Thanks to both vague and hyped marketing language of editing services—and even NO description of those services—it can sometimes be difficult for authors to know just what treatment their text is going to get with a publisher. In this podcast, we explore how Dog Ear’s editing services compare with those provided by other publishers and encourage you to always learn all you can before you sign a contract.
Stephanie : Now Angela and I have been editing collectively for 31 years, and in this podcast we normally try to take some confusion out of writing a book. In today’s podcast however we’re shifting focus slightly onto what to do after you’ve written your book, specifically we’re discussing how Dog Ear’s editing services stack up against those of other indie publishers and even of traditional publishers.
When you’re trying to decide how to publish your book you may find that a lot of terms for various editing services differ depending on whether you’re looking at traditional publishers, indie publishers and freelancers, and a lot of variation can occur also across indie publishing and freelancers, as I like to say, depending on how these groups got their starts and how they want to differentiate themselves from the crowd. So a lot of times they’ll use descriptions that they have from their past that they’ve encountered and sometimes they’ll tweak it just a little bit to set themselves apart. But basically, no matter what, I always like to suggest that you go beyond any marketing hype language that’s used in the titles and descriptions of edits, and make sure that you know exactly what you’re getting. Unfortunately I’ve known a few too many authors who have chosen to go with bargain bin self publishers that said they offered copy edits, but then the authors have a book in hand that is just riddled with errors of all kinds, and I can’t say whether the publishing companies just hired bad editors or whether they just ran spell check and then just used whatever suggestions the program provided. And unfortunately neither could the authors because they never verified what services, what an edit actually provided.
Angela: Right, well and the terminology gets really confusing. I mean what one person considers to be a proof read may be what another person considers to be a copy of it. You have to be very, very specific when you’re trying to figure out exactly what you’re getting.
Stephanie : Yes you really do, and when I was researching to write this article originally, oh my gosh I don’t even know how many articles I read, and it can be really hard to find out what traditional publishers even call their services, because you have so many different levels of edit that a manuscript goes through and a lot of authors don’t get to know what happens to their manuscript. And different publishing houses, you know they have all these different titles always to set yourselves apart. So you have all these different levels and layers of editors and what they do, and some people can get really particular I guess, about what they do. And so it can be really challenging to find descriptions.
Angela: Well and I think even as freelancers you and I have both run into different clients, again they’ll use the same terminology but what they’re expecting from you as an editor is totally different. So one person might call it a line edit, another client might call it a substantive edit, I mean it differs, even with one type of publisher, say the two children’s publishers, they still may call it something completely different. I don’t know why it’s that way, I think there should probably be some sort of continuity across the board but because there’s not, we have this article and this podcast right?
Stephanie : Exactly, exactly.
So that’s why really a lot of this is explained in the article, in the Dog Ear Editor’s Corner article-
Angela: Exactly, which is a tongue twister.
Stephanie : -that I wrote, that got published on June 7th, and so you can go to that to get all of the details. So we’re just gonna kind of cover some of the highlights of how most of these services are referred to in most traditional publishing houses and then how Dog Ear’s editing services compare. The article kind of shows you a table of how indie publishers compare to traditional publishers compared to Dog Ear, but we’re not gonna cover that because honestly I had a lot of difficulty going out there and finding descriptions of what those indie publishers did. As the managing editor I also then get a lot of applicants from freelancers who want to work with Dog Ear, or I’m sorry, yes, I get a lot of applicants from editors who want to work with Dog Ear, and I see their websites and their resumes and see how they’ve described the edits they do and again it goes back to what you said, one person can describe something as a line edit, another is copy edit, another is a proof read. So you always have to make sure, when talking to freelancers or indie publishers, to make sure to find out exactly what that entails, don’t assume that what one person calls a line edit is going to be the same as another line edit.
Angela: Exactly. Well let’s start talking about what people can expect when they’re working with traditional publishers. First of all this article is extremely complete, I hesitate to even add anything to it so we’ll go kind of as the article goes and let you guys go to the website at dogearpublishing and read it for yourselves if you have any other questions. But basically you started with traditional publishers and what a copy edit is called.
Basically the manuscript is reviewed, they, well someone corrects it for punctuation, capitalization, spelling, problems with verb tenses, and then other grammatical errors. They’re also paying attention to things like continuity and clarity, word choice and sentence structure. So anything that involves the language of the text. You’ll get comments and queries from the editor that you can go then and kind of figure out what needs to be changed, and it may be something light, it may go into a super heavy change where the editor’s like, “Look this just isn’t working, here’s what we have to do to it.” Or it may be just somewhere in between.
