When it comes to choosing the right editor for your book, it can be more than daunting—it can be exhausting. Do you need a copy editor, a proofreader, or a content editor? “Wait! Aren’t they all the same?” I say to you, Nay. Today, I’m going to help you choose the right editor for your book. Disclaimer: I’m aware that some people will give different definitions here. They might even switch around the names a little. There’s a lot of inconsistency on the Internet when it comes to defining each editor, so I'd love to hear your thoughts after reading this.
Beta Reader: This is usually a friend or family member who agrees to read your book to see if it’s worth publishing. No, they are not editors like one you’d hire. In fact, beta readers usually do this for free. They’re awesome like that. Send him a list of your concerns or questions, and he’ll read it and give his opinion. I highly suggest using a beta reader before sending it to a professional editor. They truly aid in the rewriting process!
Developmental/Substantive Editor: Need someone to look at the bigger picture? A developmental editor, also known as a substantive editor, will ensure your book is coherent. She’ll make sure it’s presented in a logical format and will check your index and table of contents to make sure they’re useful. Developmental editors revise, reorder, and delete. Some people would say these are two different jobs, but for the most part, they’re synonymous. She is usually the first editor you’ll meet in the publishing process.
Copy Editor (sometimes called a line editor): The copy editor performs minimal rewriting; instead, she concentrates on clarity and flow. Instead of completely rewriting an entire paragraph, she’ll suggest edits to avoid choppy sentence structure. Yes, she edits for grammar, punctuation, spelling, and mechanics. She’ll check with you, the author, on conflicting statements or facts as well. You have to have a copy editor before sending your book to a publishing company, and especially if you’re self-publishing. Having worked in the publishing industry, I can promise you that the second you submit an unedited manuscript, the publisher will know immediately. They can tell.
Content Editor: Very similar to a copy editor, the content editor checks for grammar and spelling while catching inconsistent behaviors in characters, ensuring the dialogue is believable, and watching for plotholes. A highly skilled content editor will work just like a copy editor and still be able to catch faults in style, themes, and tone. It's basically a two-for-one deal. Hire a truly professional copy editor, and you get that plus a content editor. Hiyo!
Proofreader: A must-have for anyone who’s in the publishing process. If you’re publishing with a traditional publisher, they provide that for you. If you’re self-publishing, you’ll want to hire one. Once your copy editor has completed her edits, the graphic design artist has crafted his illustrations, and the press has printed off your manuscript, you will need a proofreader. The proofreader takes the tangible hard copy and goes through it with a red pen, looking for any typos that were missed along the way. “Then what did I hire a copy editor for, if she’s going to miss stuff?” Because editors aren’t perfect, so they can’t create anything perfect—and any editor who promises that is a liar. (Preach!) Also, during the typesetting process, lots of weird stuff happens. Hire the proofreader. You’ll be glad you did.
Bonus thought: here are the market rates for editors. If you have an editor who charges considerably lower than what’s offered here, he’s probably doing it as a hobby, not professionally. I’m not being crass, honestly. But I’m a firm believer in “you get what you pay for.” If he offers to edit your full-length novel for fifty bucks, run away. Hiring an editor is not an option—it’s an investment. Hire the professional.
“But how do I know if the editor is a professional?”
Hm, I smell another blog post.