8 Qualities of a Great Book Editor

Today’s guest post is by Andrea Moran.

You’ve likely heard that it’s imperative to hire an editor once you’ve completed a draft of your manuscript. While it’s true that no one knows your work like you do, getting an outsider’s opinion will help you catch things you may have missed after being so close to the manuscript for so long.

But what makes a good editor? Here are some of the qualities you should seek out when hiring someone to help make your book the best it can be.

  1. They remain objective.

This point is the main reason you should avoid enlisting a family member or friend to edit your work. As objective as they claim to be, it’s extremely difficult to separate you as a person and you as an author—and it’s largely the objectivity that will help strengthen your writing in the long run.

To improve as an author, you need feedback from someone whose job it is to look at the manuscript from a random reader’s point of view. This also applies to the subject matter within your book—whether it’s a novel or nonfiction guidebook or anything in between, the editor’s personal views on the subject matter should never influence the changes they suggest.

  1. They pay attention to detail.

One of the basic qualities of a good editor is extraordinary attention to detail. Depending on the type of editor you hire—whether it’s a developmental editor, copyeditor, or some other type of editor—that could mean obvious things like grammar and punctuation mistakes, misspellings, and all the wonderful technical aspects that make a book readable. It could also mean noticing inconsistencies that may have unknowingly popped up through the long and often tedious writing process. Is a character’s development inconsistent or confusing? Was the table rectangular in the first scene and then oval in a later scene? A good editor will spot those easily overlooked details that will make some readers do a double take (and not in a good way).

  1. They point out the good and the bad.

When some people envision editors, they have nightmare flashbacks of school papers drenched in red ink, torn apart by a stickler teacher. While an editor will certainly point out flaws in the narrative or correct blatant mistakes, a good one will also comment on what you have done well. Providing both negative and positive feedback helps you realize (and play to) your strengths while forcing you to confront your weaknesses. Providing that dual experience is what editing is all about.

  1. They don’t change your voice.

Each writer has his or her own authorial voice that is unique—and a good editor will never try to dampen or alter that voice. While they may make suggestions on ways to clarify your point or tighten up a sentence, they won’t randomly change your word choices to fit their view of what it should say. After all, the last thing you want is to get your carefully written manuscript back from a round of edits, only to find that so many words and verbal quirks have been changed that you don’t even recognize your own work anymore.

  1. They are honest with you.

Sometimes it’s hard to hear the truth, especially if you’ve been putting your heart and soul into a manuscript for years. But a good editor will be honest with you even if that means giving you information and opinions that sting a bit. That’s OK, though—after all, your writing will never improve or be successful if you hire a bunch of yes-people who don’t tell you when and how certain things need to change.

  1. They push you.

Sometimes your writing is good but still not the best you can do. Take this editing opportunity to be challenged in your writing, your narrative development, or even your characterization. Maybe you could push harder or really dig into an issue or character to make the whole book come together. These are just some of the issues that your editor might point out as a way of stretching you as a writer. Often even the best authors don’t unlock their full potential unless questioned and pushed by an outside voice that helps them strive to do better.

  1. They offer constructive feedback.

There’s nothing worse than getting feedback like “Good work!” or “This could use some tweaking.” Those kinds of comments are unhelpful at best and counterproductive at worst. What exactly needs tweaking? What did they like about that specific passage? A good editor will offer plenty of constructive feedback in their comments, complete with suggestions and tips on how to remedy the specific issue.

  1. They are patient.

Some people believe that the most important quality of being an editor is an excellent grasp on language. While that is certainly essential to doing the job, I would argue that patience is just as important. A good editor will show an abundance of patience not only in editing a manuscript (which, as we all know, can be quite long—especially first drafts), but also in explaining the suggested changes. You should never be made to feel that you are too demanding when asking for clarification as to why your editor suggested the changes they did. That being said, familiarize yourself with the editor’s pricing policy, as some charge extra for additional feedback via phone call or electronic communication.

While choosing an editor can feel a bit overwhelming at first, you’ll be glad you took the leap—especially when they point out that obvious plot hole or the character who started out with blue eyes but somehow had brown eyes forty pages later.

In the publishing world, many authors stick with the same editor again and again, forming a valuable working relationship that may even last decades. (There’s a reason you always see authors gushing over their editors in the acknowledgments.) Once you find a great editor, you’ll never want to let go!

Andrea Moran is a blogger for Kirkus Reviews and lives outside of Nashville with her husband and two kids. She’s a professional copywriter and editor who loves all things books. Andrea has worked as a professional copywriter and editor, with work published in magazines like the Washington Post. You can find her on LinkedIn.

Featured Photo by D A V I D S O N L U N A on Unsplash

Search Posts Here

Subscribe to My Blog

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *