What Book Editors Will and Won't Do | Between the Lines Editorial

Working with an editor is a crucial part of the writing and publishing process. Book editors are there to help you make your manuscript the best it can be.

Let’s break down what book editors can help with and what they don’t usually do.

What will editors do for your manuscript?

There are different types of editing editors are trained to do. Not every editor does every type of editing, but here’s what you need to know about them:

  • Story-level editing includes developmental editing and manuscript critiques/evaluations. Developmental editing is more in-depth and robust, which is great if you’re having trouble with your novel or are a first-time novelist. Story-level editing is about getting the big structural pieces of your novel in place.
  • Language-level editing includes line editing and copyediting. The industry tends to disagree about the differences between line editing and copyediting. Many book editors combine them into one service. Line editing looks at the flow and style of your writing while copyediting is more about mechanics like grammar and readability. They go hand-in-hand.
  • Proofreading is the final step in editing. It’s all about polishing any remaining errors in grammar, spelling, and punctuation that slipped through the cracks.

As you can see from those definitions, editors do a lot for authors. We can help with your plot, pacing, character arcs, series development, worldbuilding, grammar, spelling–pretty much every element of your manuscript!

We can even point authors in the direction of other professionals you might need, including cover designers, formatters, agents, etc.

What editors won’t do

While editors will help you with a lot of different elements of your novel, there are a few things they probably won’t do.

Major rewriting is one of these things, and I mean major. If your manuscript needs a huge overhaul–and sometimes drafts do!–your editor won’t be the one doing all of that work. If they were to start rewriting large chunks of your manuscript, that changes the service from editing to basically ghostwriting. Your editor should provide edits, resources, and examples for you to work from, but you’ll be the one rewriting.

Your editor also won’t market your book for you. They might share your book on social media on launch day, and they might ask permission to list your book on their website portfolio, but that’s the extent of “marketing” that will come from your editor. If you need help, ask if your editor knows any book marketing pros or resources. You can also reach out to other authors you know to ask if they have any suggestions.

Editors also won’t format your manuscript for you. Like many editors, I’ll standardize basic formatting things like spacing when I get manuscripts, but it’s a good rule of thumb to present a neatly formatted MS to your editor. And generally speaking, we don’t format for self-publishing authors either.

Last but not least, freelance editors won’t reach out to agents or acquisitions editors on your behalf. I receive several emails a year asking if I’ll pass books onto acquisitions editors and book agents if I’m hired by that author. The short answer is no, I don’t. Maybe that’s a “me” policy, but I’m confident in saying most freelance editors won’t do that either. Authors must query their own work.

Of course, while most editors won’t do these things, some editors might offer them as additional services! I know several editors who are also great cover artists, but most editors don’t offer these additional services. If you need a recommendation, you can always ask your editor or other authors you know.

Want to work with an editor?

Hopefully this post helped shed some light on what your editor will and won’t do for you. Book editors can do a lot for you, but they can’t do everything. Don’t hesitate to ask your editor for resources or recommendations for other industry pros if you need them!

If you want to work with me as your editor, fill out this form to set up your free consultation. You can learn more about my editing services here.