Stephanie : Right and then the next service that is sometimes provided is a term that we’ve been using a lot, a line edit, which is really similar to the copy edit but sometimes gets treated as even more substantial than a copy edit. And so in this one really the difference is that sense and style are being checked but then rhythm and flow, and what I found here if a lot of people mentioned line edits in traditional publishing it was that they were likely to actually read the entire manuscript aloud. So this is especially important for things like poetry and children’s books but it isn’t actually important for all books, for all texts actually. And so sometimes the editor who’s doing a line edit may also spot check some facts in the manuscript. So really it’s kind of like a copy edit plus, I guess in some cases.
Angela: Right, I think about it almost as going like literally line by line, reading each line out loud and see what’s missing, so it seems just a little bit more like nitpicky and meticulous compared to a copy edit maybe.
Stephanie : Yeah, I think so.
Angela: Okay so next we have, well it’s called about 40,000 different things but content edit, developmental edit or a substantive edit. This is kind of a rare service, basically they’re going to spend their time checking and correcting the content of the book, so factual errors, contradictions, inconsistencies. They will organize it making sure that the plot and the themes and the subplots all kind of work together and advance the storyline. You have a great kind of phrase in here that you say, it’s kind of considered putting its face on. So I think of my grandma and my grandpa saying that but I love the way it’s phrased.
Let’s see, textbooks, other complex manuscripts, you’re probably gonna have the editor going through and keeping track of illustrations, permissions and things like that as well.
Stephanie : Really this one is really highly personalized I think, depending on the needs of the manuscript. And again it’s really not gonna usually happen for fiction because that would just not even make it to the slush pile if you’re out of order there, it really is in those complex things where there’s just a lot of little things to keep track of.
Angela: When I think of it, it’s kind of like if a publisher is thinking, “We really think that there’s something here but we really need to work on it first.” And that’s where you would have something like you would be working one on one with an editor to try to make the manuscript publishable by that publisher.
Stephanie : Right and from what I’ve seen in some houses, a content editor, really all they are doing is keeping track of permissions. Some of them. Sometimes that is all they’re doing. I think of once I worked on a transmission, a step by step transmission text book. So it was showing people how to work on transmissions, and every page had nine images and nine captions. Every single page. This was way back when I was an intern. And trying to keep track of all that, I can’t even imagine how somebody did that, and I’m sure that was probably a content editor who all they did was keep track of making sure exactly which picture was used where and what caption got used, and which permission got used.
Angela: Oh my goodness, and I hope they were well paid for it.
Stephanie : Oh yeah I have no idea but I hope so.
Okay and so next we do have the proof read. And traditionally in publishing houses this is done after everything has been laid out in pages, so the book looks the way it’s gonna look and the proof reader looks at the page and makes sure everything looks fine. They may also check for grammatical or syntactical issues but largely they’re looking at the page visually to make sure that you don’t have rivers or vends, widows, and all of this stuff. I mean I got … If you’re an intern in a publishing company ever you’re gonna do a lot of proofreading. I could probably do this in my sleep. But this isn’t something that I think gets done a lot in indie publishers, I think a lot of this aspect gets left to the author afterwards, at least at Dog Ear it does. Though it is something that can be done. Again, it’s really largely visual more than grammar.
Angela: But that is one thing that I’ve always appreciated about proof readers in traditional publishing companies, that they’re kind of like the last wall of defense against those like really-
Stephanie : Oops.
Angela: Yeah grammatical errors or a spelling error or anything like that. That’s one thing I really like about them, they’re the ones that kind of go, “Oh wait a minute, we see this” and it gets fixed before the book goes to print.
Stephanie : They have that eagle eye that catches everything that everybody else has missed, 20/30 times.
Angela: Because once you read it 20 or 30 times you’re going to miss it.
Stephanie : Exactly, exactly.
Angela: So should we move onto Dog Ear’s services next?
Stephanie : Yes, I think so. The beautiful thing of Dog Ear services, you know these are, again, these are spelled out on the website. I have spent quite a bit of time reviewing them over the years and making sure that they are as clear as we can possibly make them and that they explain what we do in our editing services.
So to kind of go over … My gosh I don’t even know where to start. Let’s look at basically how Dog Ear’s services compare to those traditional services. So you know, a Dog Ear copy edit is really the traditional copy edit of traditional publishing houses, and then also usually includes the line edit. You know we’re not necessarily nitpicking a lot but we are making sure that everything does sound good, we really do make sure of that in a copy edit.
Angela: And then we go to the literary edit. So for Dog Ear that includes a copy edit, and also a little bit of a traditional content edit. So we look for inconsistencies, plot development and anything that can kind of stand out and stall out the story.
