An editor is someone who is a critical reader, and a lover of words. They will prepare a client's manuscript for publication by polishing, refining and enhancing it. An editor is seen as a gatekeeper between the writer and audience, and they have to take a dual sided point of view in order to keep both parties happy.
Authors know their stories inside and out and have had a strong relationship with their manuscript for months or sometimes years. Audiences, on the other hand, have no emotional attachment to books that they have not read yet and are quick to judge any novel that they pick up to read.
An editor needs to edit a manuscript from both points of view. Changes that are to be made must feel like the author's authentic voice to keep him or her happy with the new and improved manuscript. The manuscript may also need changes that will keep the audience pulled in and interested for the length of the novel. One of an editor’s many challenges is to find a balance between the two.
An editor supervises a range of functions in a publishing house and has many tasks that need to be accomplished before a book is ready to be launched. When people hear the word “editor” they usually imagine someone who spell checks and is a stickler for grammar. While this is true, a lot more goes into editing a manuscript. When a manuscript is picked for publication there are many alterations and decisions that need to be made before the book can go to print. These alterations are made by different kinds of editors.
The first editor a manuscript goes through is the Acquisitions Editor. This is the editor that picks out the manuscript and decides if it would be a profitable choice for the publishing house. He or she makes a pitch to the house to publish the manuscript and figures out all the budgeting, marketing, and contractual decisions. This editor also facilitates communication between publisher and writer.
When a manuscript has been chosen it may need a heavy amount of editing. This work goes to the Developmental Editor. This editor works very closely with a writer as they try to develop the work to be its best. Content, organization, and presentation are all considered. He or she assists the writer in developing material including characters, setting, and plot, if needed. The editor may suggest additional research to be done to “flesh out” certain parts of the material for clarity and to create better flow. Comments are made on style, structure, and flow of information. Spelling, grammar, and punctuation are also checked along with URL links, captions, graphics, footnotes, references, photos, tables, quotes, bibliography, and citations. This type of editing is the most invasive, so the editor works closely with the writer to be sure that he approves changes and the author's original voice is preserved.
Next in line is the Line Editor. They will go through a manuscript line by line and find grammar and spelling errors that compromise the quality of the material. The editor will also make sure that word choice contributes to the overall tone of the book. In some publishing fields the Line Editor and Copy Editor positions are combined into one.
The Copy Editor goes over a manuscript before it is ready for print. He or she will examine the document for inconsistencies in theme, style, and factual information. Permission is checked for copyright material, ensuring there will be no legal conflict. Grammar, spelling, and punctuation are also scanned again. The main purpose of a Copy Editor is to make sure the import of text is clear and will maintain the interest of the reader.
In the home stretch, the edited manuscript goes to the Production Editor who oversees the transition between manuscript and published book. This is the last person to review the material before print. This editor manages the typesetting, artwork, and budgeting and ensures quality is met in all other areas of editing.
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An editor will spend their time running their eyes over text looking for errors and changes that can be made to better enhance the material. It is extremely important that they have patience and pay attention to every detail. It takes a lot of focus and time to be able to read a document through an editor's eyes and to make it publishable. They need to have an excellent use of language and should be knowledgeable and updated on current affairs. This makes their job easier if they already know a bit about what they are reading. Editors do not need to know every rule about grammar, punctuation or spelling, but they do need to know how to use resources that will help them make those decisions.
An english or journalism degree is recommended in order to get into the publishing world as an editor. A master’s degree is also something that may be considered. Like many careers, editing is something that is learned on the job. Starting at an entry-level position and learning the job by simply doing the job is the best way to move up in a publishing house.
An editor's hours are generally determined by the production schedule, and by the type of editorial position they have.
Advances in electronic communications have changed the work environment for writers and editors alike. Editors are able to do a lot of their editing from their homes, but most salaried editors work in-house, dealing with production deadlines and the pressures of trying to produce accurate work. This is advantageous because they get to learn how the production works from the inside. With experience, editors will know what they can handle and what projects might be too much.
Schedules and budgets are tight in a publishing house so a lot of employers don't want to risk new freelancing editors. They may be less likely to hire someone with no in-house experience.