People have started to challenge the notion of writing as being a solitary act. Writers work in cafes and co-author books nowadays, so there’s some relevance to it. What’s not debated is the fact that publishing is clearly not a solitary activity. Even if you’re self-publishing!

To bring a book to life, to the market, and to the readers’ shopping cart, takes a team. As a self-publishing author, it’s very important you understand this. “I’ll write it, I’ll publish and I’ll do everything in-between!” It doesn’t work like that! Avoid such flights of fancy. The “everything in-between” writing and publishing is a huge chasm of editing, proofreading, and book design, which is best crossed on bridges built by professionals.

In this blog, we’ll only focus on editing: what does a professional editor do, and why is it highly crucial to hire one? 

What does an editor do? Editor's desk

In simple words, an editor polishes and refines your text. They give direction to the story by enhancing the major points, pulling the spotlight on places where the readers should focus. They cut out what doesn’t fit and what is nonessential to the purpose of the story. They ensure that the final product is the best it can be with the available time and resources. 

These are the three main layers of editing to accomplish a fabulously finished book:

Content / structural editing 

At the onset, an editor carries out sharp, almost forensic assessment of every element of the manuscript – the narrative, structure, style, vocabulary, characters and their development, all go under the magnifying glass. They single out errors and inconsistencies, confusing areas of the story, plot holes, underdeveloped or unnecessary scenarios and use of language. 

Copy editing 

Absolutely vital to a book’s strength, all good books you’ve read have gone through an extensive copy-edit. It involves identifying grammatical and spelling errors, along with inconsistencies in tone and terminology.

It also focuses on maintaining consistency in the finer details. 

• Are all the quotation marks of the same type? 

• Are numbers printed in numerals or words? 

• Is there uniformity in the US or UK spellings.

Proofreading 

The last link in the editing chain, proofreading is a final comprehensive inspection of the manuscript to ensure absolutely no errors have been missed out in the previous in-depth edits. A proofreader will scan for spelling errors, typos, punctuation errors and consistency of tone and language.

Apart from catching those last little editing misses, proofreading also checks on the typesetting and layout of the pages, which become error-prone after the manuscript is imported from one file format to another. If you’re planning ebook only, it’s okay to send a PDF made directly out of a word processing file to be published. However, if you’re planning to print paperbacks, a proofreading session will check and undo any mechanical errors.

And that’s not all…Fiction editing

So your book goes through all that rigorous treatment at the hands of a professional editor. It’s a heavy skill set that they develop over many years of reading, writing, and editing all sorts of books and technical documents. That’s why all acclaimed authors know the worth of having an editor on board their project.

Editors bring a certain polish, edge, and skill to the book that a writer might not have or might not see the need for in his own work. They make your story better in terms of clarity, meaning, flow, logic, and structure. Editors form the link between the writer’s wishes, the publishers’ standards, and the readers’ expectations. Their work makes them opinionated, determined, and sticklers for what they believe is right. They also convince the author to do the right thing and make changes for the greater good of their book. 

Why you will suck at self-editing

If you’re still not convinced about the importance of an editor, let’s get into some other facets of why editing your book after writing it is a bad idea:  

#1 You’re are not trained to do it

Writers may or may not be trained to write. But editors are extensively trained to challenge writers. And they do it with an arsenal of strong vocabulary and knowledge of good grammar. And still, nobody can proofread a book at a catch rate of 100%. That’s why at PaperTrue, we pass every edited draft to our senior editors for a second edit to nearly achieve that rate. With the years of experience, professional editors start to look for patterns in words rather than reading the actual text, treating the words more like equations that must balance out.  

 

#2 You’re too emotionally attached 

As an author, you are mainly concerned with the aesthetic and emotional sentiments of your text and will find it incredibly hard to kill your darlings or cut out anything that contradicts your ideas “as a writer.”

Having an outsiders position allows an editor to gain insights into what the are the writer’s intentions and make sure to bring those out in the writer’s voice and his sensibilities.

 

#3 You’ve looked at it for far too long

The phrase “wood for the trees” comes to mind. This is exactly what happens when you try to read the text you’ve devoted so much time putting together. After a point of time, you stop seeing the larger picture or the problem and get stuck on the parts that you want to see.

 

#4 Your insecurities will kick in

Writers generally follow the golden rule of giving a break to the draft once they’re done writing. Then get back to reading it in its entire length. You should do this too, and you will naturally figure out the weaknesses in your story, language, and narrative. This will also shake your confidence a little. You start doubting your capabilities as a writer and want someone who comes to your aid and instills some confidence in you and your story. 

You could get someone from your family or friends to help you regain the lost confidence and take a look at your manuscript. But will they be as gracious, thoughtful, and invested in your work as a skilled editor will be? Definitely not!