Stephanie : And typically with this, well not typically, always. You also get a letter from your editor. So as opposed to just getting the changes in the manuscript you will also get a letter giving you an overview of what you’ve done well and where we think that some changes can be made to make your manuscript even stronger, and that’s key.
Angela: Well I think of a literary edit as almost a copy edit plus a pretty in depth critique.
Stephanie : Yes. And then when we move on from that, the next highest level that Dog Ear offers is the developmental edit. So again, this is your traditional content edit, and you typically get a level in every round of the review. The developmental edit typically we give three rounds to because we’re looking progressively. I like to think of it as a step wise fashion like we look at the big picture and we give you suggestions and then we kind of move in, focus a little bit more and give you more suggestions, and then really then focus and tighten in on how to make your manuscripts really tight, and to make it the best that it can possibly be. And so you definitely get a traditional copy edit in the line edit, and sometimes you can also get a proofread in there but again it really depends. This is a really highly personalized service.
Angela: Exactly, well it’s-
Stephanie : Again just like the traditional developmental edit, the content edit, where it really is gonna depend on the needs of your book.
Angela: And it’s actually one of my favorite services to personally work on just because you can chart the progress from where you start, all the way through to the finished product, and we’ve had some authors that have worked their rear ends off and I mean it’s astounding to me how far they can advance their book with just a little bit of help from us like that.
Stephanie : With just a little nudging. And the committed author can really, really just make a book almost unrecognizable from the original manuscript that came in, when they are really willing to. It’s a beautiful thing.
Angela: It is. It’s incredibly gratifying to know that you’ve been able to help somebody, because I think a lot of authors come to Dog Ear because they want something more personalized, they want to learn a little bit more than just having somebody take their book and edit it and say, “Here it is and here’s how it’s gonna be.” So I really like that we get to work with them that way.
Stephanie : Yeah you know I’ve worked as an editor in various companies and various settings and I’ve worked with those editors who are like well … They change something, the author didn’t agree with them, and they’re like, “Well I’m the last one to see it so I’ll change it before it goes to publishing.” That always made me cringe.
Stephanie : Oh just grated on my nerves. But you know at Dog Ear that’s not the way it’s gonna be, you always have the final look and the final say. And in some traditional publishing houses you don’t get any say in those final changes that are made, and so it always really comes down to … As I actually say at the end of this article, is no matter what services you choose or why really you need to consider your needs as well as your manuscripts needs. Whether you want to have a ton of control over how your book ends up looking or whether you don’t really care so long as it’s out there or whether you can let go or whether you’re a control freak.
Angela: You may have been working on it so long that you are sick of it and you’re done and you just want to get it out on the shelves and let people rate it and you want to move on, and there is nothing wrong with that. I think we all have projects like that in our life that we’re just like, “Okay it’s good enough and I’m finished.”
That’s the cool thing about having so many choices for publishers and freelancers. I mean you’ve got your choice of what you need, you can find it.
Stephanie : Right, and sometimes you know that you’re good at language and it … Sorry, at English, oh my gosh. I’m not good at language right now, speaking apparently. Sometimes you know that you’re good at English and so you just want to proof read, and that’s fantastic. Because you know you can get everything else and you just need that separate set of eyes. But sometimes you know that there are some things you always mess up on and that no matter how much you try you always mess them up. So you can always make sure that you’re finding an indie publisher who can take care of that for you or a freelancer or a traditional publisher or whatever.
Angela: Right because nobody’s good at everything right? I mean everybody needs help with something. You may be an astoundingly good writer, but you don’t have to be an astoundingly good editor too or an astoundingly good proof reader. You do what you do best and then you get help with the rest.
Stephanie : Exactly.
Angela: I just made a rhyme, that was a very good rhyme, thank you.
Stephanie : And like you said, it really comes down to there are so many options out there to choose from and so really that’s what you need to do is be able to look at your own abilities with a critical eye and to know what you’re gonna need.
Angela: And remember always, what I really love to drive home at this point, no matter what publisher or services you want, make sure that you always verify exactly what the service entails and know what you’re getting before you agree, before you sign anything, make sure you know what you’re getting.
Stephanie : Absolutely, you don’t want that kind of regret later on and it’s an expensive regret.
Angela: Yes, because even if you’re doing the “bargain bin” indie publishing it’s still not cheap.
Stephanie : No it’s not.
Angela: Make sure that you’re gonna get what you want.
So that’s all we have time for today but if you have more questions feel free to contact Dog Ear and ask about our editing services or go to Dog Ear’s website, again, dogearpublishing. You can find multiple links to all of the editing descriptions and what Dog Ear recommends based on your manuscript needs. So please join us next time when we will be discussing style guides, including whether you need to use one and which one Dog Ear prefers. And until then, keep writing.