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  • Writer's pictureKristy Phillips

What Editors Are Not

I know I’ve covered some of this in other posts. But let me repeat here, if only for my own sanity:


Editors are not proofreaders.

Editors are not ghostwriters.

Editors are not marketers.


There are several kinds of editing, and editors do many things.


In a typical workday, I will:

  • Research the best way to represent a stutter and communicate with a client about that for their manuscript

  • Mull over whether a client’s manuscript falls into the literary fiction or YA genre

  • Look up 42 different style rules in the Chicago Manual of Style

  • Edit 56 pages of 8 combined manuscripts to be clear, concise, and consistent

  • Evaluate whether two children in a client’s manuscript are behaving and talking in age-appropriate ways and suggest corrections if they’re not

  • Prep a manuscript for ebook conversion

  • Dither over 135 commas

  • Explain the pros and cons of querying publishers vs. self-publishing to a nervous client

  • Do a short sample edit for a prospective client

  • Oh, and work an eight-hour workday for my full-time job


But I’m not a proofreader. Or a marketer. Or a ghostwriter (well, not usually).


Proofreading, as I’ve told many clients, comes at the end of the process, when the manuscript is laid out in design and ready for production. A proofreader has never seen the manuscript before. They’re looking at print spreads in PDF for typos and nits specific to typesetting (widows, orphans, and other spacing issues, for example). And they’re looking for typos that missed the editor(s) and author(s).


Because copy fatigue is real. Once you’ve seen a manuscript several times, you stop seeing the typos. Your eyes tell your brain it sees the word your brain expects to see, and it moves on.


(That goes for you, too, authors.)


Fresh eyes don’t have fatigue for that copy. So they catch the typos.


If your editor misses (or even creates) a typo, it doesn’t mean your editor sucks. It means your editor has seen your copy so many times that their eyes are lying to their brain.


It’s nothing personal.


And if you gave your editor really crappy copy to begin with, the chances of typos slipping in go up. Editing is messy work, and with all those strikethroughs and underlines, it’s easy to miss an of that should be an on.


That’s why you hire a proofreader after your typesetter is done.


This is important information for writers to understand. Especially self-publishing writers.


In a traditional publishing environment, a minimum of five professionals touch your manuscript, in this order:


  • Developmental editor

  • Line editor

  • Copyeditor

  • Typesetter

  • Proofreader


I’ve found that in self-publishing, most authors a) have no idea about this process and b) don’t have the time or funds to hire these five professionals.


So the bulk of this work falls on the freelance editor. I’ve wielded the developmental, line, and copyeditor red pen (often simultaneously) countless times. And I don’t charge my clients three times the usual price for doing three jobs.


It’s a lot of work.


I also highly encourage them to hire a proofreader to go over their typeset manuscript.


I just can’t be all things to all people all the time. And I truly do want the finished product to be wonderful.


So, be aware of what you’re shopping for when you’re looking for an “editor/proofreader.” Be clear about what stage your manuscript is at. Understand the difference among these professions. And ask your editor to explain proofreading and when it should happen.


Don’t assume they do a job they don’t.


Next time, I’ll explain why I’m not a ghostwriter and why copy editing can’t turn a shallow, simple, poorly ghostwritten “novel” into a complex story with deep characters and intricate plots. Not even for "an extra $100."



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