If you’ve written your book, don’t take risks and think you need someone to just proofread your work – find an editor. From reading my previous two blog posts – So, you think you don’t need an Editor? Think Again, and Top Ten Tips for Editing like an Editor – you’ll know why.

If you’re self-publishing or hoping to attract an agent – and however brilliant your writing – you will benefit from having a professional look through your work. They can advise not only on the content but also on making your book look professional and polished. A good manuscript editor can advise what front and end pages should be included with your book, and publishing protocols you should be aware of.

A few tips here and there will make your book professional, which makes you, the author, look like a serious writer. All this before anyone looks at the content.

But how do you find that special person as committed to your work as you are, who understands what you are trying to achieve, ‘gets’ your writing voice, and will take as much care over your writing as they would their own?

Not as easy as you think.

Using the following as editors will not help you:

  • Friends, neighbors, and family members – even if they are professional editors they may not specialize in editing manuscripts or fiction/non-fiction. They may have not experience in publishing books or the publishing industry in general. They may not be able to critique your work honestly, or may be brutally honest. You know the adage about not teaching your spouse to drive? Apply the same concept here to anyone you might consider asking to edit.
  • Writing group friends – please don’t go there, it will only end in tears and frustration. Possibly with a dollop of envy or jealousy thrown in if your book is good. Whether we realize it or not we all have our own subconscious agendas, prejudices, and personal opinions. If you try and accommodate everyone’s input you’ll end up confused and lost.
  • Someone who edited the high school yearbook 30 years ago – no disrespect intended here as yearbooks are put together by dedicated, knowledgeable, professional teams. That’s not the same as having the knowledge of editing a manuscript, carrying themes through a book, looking for plotting errors, pace, structure and consistency in language.
  • General readers look purely at the text and checking spelling, grammar etc., when professionals look for so much more – consistency in layout, spelling, spacing, formatting. It’s hard to spot errors if you don’t know what you’re supposed to be looking for.

On the plus side, all the above people are invaluable as readers, reviewers and a general support group – something all of us should have. We all need our cheerleaders when we’re having a bad day or have convinced ourselves we’re not ‘good enough’ and ‘in what universe did we ever think we could ever write a book’?

Having now eliminated practically everyone we know as potential editors, how do we find someone who is professional, great at what they do and will make your book strong, readable, and attractive to readers? In other words, a professional editor who works with book manuscripts and understands the publishing industry – mainstream publishing, self-publishing and independent partner publishing.

The best way, without a doubt, is word of mouth. Unless you’re operating in a vacuum, you will know people you can approach who have worked with editors. Ask anyone who has been published, using every contact you have, and you’ll be amazed how much feedback you get.

If you have been stuck in your ivory tower and feel unable to approach anyone, there are other ways to reach out and find editors:

  • Read the acknowledgments in books, which you thought were well written, and see who edited them. No writer is that good they don’t need an editor. If there are no contact details for the editor, don’t be afraid to contact the author and ask. Spending a lot of time in their own ivory towers, authors are generally very approachable and happy to help, especially when you say you got the information from their book, which, incidentally, you loved.
  • Check out LinkedIn – you’ll be amazed who’s out there locally, and the beauty of a LinkedIn profile is you have information available without having to approach the editor initially. You can identify possible candidates and have a lot of your questions answered before you contact them. Email is the best way to make initial contact, with phone/ Skype once you’ve established an introduction.
  • Professional organizations such as the Society of Editors and Proofreaders in the UK, and the Editorial Freelancers Association, USA have listings of available editors. As with anything, ‘buyer beware’ and do your due diligence before hiring someone.
  • The Internet – use this to check out editors’ websites, to see work they’ve done and authors they’ve worked with. There will usually be testimonials from – feel free to Google and contact them to ask about their editing experience.

I will add a note of caution to the last point. Please, please, beware websites which offer cheap/ fast editing. I have had clients come to me after using sites offering flat rates fees for an edit of your 70,000 word manuscript which you’ll get back in three days. As my grandmother used to say, “buy cheap, buy twice”. If you’ve spent years working on your masterpiece, don’t spoil it at the last hurdle. You need to know who your editor is and develop a relationship with them – it really is that important.

As a final note I’d like to recommend the following article, Myths and Misinformation About the Editing of Books:Seven Deadly Myths and Three Inspired Truths About Book Editing. I agree with everything it says.

My next blog will be Now I’ve found an Editor, what questions should I ask? Don’t miss it if you want to know what you need to know from your editor, and what your editor needs to know from you to avoid misunderstandings, unmet expectations, and to get the best from the experience.


