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Spellcheck Cannot Save You! Book Editors’ Roles in Publishing

I’m guessing you haven’t spent much time pondering book editors’ roles in publishing. I get it, you’ve got your hands full figuring out the self-publishing author’s role. But since I have your best interests at heart, I’m going to share another favorite book of mine that will shed some light on that subject. Maybe you… [Read More]

Book Editors' Roles in Publishing by Karen Conlin for BookWorks.com

I'm guessing you haven't spent much time pondering book editors' roles in publishing. I get it, you've got your hands full figuring out the self-publishing author's role. But since I have your best interests at heart, I'm going to share another favorite book of mine that will shed some light on that subject.

Maybe you think you already know what book editors do. We fix grammar, correct spelling, tinker with sentence structures. Maybe we also do some indexing (not me, I leave that for the professional indexers). We might reformat some sections, particularly in nonfiction projects.

Understanding Book Editors' Roles

Book Editors' Roles in Publishing by Karen Conlin for BookWorks.comThis book tells you about all the other book editors' roles within the publishing industry. Some of it has nothing to do with having their hands on a book. Whether you intend to self-publish or look for an agent to shop your book around to acquisitions editors, this book will clarify the entire process from acquisition through publication. For example, did you know that in some cases, the editor’s job includes meeting and engaging with fans of the genre? It’s not uncommon (perhaps even expected or required) for genre fiction editors employed by publishing houses to attend conventions like the various ComicCons or smaller regional events for the specific purpose of raising interest in titles they’re publishing. They’re active on social media for that same purpose.

Editors, whether they’re indies like me or employees of a publishing house, work for their writers. And that work goes well beyond fixing grammar errors. It includes engaging with your potential audience—something you’re no doubt doing yourself, but it’s great to have someone else helping, right?Book Editors' Roles in Publishing by Karen Conlin for BookWorks.com

Twenty-five book editors contributed essays to this volume. It’s presented in five major sections: acquisition, process, publication, case studies, and career. That last one might not be of interest to writers, but the first four—especially for writers wanting to eventually pursue traditional channels—are certainly valuable. I suggest you get a copy from your local library so you can decide whether you want to drop the cash for your own.

The Three Phases of Editing in Publishing

In his introduction, Peter Ginna (pronounced “gin-NAY”) lays out the three phases of editing. They are, in order, acquisition, text development, and publication. As an indie editor, I work exclusively within that second phase. I’m not acquiring books for a publisher; I take a book from the indie author. I’m squarely involved with text development. I might be doing all the types of editing or I may be tasked with only developmental work (what I offer as a “critique service”). Book Editors' Roles in Publishing by Karen Conlin for BookWorks.comOften the focus will be on substantive/stylistic/line editing (all terms for the same basic process), with copyediting on the side. Then again, maybe I’m only copyediting with some proofreading afterward. I don’t do any of the work that falls under “publishing,” save for the PR chatter I engage in on social media (only one part of what this book calls “bringing the book to the reader”).

It's important for indie authors to become familiar with the workings of the publishing industry as a whole. If you're going to wear a publisher's many hats, you need to know what they all entail. Ginna’s book can help you appreciate the breadth and depth of book editors' roles. They are, after all, your essential ally and collaborator, whether you’re looking to self-publish or hoping to go the traditional route. Understanding the various kinds of editing will help you choose the right editor for each stage of your book's development. (And when you do get ready to hire, be sure to review my list of Do's & Don'ts.)


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