7 Types of Publishing Professionals & When You Should Hire Them for Your Manuscript
Depending on where you are in the writing process, you will have different needs when it comes to editing. Does your draft have structural issues? Don’t waste time with an editor to correct grammar and spelling. Is your publication date approaching? Don’t hire an editor who will make big, sweeping suggestions, like adding more character development.
Knowing what kind of work is needed will help you find the editor or publishing professional that is a perfect fit for you.
Here are the seven main types you may come across (and various names they may be called), listed in the order that you would use them. Keep in mind: if you are planning to query traditional publishers, the majority of this work would be done in-house. If that’s the route you are taking, I’d suggest only looking into numbers 1 and 3.
1. Developmental Editing (Substantive Editing, Content Editing, Structural Editing)
The big picture.
Does your story make sense, flow in a logical order, stay consistent in tone, meet genre expectations, and tie up any loose ends? The most sweeping changes would be made here, including restructuring, if necessary.
It is often the most difficult stage for writers. It requires putting your baby into someone else’s hands and letting them pick it apart before helping you piece it back together.
A full developmental edit typically consists of comments and suggestions within the document itself in addition to an editorial letter, which provides more detail, context, and the overarching plan for tackling the issues cited. Some editors may offer a pared-down version of the letter or commentary at a reduced rate.
You’ve checked all the story issues and it’s almost time for fine-tuning. But just in case you’ve missed something that could affect large portions of your manuscript, it’s best to check your facts here. Not all manuscripts require this kind of work, and most writers can perform this task themselves. But if you aren’t the best researcher, some editors specialize in fact-checking. They can give you a second set of eyes to help with liability. Some editors in later stages may not provide this service, trusting that you have done the work yourself.
3. Copyediting (Line Editing, Mechanical Editing)
If developmental editing is the big picture, copyediting is the details.
While line and copyediting are sometimes called separate stages, they are similar services. These editors look for inconsistencies, accuracy, and readability at the micro-level.
Copyediting looks sentence by sentence, specifically for mistakes in grammar, usage, syntax, spelling, and punctuation. A line edit looks at the paragraph level, checking for style in addition to the mechanics. It can be considered more subjective but in-depth.
Many freelance copyeditors, myself included, combine these two stages. I call it copyediting, but depending on the manuscript or author, my edits might lean more toward line edits.
You may also request a light, medium, or heavy copyedit, which refers to the amount of work you want to be performed.
Typically only used in non-fiction, these professionals would look for important items within your book, such as names, places, terminology, and headings, and create an index for the back matter.
While this is another stage that can be done using Word on your own, the headaches involved aren’t worth the hassle. It’s a nuanced skill set that is best done by a professional.
There are tons of tutorials on YouTube on how to format your novel using Word or other free software. But doing so will have your book looking, well… like you formatted it using Word.
You could invest in proper software like InDesign or Vellum to create a more polished version. However, the cost is high. A cheaper alternative is Affinity Publisher, which is essentially InDesign, but there is still the matter of investing the time to learn the software, let alone master it.
Unless you plan on writing and formatting more than a few books, it’s easier and faster to hire a professional. In addition to the typical formatting process (headers, footers, table of contents, margins, etc.), a pro would help with font choices and other style options, such as a background image.
Ebooks are the exception. The reflowable text means you have less to worry about (and fewer places to screw up).
Proofreading is a difficult stage to place because it can (and should) be done at several stages. I put it at #6 because it is where a self-publishing author would get the best value from the service.
If you only do it once, do it here.
It can also be done after copyediting and before formatting to ensure there are no additional errors missed or introduced by the copyeditor or author.
When the final copy is formatted and ready, the proofreader gives it one final light editing pass. In addition to the usual editing checklist, they will be looking for errors that could have been introduced by formatting: spacing, widows and orphans, page numbers, table of contents, etc.
At this final stage, you are hoping that the proofreader finds very little. A large error could result in needing to adjust formatting (changes in page numbers, picture adjustments, etc.), or worse, a rewrite.
7. Cover Design
Everyone judges a book by its cover.
It might be a sad truth, but a truth it is. This means your cover needs to stand out. You could create something on your own, but unless you have design skills, your cover will stand out for the wrong reasons.
A good cover doesn’t use cliched images or have illegible or crazy fonts. While it needs to stand out, it should also match your genre’s expectations.
Unless your designer is willing to make adjustments, it’s best to create the cover last. A paperback or hardcover book must match the particular specifications of your book, which take into account the book size, paper type, and page count. This is why it should be done after all stages in case any of the above changes.
Note that each publisher (KDP, Lulu, etc.) has their own requirements for margins and sizing, and your designer should be made aware of which to follow.
Many people have the ability and desire to see you succeed. Each publishing professional might have a slightly different definition of the stage. It is always best to confirm (in writing) what type of work is being performed, but I hope this gives you a baseline for how to find the right fit. Confirm with your editor what services they are providing, especially if you have a specific thing you are looking for.
Good luck on your journey to publication!
A version of this article was originally published at https://literatusediting.com on January 18, 2020.