By Barbara McNichol
With 21 years of editing under my belt, I strive always to understand and deliver what authors want to the best of my ability as a book editor. Professional editors build careers on doing exactly that.
Through a blog post, I asked what worries nonfiction authors about the editing process. The insights below reflect answers from 40 authors who responded. Specifically, they noted:
- They want more than a clean up; they want a major step up in clarity.
- They want support in thinking through the book’s organization before nitty-gritty editing begins.
- They want their book editor to be tuned in to their objectives for the book, keeping them top-of-mind throughout the process.
- They want their points made more succinctly and artistically and their stories told well. As one author said, “An unedited piece can make my point but in a less elegant way than one that’s been edited.”
- They want their ideas made more appealing by adding vivid words and gem phrases they didn’t think of themselves.
- They want feedback on the effect their writing is or is not having on readers. Thus, they want their editor to act as an advocate or stand-in for the reader.
Even more specifically, respondents expect their book editors to catch errors or problems casual readers miss in the following areas:
- Content: unfinished thoughts, missing steps, unclear logic or a story that falls flat.
- Language: fixing grammar, spelling, agreements, redundancies, repetition, mixed modifiers, run-on sentences, and more.
- Effectiveness: improving the flow and tightening the writing throughout.
How Book Editors Can Learn What Authors Want
From the first contact with a client, I open a dialog through what I call a Planner—a questionnaire that focuses on the long-term goals for the book itself. Questions not only address the mechanics of editing but emphasize the author’s big-picture dreams.
When working with an author on a book to enhance their business or brand, my questions include:
- What successful books would be good models for yours?
- After people in your target audience have read this book, what do you want them to say about it? How would you like a testimonial to read?
- What actions do you want readers to take as a result of reading your book—both for their own benefit and for yours?
- What do you want them to know about your business and services?
- What changes do you want to create in your life/business as a result of putting this book out into the world?
- What value would having a successful book bring to you/your business brand?
- Which results do you seek most in working with an editor (followed by a list for ranking)?
Order Your Editing the Way You Like It!
Each manuscript provides a new opportunity for your editor to deliver on your “wants.” It should be like asking a waiter to have your meal prepared exactly to your specifications each time.
Don’t short-change the editing process and its value to you. Use a tool like my Planner to articulate exactly what you want from your editor. Communicate through both written and verbal dialog so you can realize the boost in quality that will result.
To see how Barbara’s Planner can help you, go here.
Barbara’s note: Thanks to Teresa Funke, Chair of NSA Writers/Publishers PEG for printing this article in the PEG newsletter.