What a Book Editor Does When Working With a Book Author

If you are really keen to know what a book editor does when some book author hires him, then you’ve come to the right page. The book editor establishes trust with the author before starting the pruning of the author’s manuscript.

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By Raza Hasnain Naqvi

If you are a curious writer, then you would have already come to the conclusion that book editors have their place in the world of books. Once you decide to become an author and complete your first draft of your book manuscript, then you have transitioned from a writer to a budding author. You then work on the second draft and the third draft of your manuscript until you're reasonably satisfied that you did what you could in transferring your thoughts into words in your manuscript.

What a book editor does at this point, should you choose to hire him, is adding even more clarity to your words on display. But before the book editor rolls up his sleeves and brings in his trusted tools to dig in to your manuscript, he needs to build trust with you, the book author.

After all, when an author has written a manuscript and self-edited it to the best of her ability, what remains is for a professional eye to go through it carefully. I am not saying that the author’s writing partner (if she has one) or someone she trusts cannot or should not go through her manuscript for feedback and possible new edits. They can as long as the author is sure of their skill and what they offer in terms of feedback. 

If the book author does not have this option and is not so confident in their own self-edits in the manuscript, then the next step is to quickly get in touch with an experienced book editor.

What a book editor does when the author contacts him

I have worked with multiple book authors, mostly budding authors who have written their first book manuscript. I was recommended to them by word of mouth, by an author whose book manuscript I had edited. When this author/writer understood what a book editor does, while seeing my work on his manuscript, he recommended me to more book authors. 

This gave me a chance to work with more book authors and get better in my craft, including handling the concerns of the book authors.

One such author reached out to me with his debut manuscript after my name was recommended to him. He mailed me his manuscript and stated:

“Please go through the content critically, wherever correction of grammar or formatting is required, do it. Your expert opinion about the plotting, theme or any other suggestion is solicited.” 

I checked out his manuscript and replied that I had done a quick overview of his manuscript. The manuscript was 100,000 words plus. I found his writing to be good enough, as he had managed to express his thoughts properly in the manuscript. This is what I told him. 

Regarding my opinion and feedback about the manuscript, I said that I would do that too. But, before I did that, I wanted his response to a few questions of mine so that I understood the theme of his book clearly. The author liked my professionalism and gave me point by point answers to my questions.

Also Read: What does a book editor do? Why authors need editors

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What do book editors do

By this time, you would have understood the answer to your question: “What do book editors do?” Moreover, it will also have become clear to you that a book editor does not simply start editing the manuscript that an author gives him. 

Before starting any editing, both the author and the editor talk and understand what both want from each other. It is this initial stage that helps build a trustworthy relationship between the creator (the book author) and the book editor. What a book editor does is create an encouraging environment where he can query the author on manuscript points in the editing stage and expect a helpful reply from the author. 

This also opens up the author to share his own thoughts without any hesitation as to what she wants the book editor to do, or what the editor can ignore in the manuscript.

What book editors do in the manuscript

A good book editor understands that the words in a manuscript are precious to the author. She did her best to write the best manuscript possible. Now she has handed that manuscript to the editor to work his magic on it. What book editors do in the manuscript now is to cut out those words, sentences or sections in it that are not making sense. 

The book editor highlights all such places where corrections are required and shares it with the book author to check them out. Once the author too is convinced that those corrections are required, the book editor goes ahead and corrects them in the manuscript. 

It is not necessary that the book author will accept all the corrections highlighted by the book editor. This is completely acceptable. The author may feel strongly about something in the manuscript and if the editor wants to change it, the author may not agree. The book editor can make one more try to explain his need for making that correction in that part of the manuscript. But if the author still does not agree, the editor moves on. The book editor is not there to force corrections in the manuscript at the cost of making the author unhappy.

There is an author called Jeanne Voelker. She said once: “I edit my own stories to death. They eventually run and hide from me.”

A good book editor does not do such editing. He wants the stories and non-fiction to reveal themselves and come out beautifully so that they may walk around with pride in the hearts of readers.

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Your Search for An Editor For a Book