With the stiff competition for book contracts, new writers are urged to have their manuscripts professionally edited before they begin agent shopping. But editors are not created equal. To my knowledge, there are few if any requirements to call oneself an editor. Many of my students complain that they’ve received a mere “line edit” (correcting the text line by line) when they needed so much more.
Writing Tip for Today: Several types and levels of editing exist. These are usually freelance editors who take on projects that aren’t under contract. If you search for one, be sure to get services in writing and seek out testimonials from other clients before you pony up. If possible look for editors with proven track records, such as experience as an in-house editor. Never pay an agent to edit your manuscript. Agents sell books, period.
- Line or Copy Editor. For the pre-published, it’s essential that your manuscript be as error-free as possible. Spelling, grammar, punctuation and other mechanics should be corrected and areas such as dialogue format and apostrophes ought to be smoothed out. If you can’t remember the difference between waste and waist, a copy or line editor might be what you need.
- Content or Substantive Editor. Goes beyond the mechanics. This type of edit means your scene writing skills, character development and general story arc are evaluated. A good substantive editor brainstorms with the writer to help flagging stakes, weak characters or too much narrative versus scenes.
- Comprehensive Editor. This type of edit combines substantive and copy editing. Usually the most expensive option.