Jane Dean

BA (Hons) English Literature/ Language (UK)

Associate of the Society of Editors and Proof Readers, UK

Member of the Editorial Freelancers Association, USA

Editing Blog: www. WordgeyserEditing.com

Blog: http://www.Wordgeyser.com



EDITING – EDITED TEXTSo how does an editor begin an edit and what do they look for? How can you, as a writer, edit your own work – before you send it to on to a professional editor for that final polish?


TIP ONE: Think like an editor

Every editor is different and will have a differing agenda and remit. Always bear in mind that an editor will be looking for what is good in a piece of written work, not for reasons to reject it. They will be reading text and seeing ways to improve, polish and make the words shine. That doesn’t happen by accident.


TIP TWO: Be organized

My edits begin with a notepad and numerous sharp pencils – all within arms reach of a range of dictionaries, grammar books, style guides and a sturdy thesaurus. Yes, I have these resources online too, but find a hard copy easier and more intuitive to use when I’m immersed in text. I don’t rely on spell checks and certainly not an online thesaurus, which is always too limited. I can always tell if someone has changed a word and used the Microsoft Word thesaurus because the available options are so limited.


TOP TIP THREE: Be consistent

Not always as easy as you think. If you’ve grown up in, say, the UK your grammar rules will be different to those of the USA. If you’ve lived/ worked in a global environment it’s very easy for those rules to be become blurred as you’re exposed to other ways of doing what you’ve always regarded as ‘the only way’. Or if English is your second language this creates another layer of uncertainty. You also have to think about your readership – if your readership is global which English will you use? Decide whether you’re going to write in UK or USA English and stick to the correct grammar rules and spellings of whichever you chose.


TOP TIP FOUR: Create your own style guide

This is something you should ideally have been working with from the moment you began writing your book. If you are writing with a specific publisher/ publication in mind check their style guidelines – if you can’t find their guideline online read other books/ websites/ printed matter from the same publisher/ publication and figure it out. Or create your own. The overarching word here is consistency – in format, structure, timeline, pace, technical accuracy, spelling, grammar.


TOP TIP FIVE: Create a Table of Contents

Some writers regard the Table of Contents (TOC) as an unnecessary convention. To an editor it’s the skeleton around which a book is structured and formed. It should list all the front and end pages outside the body of the book, as well as the contents of the book itself.


Your TOC should be a roadmap for your reader – a glance at the TOC will give them an immediate overview of your book, particularly if it is non-fiction. It’ll also be a snapshot of the plot for many fiction books.


TOP TIP SIX: Be authentic

Authenticity is something that can’t be faked. You have to write openly, honestly and with integrity to really connect with a reader. And maintain it across a whole manuscript. If you don’t believe in, or feel, what you write, your reader won’t either. Always allow yourself time to find your voice and writing style before you begin a big project.

Authors’ writing improves the more they write – I’ve generally found an author’s authentic voice and style falls into place around a quarter way into their book. They often go back and rewrite the first part of a book so it matches the authenticity and strength of the later writing. An editor has to ensure every part of a written piece of work is authentic – and when it’s not, how to put it right.


TOP TIP SEVEN: Watch for discrepancies in style, flow, and pace

This is a continuation of the above Tip – having found your voice, your writing style should flow and be maintained throughout your writing. Pace can also be an issue – how many books have you read where, after hundreds of pages of a great story, the end arrives at breakneck speed and loose ends are tied up in a few pages. Or a great action paced sequence is replaced by slow ponderous writing that doesn’t fit and you never finish the book. An editor will spot where the writing is weak, the flow disjointed, or the pace wrong and know how to strengthen it.


TOP TIP EIGHT: Check for technical and factual accuracy

Whether you’re writing fiction/ non-fiction, a book or an article, you must write with authority. Check for technical accuracy and check your facts – using Wikipedia isn’t good enough. If you skip this fact-checking step and make an error, someone will spot it – and when they do it will reflect badly on you and your credibility as a writer.


TOP TIP NINE: Be clear and unambiguous

All writing should be clear and unambiguous, period. Every sentence you write should count and add value and texture to what has gone before. Don’t overuse metaphors and similes, and avoid clichés and jargon. Avoid those qualifiers which add nothing to the to the meaning of the text – for example: that, even, simply, actually, despite the fact that, although, just, then. If the text reads well without them, and the meaning remains the same, you don’t need them. And exclamation points/marks should only ever be used in dialogue.


Don’t write over long paragraphs – visualize how the text will look on the printed page of a book. White space around your words can have as much impact as the words themselves – think how effective a single line paragraph can be in the right place.


Watch your spelling and don’t rely on spellcheck – it won’t pick up those bloopers where the spelling is correct but word wrong – ‘His sole flew up to heaven’. So flag words such as sole/soul, there/ their, compliment/ complement, bough/bow, threw/through, lode/load, rode/road, raw/roar etc., and watch those realize/ specialize/ finalize words that are also correct using an ‘s’ – use an ‘s’ or a ‘z’ but not a mix of both.


TOP TIP TEN: Know when to stop

This is the hardest part for any creative person, whatever their medium – knowing when a project is finished, knowing when to stop tweaking and polishing. As a rule of thumb, if you are changing text without it adding value to what is already in place you need to stop. Walk away for at least two weeks before looking at it again with fresh eyes and before you have a last read through and final edit.


This final read through and writer edit is your last chance to cut anything superfluous. Cut then cut some more. I’m completely in touch with Hemingway when he said: ‘The most essential gift for a good writer is a built-in, shockproof, shit detector.’



Once you have a first Final Draft of your manuscript send it to a professional editor, even if you are self publishing. However good your own edit, you may have missed, or not been aware of, things a professional editor will notice immediately – the correct publishing conventions, where the text needs improving or tightening, where there are inconsistencies in text and formatting, where your voice is different, or the pace inconsistent.


You will have been involved in the text and writing for so long it will be difficult for you to spot the obvious discrepancies, even if you have a reading team to edit for you. Unless they are professional editors there will be editing and publishing protocols they are unaware of.


It’s these things that give you credibility and authority as a writer, and which will set you head and shoulders above the rest.



 Jane Dean

BA (Hons) English Literature/ Language (UK)

Associate of the Society of Editors and Proof Readers, UK

Member of the Editorial Freelancers Association, USA

Publishing projects: www. WordgeyserEditing.com

Blog: http://www.Wordgeyser.com


EDITING – CARTOON EDITOR AT DESKI recently attended a book launch with an author whose book I was in the process of editing. As we chatted another writer – whose name I was aware of although we had never met – joined us. I knew through the grapevine that he too was writing a book. The author introduced us announcing, “This is Jane, she’s editing my book and we’re working towards publication in a few months.”
“Wow, fantastic,” came the reply, “but why on earth do you need an editor when you’re such a good writer?”

It’s a question that leaves me lost for words – a rare state of affairs. If you have to ask why a writer needs an editor then – in my book – you don’t fully appreciate the writing process, or the symbiotic relationship that develops between the two.

While it’s wonderful for an author to have a support group of other writers and readers who’ll give their opinions on your work – which is of huge value as you’re writing – you also need a professional to guide you through the process. A good editor will be your coach, manager, cheerleader and most valuable team player. They won’t be afraid to tell you where you’ve gone wrong, but more importantly will tell you how to put it right.

If you want to be published you should be talking to an editor before you start writing, or at the very least before you submit your manuscript to a publisher.

Writers often don’t appreciate there are different types of editing, or that editors may have a primary focus on only one:

  • Developmental editing – the writer has a concept for a book and works with an editor from the planning stages. The ‘Big Picture’ edit if you like, when the structure of the book, themes and plot are meticulously planned out. In an ideal world the author will then start work writing the manuscript.


  • Rewrite, substantive, or substantial editing – this is fixing an existing manuscript. Rewriting can be as difficult or more challenging than starting from scratch. This edit often happens when a writer has written the manuscript and, having approached an editor to look at the big picture, realizes how much work is required to iron out any problems in structure, themes or the plot.


  • Copyediting – this requires someone who has patience, a great eye for detail and a thorough understanding of both the rules of grammar and of common usage, plus a good sense of when to use them. The copyeditor gets deep into the text, polishing it, ensuring each word has the correct nuance for the context it’s in, that the text flows and the author’s voice is clear and unambiguous. This is also known as as line editing.


  • Proofreading – similar to copyediting but corrects errors only, does not adjust or change text.

Depending on what you’re writing, how good a writer you are, whether you’ve published before or you’re working on your first manuscript, you should work with an editor at some point before publication. If you read the Acknowledgements in any bestseller, you’ll realize that the most prolific writers in the world often have a whole team of editors behind them. There’s a good reason they do.

Next month I’ll be looking at the Top Ten things editors look out for when starting to edit text – sign up for the blog now to make sure you don’t miss it.



Jane Dean

BA (Hons) English Literature/ Language (UK)

Associate of the Society of Editors and Proof Readers, UK

Member of the Editorial Freelancers Association, USA

Blog: http://www.Wordgeyser.com


Coming soon…

Why you need an editor

What kind of editor are you looking for/ do you really need?

The editing process

Working with designers

Published authors talk about their experiences of working with an editor

Looking for a publisher?

Interviews with authors

Interviews with designers