Saturday, February 12, 2005

Editor's Role for content editor, copyeditor, author relationship

Editor's Role

The Editing Process—Why Every Manuscript Needs One

In the process of writing a book-length manuscript you go through so many stages and drafts that once you've proofread your "final draft" you might think that all the really hard work is done. Unbelievably there is still much more to do. It's called editing.

Writing and editing are two very different writing processes that use different parts of the brain. Editing is the bridge a text must cross before it can graduate into a professional document, and entails a far more extensive process than many people realize. In book publishing there are four major editors, two that extensively work on improving the content and tone of the manuscript.

The acquisition editor sometimes works with the author to decide and develop the broader themes of a manuscript, although the acquisition editor's primary job is to analyze the book market and find and sign authors.

The content editor (also called the developmental editor) works extensively with the author to ensure clear development and expression of the whole manuscript. The content editor then hands the manuscript over to the production editor.

The production editor schedules and manages the entire production process, which includes preparing the manuscript for typesetting, finding a printer, and hiring and supervising workers, including the fourth editor, the copyeditor.

The copyeditor (line editor) goes through the manuscript line by line to check for proper word usage, consistent style and tone, correct grammar and punctuation, and correct cross-references. The copyeditor creates parallel structure within the text, changes the passive voice to active, eliminates wordiness and jargon, and smoothes out sentence and paragraph transitions to improve readability. Copyeditors are the last line of defense against sloppy writing.

These four editors are responsible for moving a book from raw manuscript to bound book. But it is the content editor and copyeditor who substantially improve the actual text and bring the best out of any manuscript. Most manuscripts NEED these two professional editors.

No one, even the seasoned author, should publish his or her material without these two editors. At a minimum, have a professional copyeditor go through your manuscript. This is imperative if you are self-publishing. Proofreading is NOT copyediting, and will seldom bring the best out of your manuscript. Read on to see what a content editor can do for your manuscript, or jump to the 5 Reader Turnoffs. For a career profile on editors, go to

What a Content Editor Does

In a publishing house a content editor (also developmental editor) is the only person an author works closely with to substantively improve the manuscript. He or she is the author's creative collaborator and best friend, partnering with an author to write, develop, and prepare a manuscript for production. (The collaboration can also include consultation to plan the organization and features of the work before most of the writing begins.) The content editor is also the leading advocate of the manuscript within the publishing house and champions the author's interests and vision. This is especially important when the content editor is working with a book team to brainstorm the title and book cover design, and altering and/or adding content to meet the recommendations of marketing, sales, and reviewers. So it is not unusual for the author-content editor relationship to last several months and involve a slew of e-mails and communications.

Over this period of time the content editor evaluates the manuscript to determine whether the material is organized in the best possible way and challenging the author on cloudy explanations, vague assumptions, faulty logic, errors of fact, inconsistencies in information or points of view, and sloppy examples and analogies. The content editor will also suggest or provide clearer explanations, anecdotes, analogies, or illustrations and will make sure the manuscript is true to its outline and that everything, from front matter to back matter, is in order. He or she will add or delete headings, identify gaps in content, either writing or describing the needed text so the author can provide it. The content editor also rewrites and restructures the text to fit the format, deletes outdated content, or content that does not adhere to the desired theme, tone, or marketing focus. Often the content editor is responsible for selecting, creating, and placing figures and tables. The content editor also provides the marketing/publicity department with a copy of the manuscript, called a review copy, (often before it's copyedited), as well as biographical updates. Finally, the content editor prepares the manuscript for the managing editor (or production editor) who then assigns a copyeditor and then works with the copyeditor, answering all copyedit queries.

Although content editors organize, cut, rewrite, clarify, format, stylize, and can write as much as edit, their main focus is on clarifying ambiguities, correcting conceptual problems, and maintaining the tone of the manuscript, ensuring that it's addressed to the particular audience the author and publishing house envisioned it for.

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