Just about everything concerning writing and publishing can seem a maze to maneuver through, no? But more confusion surrounds what book editors do than just about any other topic.
Yep, it’s a vast sea out there now of folks editing all sorts of things. And while I’ve talked a lot about the differences in editors and editing, the other side of that story is the myths surrounding what one might do to your book.
And some of these strike terror into the hearts of writers.
So, let’s debunk a few of those first:
Myth # 1: An Editor Will Ghost Write Your Book
That seems easy to toss out from the onset, no? But you’d be surprised how many people contact me for developmental editing, when what they’re really looking for is a ghost writer.
Yes, what a developmental editor will do is break the book down into all of its components—characterization, plotting and pacing, organization and structure, flow, voice and tone, and all stylistic compartments. She does this both on the page, and included/explained in detailed, individual critique. Then, she should provide a step-by-step guide to putting it back together—with tons of suggestions, examples, and options.
But all final decisions, and the writing itself, is left up to the author.
This is your book. Not the editor’s.
Myth # 2: An Editor Will Change Your Voice
Horrors! This is the most egregious error any editor could make. And while this does happen (writers tell me this all the time), it won’t happen with a top editor.
Your voice is your unique signature, and an editor’s job is to help you to hone it, to bring the jewels to light from under the muck, and to help you make certain you’re saying what you intend to—not what the editor does.
As with all things regarding publishing, what book editors do is to help you make your book the best it can be.
To help you excavate the beauty of your voice, and cause it to shine.
Myth # 3: Editors Disregard the Market
The market for books is a slippery thing. Traditional publishers know this oh-so well. Writers intending to self-publish, however, often think that market doesn’t pertain to them. That’s why they aren’t traditionally publishing anyway, right? So no one can “put them in a box.”
Well, here’s the thing: Those lessons from the Traditional model can help you in many ways, and marketing is a huge one.
A reason exists for all the genres, categories, and sub-categories. And it’s a simple reason—each audience expects what they’re reading in the genre to be what they’re used to. I.e., they buy Time Travel Romance because that’s what they want to read, and expect to read when they buy one.
If your editor doesn’t edit with full knowledge of your sub-category, then you need another editor. Because your point is not just to publish the best book you can, but to also have people read it. No?
And the Surprising Truth: A great Book Editor is Your Champion
Most writers don’t think of editors in that light. I mean, they’re just looking for someone to help them get their books into print, to make sure “nothing’s wrong,” as a writer said to me yesterday.
But there’s so much to all of this, and I often say the writer/agent relationship is akin to a marriage, and the editor’s role is that of marriage counselor!
To do that effectively, an editor has to care—a lot—for the writers she works with.
There is such a psychological ramification to all of this. Writing/publishing can humble you to your knees. We’re not selling bread dough here, but parts of your very heart and soul.
In the dark times, writers need someone who believes in them, encourages them, pulls for them.
And that’s the greatest part of what book editors actually do—they believe in you.
Now, go find the best editor for you!