As an author or aspiring author, you’ll no doubt find yourself working with an editor at some point in the pre-publishing process—either a freelancer editor in the process of self-publishing or an in-house editor at a traditional publisher. In our last blog, we looked at the various types of author that you might be. Today, we’ll look at the various types of editor so you know what you’re getting.
1. The Accepter
This editor will accept anything that’s thrown their way. Content editing, copy editing, critique, proofreading; fiction, nonfiction, poetry, essays, any genre. While this can be a positive if they’re genuinely highly skilled, it’s often the case that different skill sets are required for different types of editing—and particularly for fiction vs. nonfiction, poetry or academic writing.
Antidote: Choose an editor who specialises in your genre or type of writing. If you’re going to need multiple services and types of editing, find a company who offers all of these specialisms through various editors. For example, we have editors who specialise in each type of editing and some who are specialists in academic writing or certain genres.
2. The Instant Booker
This editor replies instantly to your request and is available to start work tomorrow. Sounds great, right? Not so fast. The best book editors get booked up in advance. If the editor is ready to start straight away, it might mean nobody else wants to hire them. Or it might mean they’re new to the book editing world and have little experience or reputation.
Antidote: Check their feedback to make sure they’ve worked on other books. If you need someone to start straight away, look to a company who has a range of editors with various availability. Expect a start date of anywhere from a few weeks to a month.
3. The Absconder
This editor accepts your manuscript, then you never hear from them. No progress updates, no replies to emails. Just quiet. While they’re no doubt busy working on your manuscript, you should expect to hear from your editor occasionally, especially if you ask them a direct question.
Antidote: When you agree the terms of business before starting, check how often you’ll hear from the editor.
4. The Agreer
This editor says “yes” to the project straight away without asking any further questions about the job, the book, or the brief. Unless your brief was completely comprehensive and pitch perfect, you should expect some questions from the editors you’ve requested. These questions and preliminary discussions are important to determine what you need and whether you can work with the editor.
Antidote: Be wary of an editor who doesn’t want to have any initial discussions about the project and doesn’t ask any clarifying questions about your requirements.
5. The Criticiser
This editor is disparaging about anything you do. They send a negative critique back but don’t provide constructive criticism to help you improve it. They nit-pick at any changes you make. They’re derogatory about your cover design. Editors should be honest, objective, and realistic, but they should also help you make the book better through useful, practical, and positive suggestions.
Antidote: The preliminary discussions help you figure out what the editor is like as a person. Importantly, check the editor’s feedback and reviews to see how other authors felt about working with them.
6. The Rusher
This editor wants to get the book finished as soon as possible, so they agree to short deadlines and send the files back extremely quickly. While you might think this is a positive, editing typically isn’t a quick process, and rushing it can lead to less-than-stellar results. You might find mistakes or things they’ve missed.
Antidote: Understand the timescales for editing (2 weeks – 1 month for an editorial assessment, 1–6 months for developmental editing, 2 weeks – 1 month for copy editing). If an editor says they can do a full developmental edit in 2 weeks, be wary about how thorough it will be.
7. The Fairy Godmother
This editor strives to understand what you’re like as a person, what motivates you, and what your goals and aims are for the book. They don’t treat you like their next pay check, but as an individual who has hopes and dreams that they can help you reach. They’re personable and friendly, and their aim is to help you bring your book dreams to life.
Pointer: If you’re not comfortable talking about your personal life with your editor, then just let them know. If you prefer an editor who treats it like a business transaction, you can figure out their approach from the preliminary discussions.
8. The Empowerer
This editor empowers the author to become better by showing them the ropes. The process is more about the editor teaching the author rather than doing the editing. They provide feedback and guidance so the author can make the changes themselves, instead of doing a hands-on edit for the author. This way, you might not need an editor in future.
Pointer: If you want an editor to do the work and don’t want to learn the ropes yourself, then make this clear in the brief and opt for a developmental edit and copy edit rather than an editorial assessment.
9. The Motivator
This editor encourages and supports the author through the process. Editing can be challenging for authors, partly because the objective feedback might be hard to swallow, partly because they didn’t realise how much work needed to be done. This editor motivates them to keep going and makes the process feel easier and smoother.
Pointer: It helps if you go into the process with an open mind, especially when it comes to receiving honest feedback and constructive criticism.
10. The Coach
This editor helps you understand the whole process of publishing and/or self-publishing. They guide you not just through a particular type of editing, but through everything you need to know to get the book ready. They might have a team of professionals who specialise in each part of the process.
Pointer: This type of editor can be expensive, but you learn so much about the process that future book projects are far easier. You also get the benefit of their extensive expertise. (Note, at The Book Shelf, I am a nonfiction book coach with a team of professional editors.)
So, which type of editor do you want to work with? A good editor may be #7, #8, and #9.
P.S. If you want to find out what it’s really like to work with an editor, check out our insider blog.