has been commercialized by digital printing companies. The meaning of the term self-publishing indicates that the author takes on the responsibility of publishing their own works. 99% of so-called self-publishing companies become self-appointed publishers—not the author! Most of these companies offer “free print-on-demand printing,” and entice the writer with other expensive services required to publish a book such as book cover and interior design, sales materials, and more. This sequence of events results in a pseudo-self-publishing model which is not transparent—and low quality, as well. 

Book editing is one of the most important events in book publishing. New writers use the term editing loosely, which causes a lot of confusion in the editing process. When self-publishing or independently publishing a book, you must understand the different types of editing, what makes a good editor, and the chronological order of editing. 

10 DIY Editing Tips for a Smoothly Written Ride

When Not to Use Self-Editing 

Many first-time self-publishers overlook the editing process. The editing process is just as important as writing the book. Understand something called “word immunity” (coined by Deborah S. Nelson, Publishing SOLO Magazine publisher) operates when trying to edit and proofread your own work. The focus in writing is to get the concept across to the readers, so the author’s mind automatically “edits and removes mistakes.” Consequently, a writer can never edit or proofread their own work successfully. Even if you were a professional proofreader by trade, proofreading your own work would be folly, because of the reality of “word immunity.” 

However, having said that, doing a final self-edit is important in preparing the manuscript for publication. Do not turn over a rough draft to the design people. Be sure you do a once-over self-edit. Publishing SOLO offers a free article called 10 Tips for a Smoothly Written Ridewhich will greatly help with your final self-edit. Nevertheless, self-editing is part of the writing process—not the professional editing process. 

Three Types of Book Editing 

When I worked for a publishing house, we hired professional editors. Once the manuscript is submitted by the author, the first editor is a content editor. Then, once the content editor has finished their job, the next editor is a copy editor. Finally, the last editor to lay hands on the manuscript prior to publication is the proofreader. 

Types of Book Editors 

Content Editing a Book

Content editing focuses on meaning, chronological order, and flow. The content is the focus. Therefore, a good content editor will check for accuracy, consistency, and meaning. What is the author trying to say here? Didn’t they already say that? This sentence is a contradiction to the chapter before this. These are the types of things a content editor finds. A content editor may move sentences, paragraphs, and even chapters into a different order. In fact, a good content editor will organize the material so that it makes sense, flows in an orderly fashion, does not repeat, or confuse the reader.

A good content editor will also help the author to rewrite sentences with words or thoughts missing. A writer commonly leaves out entire concepts, definitions, and thoughts related to the main theme because they know the material so well. Writes often make assumptions about the reader being able to understand their work. 

Copy Editing a Book

The ideal copy editor overlaps the content editor and the proofreader. They will look at the manuscript with a closer eye. A copy editor will analyze the sentence structure, grammar, and look and feel of the copy. They address compound words, proper use of em-dashes, as well as verb tenses, pronoun consistency, and word meaning. They may find themselves rewriting sentences, making a run-on sentence into two or three sentences, but will not move content around or do organizational editing. This is much more of a micro-level. Copy editing overlaps with the proofreading realm because a copy editor is also a designer of copy. They follow a style guide and fix formatting issues related to italics, bold, subheadings, and more.  

Additionally, a copy editor formats how the endnotes, footnotes, and title pages look. If there are testimonials, quotes, lists, and charts, the copy editor’s job is to make these look presentable and consistent. This is detailed work but is also primarily focused on making the copy look professional and easy to understand. Their goal is to make the copy look visually appealing, accurate, as well as orderly. A good copy editor will use one of the six professional style guides or create a custom style guide with input from the author and publisher.  

Proofreading in Book Editing

Proofreading a Book

Proofreading practically requires a microscope. Finding a good proofreader is more difficult than you may realize. First of all, be sure the proofreader is making decisions according to the style guide that the copy editor used or created. When interviewing proofreaders, ask them what style guide they use. If they do not know anything about that, do not hire them. These editors are often winging it, shooting from the hip—proofreading according to their 8th grade English teacher.

In reality, beyond proper spelling, proofreading is an art. The idea is to create consistent punctuation, grammar, quotes, bolds, and of course, find duplicate words, sentences, paragraphs, as well as missing words. This is the last pass and must be extremely detailed. However, the last pass can only be “perfect” if the content editor and copy editor have done their job well. Often, if the manuscript is originally full of errors, the errors are passed down to the proofreading process. Therefore, each editor must do a thorough job to produce an error-free book. 

If your goal is an error-free book, you will need these three editors in the process. As the author, you will be reviewing the corrections each editor made, and you have the right to veto any corrections. You have the last say. However, most corrections made by editors are sorely needed and make your book readable. Many self-published books are full of errors these days, and a lot of readers will notice. If they see errors in your book, that reflects on you. Maybe they will never catch the errors, but in general, if the book is not clean-looking they may never get past the first chapter. And, videos are so much easier to read! 

About Deborah S. Nelson

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