Editing is a crucial part of the publishing process. However, it’s equally as crucial that self-publishing authors recognize their role as both author and publisher when entering into editing.
At FriesenPress, we noticed that before some writers are engaged in the process, they hold certain misbeliefs about the treatment of their manuscript’s content, the parameters of editing, and the relationship with their editor. So, we chatted with our in-house editing professional Amy De Nat, and she broke down seven misconceptions she’s encountered in book editing:
1. “I will lose creative control.”
One of the most common misconceptions we hear about editing is the concern that you’ll lose control over your story – that an editor will change your book. This is coupled with the preconceived notion that whatever the editor says goes, from punctuation to character development and organization of an argument.
When publishing through FriesenPress, each author retains 100% creative control over his or her project. Whereas in traditional publishing, the author and editor must work together to create a version of the book that best meets the publisher’s needs, in self-publishing, you are both the author and the publisher, so your vision is what each editor is working to uphold.
2. "I have to do what my editor says."
Every edit made is a professional suggestion. Editing is intended to help make your project as professional and effective as possible, but it is also intended to help you create the book you desire. As the author, you are welcome to "accept" or "reject" any edits (or suggestions) as you see fit – in keeping with your vision and goals for the project. It is your vision for the project that editing is working to achieve.
3. "My editor can rewrite certain content for me."
Editors are able to make certain revisions for structure, style, and more, and these revisions are accomplished using the guidance and understanding of editing standards and the content already existing on the page. When changes are larger in scope, however, the editor will leave what’s called a query (a question or comment in the margin) for you instead. But an editor cannot write or rewrite content on an author's behalf.
For example, an editor might add transitions, or rework content for clarity, but the writing is the responsibility of the author . . . or a ghostwriter. So, if you see a query and agree with your editor's suggestion to rewrite existing content, or write new/additional content, you would then implement the suggestion as you see fit. If you disagree, you would disregard the suggestion.
4. "My editor needs to be familiar (or unfamiliar) with my book's subject matter."
Your editor should act as an unbiased, third-party reader. They should consider your manuscript as your readers will, allowing them to best determine what your readers need from the book and how the project is or is not fulfilling on those pieces. To aid in this, your editor needs to know who your target readership is. If that is a readership with an existing familiarity with your book's subject matter, then yes, it helps if your editor is also familiar with the subject. If not, then it may be more beneficial for your editor not to be familiar with your book's subject matter. There are pros to each of these approaches; however, it is always beneficial to work with an editor who is familiar with the conventions of your book’s genre (eg: fiction, memoir, technical writing, etc.).
5. "One round of editing will take care of everything and then my manuscript will be error free!"
Editing isn’t an algorithm; it is a human analysis crafted by a professional editor. As such, industry leaders created a standard of accuracy that recognizes an acceptable margin for human error. The standard accuracy rate for a single round of editing is 90–95%, and FriesenPress works to uphold this standard. This means that there is an acceptable margin of error of 5–10% per round of editing, which speaks to the volume of edits that might be missed (per round) without compromising the quality of the edit performed.
To ensure the highest level of accuracy, we recommend a manuscript undergo multiple rounds of editing, utilizing more than one editor. While the margin remains the same, the volume of edits that percentage translates to lessens with each edit, creating a higher level of accuracy with each round of editing a book undergoes. And FriesenPress offers single rounds of editing, as well as editing bundles, making it possible for you to customize your editorial support.
6. "I don't need editing; my friend/family member/partner edited the manuscript."
Editing is a skill that requires education, training, and experience. And book editing is a niche of its own, entirely different from editing for journalism, for example. Someone with an English major, or a fellow writer, may be invaluable in readying a project for editing. They may also be more familiar with certain writing conventions; however, unless this person is also a professional book editor, there will inevitably be aspects they may not know to review for, may not recognize, or may not know how to edit appropriately.
Writing a book is an incredible feat and an accomplishment of which you should be proud. A professional editor will give your book – and your efforts – the quality review the project deserves to prepare it for publication.
7. "I don't need editing; I edited the manuscript."
If you’ve just read number six, the same applies here, too. But there is an added layer:
As writers, we are simply too close to self-edit our own projects. Even editors need editors for projects they have authored. The reason for this is that when you author a piece, you will begin to see what you intended to write, rather than what’s actually been written. Your brain knows what the writing should be, and it fools your eyes from seeing what the writing truly is. So, if you wrote a manuscript, even if you are a professional editor yourself, it is incredibly valuable to have a second set of professional eyes on the project. Successful editing requires a degree of separation from the material.
There are many “right” ways to edit a manuscript, and a professional book editor brings the expertise required to do so. Editors will correct grammar and ensure punctuation is in the right place. They will also suggest possible rewrites, additions, removals, relocations, or reworkings of certain content, wherever meaning can be clarified. Of course, some aspects of editing can be accomplished in many ways, and your choice of style guide will also influence the edits made. But if you disagree with an edit, or would prefer to accomplish a revision in a different way, it’s as simple as a right-click to undo the change!
In the end, an editor’s job is to help make each book the best version of itself. To make the content as clear and effective as possible, while maintaining the author’s voice and vision for the book. They will make edits and pose queries, but they will not compromise the integrity of the book’s content or writing style.
And remember, every edit is no more or less than a professional suggestion!