Which kind of editor should I hire? (and should I get my friend to proofread my book?)

‘Should I get my friend to proofread my draft before I send it to you?

My answer to my client might surprise you.

‘No, I wouldn’t at this stage.’

My client, ‘A’, is a self-publishing author writing her book in English (not her mother tongue). Although a fluent English speaker, A is worried about her written grammar.

A is still at the ‘big picture’ stage in her writing journey.

The last thing she needs is someone correcting her apostrophes and reworking her words before she’s had time to shape her ideas.

An image of two peoples hands with note books. An editor working with a writer.

So a better answer to the question ‘should I get my friend to proofread my draft before I send it to my editor?’ is actually ‘it depends’.

It depends on which stage of the writing journey you’re at, and on which kind of editor you’re hiring.

If you’re hiring a developmental editor to look at the structure and content of your ideas, do you really want to use up your ‘favour credits’ with your English teacher friend now, or would it be better to wait until you’re clear on the structure and content of your book and then get your friend to do the proofreading? That will ideally save you money on your proofreader at the end of the process, as your manuscript will be in better shape when you do send it for professional proofreading.

Of course, if your friend is happy to do endless rounds of proofing then that’s another matter entirely! But how frustrating would it be to spend hours perfecting a chapter or a section of your book, only to decide to cut it?

I’m an advocate of SLOW writing. Allowing ideas to percolate and words to sit before rushing to get them out.

There’s a place for calling in friends to help with reading for sure. But proofreading for grammar at the ‘big ideas’ stage is not always it.

Take your time and don’t rush to perfection. You might just lose something along the way.

If you’re asking for feedback on early, tender drafts, ask for feedback on ideas and content and not on language (read this post about how to ask for the right feedback at different stages of the writing journey).

And make sure you are careful about who you get that feedback from.

Image of a book cover: On revision. The Only Writing That Counts. By William Germano.

If you’re thinking about hiring professionals, here’s a quick guide to the type of editor(s) you might need (some editors do more than one type of editing, and editors don’t always use the same terms, so it’s always best to check with the editors to see if they offer the service you are looking for).

Which type of editor should I hire?

When you’re a self-publishing author, you want to make sure your book goes through the same stages of editing as it would if you were traditionally publishing. You don’t want to sacrifice quality, even if you do decide to take on some of the editing work yourself.

Editing always goes from big picture or book to word. From macro to micro. Don’t start by editing the words and then go back to editing the structure. Typos and other ‘surface level errors’ are the last to be weeded out.

How to edit your book.

The editing process. Editing to proofreading. From text to sentence.

Here are the main stages of editing you’ll come across in your book-writing process.

1. Manuscript critique

When providing a manuscript critique (often called a manuscript appraisal), an editor will provide feedback on your book’s strengths and weaknesses. They’ll evaluate your style, structure, pacing, and other important aspects of your book. Expect feedback on a macro and micro level, but not too much that it’s overwhelming for you. A manuscript critique can be a huge help in your writing development.

This service is especially useful for first or second time self-publishing authors who may not have access to the same level of editorial support as those traditionally publishing might.

2. Developmental editing

A developmental editor focuses on the overall structure and content of your book. A developmental editor will ensure that your book is well-organised with a focused message, and is easy to understand. They may also suggest changes to the content in line with your aims.

Not every author will need a developmental editor, but someone to help you with the big picture stuff can be useful if you’re a first-time author, or if you didn’t spend much time in the planning phase of writing your book. And, a developmental editor can help you at the planning stage, acting as a writing coach to help make sure you’re off to a good start.

3. Line editing

A line editor focuses on your writing. They will look at your sentence structure, grammar, and style, making sure that your writing is clear and concise, and that it flows well. They may suggest changes to the wording to make it more engaging or to help you better achieve your goals.

Line editing can be helpful if you aren’t sure of your style or want to make your writing more zingy or just think there are sections that feel clunky and could do with sprucing up.

4. Copy editing

A copy editor focuses on the ‘mechanical’ details of your book. They will look at grammar, punctuation, spelling, and formatting, making sure that your book is consistent and error-free. A copy editor may suggest changes to the wording to make your writing clearer.

Most authors will need a copy editor. No matter how thorough you are, there will always be something that slips through the net. And nothing is more annoying to readers than paying good money for a book that hasn’t been professionally edited.

5. Proofreading

At the final pass, a proofreader will catch any surface level mistakes in grammar, punctuation, spelling, and formatting, ensuring your book is error-free and ready for publishing. You want as little meddling as possible here. This is because proofreading happens after formatting (which is why you need to go through the other editing stages first).

Again, this is an editing stage that is 100% recommended for all authors, no matter your experience and expertise. And this is definitely a stage of editing that needs to be outsourced.

To figure out which editor to hire, consider the stage of editing your book is in. If it’s in the early stages and you need help with structure and content, go for a developmental editor. If it’s in the later stages and you need help with writing, line editing, copy editing or proofreading will be what you need. If you’re not sure what you need, then ask for a manuscript critique or chat to an editor.

Need an editor for your nonfiction book project? Tell me about your project below or schedule a call with me here.

If I’m not the right person to help you, I probably know an editor who is!

Listen to the audio version of this post on the Let’s talk writing podcast.

Published by Dr Lizzy Tanguay

Editor | Writing Coach | Applied Linguist

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: