Editing Questions and Answers

Editing Questions and Answers

In all my years as a book editor — I’ve noticed some key misunderstandings about the whole process.

Editing any book takes longer than most people think

I can read a book in an afternoon, so that’s about how long it should take to edit it. Maybe two afternoons at most.”

It’s an understandable mistake. Who ever really knows what someone else’s job entails?

How many times do I read my book?

So let’s say someone is going to read carefully your 100,000 word novel at 200 wpm. That adds up to about 8.5 hours just to READ this book ONCE.

A good editor usually completes at leas two readings.  I usually give manuscripts 4 or 5 passes when I was on staff with a specialist publisher.

So at that 200 wpm rate for careful reading, we’re up to 17 hours for two passes through the manuscript.

What else?

They’re not just reading, however. They’re writing as well… perhaps with a red pen on a printout, or by making notes on an electronic copy. They also need to take the time to express themselves clearly in those notes, to ensure the author will be able to understand the logic of the comments and have enough information to make well-informed decisions about the recommendations.

A really good editor will also take the time to express themselves graciously in a way that presents options and shows respect for the author.

As well as all this reading and writing, editors are also doing other tasks, depending on the editing phase they are tackling.

Different phases, different responsibilities

A content / developmental / structural editor needs to read and think creatively, evaluating the book and where it’s heading and where it could go instead to make it a stronger book.

If I am writing a report, it needs to be carefully put together, drawing together those possibilities for the author in a way that is accessible and actionable.

If I am doing the actual restructuring/redeveloping, that will obviously take even more time.

A copy / mechanical editor needs to read every letter of every word on every page, along with every punctuation mark.  No skimming.  (When did you last read your own manuscript that thoroughly?)

They might be required to check sources, depending on the brief.

A proofreader needs to read every single letter of every word, every punctuation mark, every page number and running head, check for consistency of heading levels and that nothing is missing, possibly check references within the text depending on the brief, and make an instant judgement call on accuracy.

Is that slower than you thought?  The time involved basically means any editor or proofreader is very underpaid. It works out to only around 16 dollars per hour for the actual time taken. in most cases.

Whats this sums up to?

I suspect that many books today are NOT getting that level of editing due to budget cuts and other factors for this big job.

What about self-publishers?

If someone could actually edit a book in two hours, it would obviously be a lot cheaper for us all.  We don’t claim to edit anyone’s book within short time frames but we do claim to complete the editing and proofreading stage for any book with the utmost care and responsibility with an enormous amount of time taken with the process.

For more information visit: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Editing