Blogger: Janet Kobobel Grant
Location: Books & Such main office, Santa Rosa, Calif.
Beth Adams’s quote in my post yesterday about how editing is her favorite part of the process touched on an aspect of being an in-house editor that probably was the first task that came to mind for you. But as you’ve seen, I’m listing editing as the third most important part of the job that an editor has.
That’s because I believe an editor’s responsibility to be the ambassador of the publishing house to you and to be your ambassador to the publishing house is more important. And I also believe overseeing that the essence of your manuscript not get lost as the text moves through the process is more important, as is winning the enthusiasm of everyone at the publishing house.
Not that I’m slighting the affect of an editor’s hand on the manuscript itself. No way.
Just what does an editor do for your manuscript? And what path does your manuscript travel when it’s being edited?
Andy McGuire, nonfiction editor at Bethany House, sees the job this way: “We take time to make the book as marketable as possible. For instance, if it’s sounding a bit too academic, we would steer it in a more popular direction. Or if it’s sounding too chatty, we might tighten it up a bit. Also, we edit more thoroughly than any outside editor would (at Bethany House we take a book through at least three stages of editing before proofreading the text).”
Vicki Crumpton from Revell Books, describes what she does like this: “My job is to help the author express himself or herself most clearly so that the reader understands the message/enjoys the novel/whatever the goal is of the book and also to make sure that manuscript meets the expectations we had when we contracted it.”
Jan Stob, fiction acquisitions editor from Tyndale House, sees her contribution to the editing process in a more focused way since she doesn’t always do actual editing. “The most important part of the editorial process is communication. It is not our job to make a manuscript something ‘other than’ what the author intended, but to help communicate the story as effectively as possible. In talking through a manuscript with an author, we sometimes discover that what they are trying to convey is unclear, but in hearing them talk through their intentions, we can help pull up those threads and help bring clarity. Often, an author has spent a lot of time writing and rewriting and becomes too close to their project. We can step back and offer a fresh reader’s perspective.”
All in-house editors are aware that several rounds of editing occur with each manuscript. These rounds are labeled differently by various publishers, but here are a few definitions that should help you to figure out these terms when an editor throws them out to you.
Beth Adams from Guideposts explains the editorial process this way: “We start off with a big-picture edit (a content or macro edit), where we address plot, pacing, characters, holes in the story, and things like that. We go through as many rounds as we need to get the story right, then we move onto the line edit, where we make the writing as strong as it can be. When it’s perfectly polished, we send the book to a copy editor, who is trained to fix the grammar and spelling, checks the time line, looks for logical problems, and lots of other details that I miss. It’s then proofread and read by a cold reader as well. “
These definitions were offered by Andy McGuire of Bethany House:
- “Substantive review” means looking at the big picture structure and content issues in the book.
- “Line editing” deals with clarity, flow of arguments, eloquence, and structure.
- “Copy editing” is fixing mistakes and also some level of sentence smoothing, although much of that should already have happened in line editing.
- “Proofreading” is correcting spelling, grammar, typos, etc.
What insights into the process do these comments provide you? What’s new to you?
If you’re published, what did the editing process contribute to the final manuscript? What was your initial response when you read your edited manuscript? What did you think about the editing after you had time to absorb what had been done? (I know this isn’t a happy experience for every author, and I have my own “my manuscript was murdered by an editor” stories to tell from the days I was an author.)