Do You Really Need a Book Editor? Yes, and This Is Why

by Hana Walker

Imagine this: you’ve dedicated the past couple of years to working on a new book that you are obsessed with. It’s the longest you have ever spent on a project and you’re excited to get it out into the world. But there’s just one issue — you’ve heard that most books get edited and proofread before publication and you’re not sure you want someone making changes to your work. Sound familiar?

Lots of writers feel uncomfortable about the editorial process because they see it as somebody taking away from their original creative vision, but this could not be further from the truth. We may be a little biased as we’re a company that focuses on editing and proofreading, but we can definitely say that we know what we’re talking about!

One of the biggest misconceptions about editing that we want to debunk is that you only need one editor when working on a project. At a big publishing house, you may think that you only have one editor, but there is actually a massive team in charge of different stages of the editing process.

When it comes to smaller publishers or hiring an editor for self-published work, you may only be able to afford one editor, but the principle is still the same — they will be doing many different jobs that come under the editorial umbrella.

In this blog, we’ll walk through the three main reasons why getting a book editor is the best thing you can do to take your book from the manuscript stage to publication.

1. Objective and honest feedback

When you’re writing a book, it can be really hard to separate your feelings about it from its objective quality, so having another pair of eyes on your work is so important. An editor can help you notice things that you may have overlooked during the writing process.

Any good editor will provide feedback in a way that is constructive and pinpoints what might be confusing or a problem for a potential reader. All editors want to do is make sure you’re putting out the best version of your work out into the world.

This stage of objective feedback is known as an editorial assessment, which will evaluate the quality of your work from a “big picture” point of view.

Constructive feedback can be a tough pill to swallow, so we recommend that you first workshop your writing with other literary peers as you go. Starting off with small, general feedback from people you know — but who are still willing to be honest — is a really good place to begin. It will offer you a taste of criticism before you jump into the editorial process.

Either way, getting candid feedback on what you’ve written is imperative and one of the best reasons for hiring an editor.

2. Developing your ideas

You don’t always have the complete and final version of your book when you approach an editor. Even if you think you do, you may end up realising through the editorial process that there is so much more that needs to be added or that some parts should be removed.

This is because your editor will ask questions about the book, challenge you to enhance the parts that feel underdeveloped, and help you to expand your ideas beyond your initial draft.

This stage is content editing, sometimes referred to as structural or developmental editing. Editors will take a macro look at your work and consider which aspects could be improved, leading to a development from your original piece.

Developing your ideas is absolutely crucial to ensuring that your book is the best it can be, and getting a professional’s opinion is the best way to achieve this.

3. Expert advice

Workshopping your writing with friends can be a useful starting point in reaching a high standard of work. However, it’s really important to remember that an editor has specialist knowledge about editing. They’ll be able to point things out that your peers may overlook, as this is their field of expertise.

An editor has specific knowledge about books — particularly the forms and genres they specialise in — and a great understanding of the publishing industry, which makes their feedback all the more invaluable. They can tell you about the conventions of your chosen genre and what your target audience is looking for, from word count to writing style; not many peers will be able to do the same.

The final stage of editing is copy editing and proofreading, during which your editor will showcase their strong knowledge of correct grammar, punctuation, and vocabulary to make sure that your book is flawless upon publication. There’s nothing worse than publishing your book and spotting a typo afterwards!

Our thoughts

So, all in all, having an editor is perhaps the best thing you can do to ensure that your book turns out the absolute best that it can be.

Depending on what route you choose for publication, you may end up using sites like Reedsy or you may even find yourself asking for support from our fantastic team here at The Book Shelf.

Either way, we wish you the absolute best of luck in your writing journey and don’t forget to thank your editor when your book’s successfully published!

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