Why do all authors need editors and proofreaders? Because each of these professionals plays a different (and essential) role in polishing your book for publication.
Traditional Forms of Editing
Traditional literary publishers put each and every manuscript through a thorough and professional process of substantive/stylistic editing, copy editing, and then proofreading to ensure a polished and saleable result. There are several pairs of eyes on every raw manuscript and galley proof all the way through the process to ensure that 99 percent of every last error is caught and corrected before it goes to print.
Below is a brief description of what each of those editing processes looks like. Independent authors should have your manuscripts copy edited in the very least.
A copy editor will thoroughly review your manuscript in Microsoft Word format and correct any issues with spelling, grammar, and punctuation throughout. He or she will also make helpful suggestions regarding word choice and sentence structure, using the “Western-based” English editorial style guide of your choice. The edited version will be returned to you for final approval before moving onto the next publishing stage.
Sometimes, you want a little more than a copy edit. A stylistic edit will cover all the points of a copy edit, plus it will eliminate jargon and redundancies, clarify meaning, and ensure that the writing matches the intended audience. Stylistic edits are negotiated with you all along the way using the English editorial style guide of your choice. The edited version will be returned to you for final approval before moving onto the next publishing stage.
Substantive (Structural) Editing
Do you want the help of a professional editor to improve the overall structure of your manuscript? A substantive edit will cover all the points of a stylistic edit, plus it will clarify and reorganize your story for you. These changes are negotiated with you all along the way using the English editorial style guide of your choice. The edited version will be returned to you for final approval before moving onto the next publishing stage.
Where an editor’s job is to review and improve an author’s raw manuscript, and the graphic designer’s job is to arrange that raw edited text into a professional and appealing layout, a professional proofreader provides yet another set of eyes to ensure all the components fit together properly and the book is ready for public viewing and printing. The proofreader’s job is to complete the following nine-point check for you:
• The front matter (such as the table of contents) is accurate and correct.
• The back matter (such as the index) is accurate and correct.
• Headers and footers are accurate and correct.
• Bad breaks, widows, and orphans are eliminated.
• Text is kerned to flow smoothly throughout.
• Margins and trim size all measure properly.
• Spelling and punctuation is correct.
• Spacing, bleeds, and trim size all measure properly.
• Spelling and punctuation is correct.
As shown in the above list, a professional proofreader is someone who is knowledgeable/experienced with both basic language editing (spelling and punctuation) as well as the technical aspects of book design (kerning, bleeds, trim size, et cetera). If the proofreader finds any issues in the layout, he or she will indicate these. And the graphic designer will make those corrections with your approval.
Why Do All Authors Need Editors and Proofreaders?
In the traditional publishing sector, you will have very little to no say in the design and polishing of your book. Once they buy the rights to your manuscript from you, they own it. They have all the say in every aspect of the project.
That said, in both the independent and hybrid book publishing business models, you can accept and decline each change as you see fit. And I’m willing to bet you’ll accept 95% of these professionals’ changes—if not more. You’ll be amazed by what their eyes will find that you were unable to see after viewing your own book cover and interior several times over. I’m certain you’ll be grateful that you invested in this type of support.
Related reading: 3 Reasons Graphic Designers Should Never Edit Books
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